Zero-rated and bundled content can help meet increased demand for data without the need to “throw in the towel” and move to unlimited, Vittorio Colao, Vodafone Group CEO, said during the company’s Q1 trading update.

During the three months to the end of June, the company introduced such bundles in Spain, Romania, Italy, Hungary and Greece. Customers are offered unlimited access to either social media, music or video for a set price, without impacting data allowances.

The packages – named Vodafone Pass – are an attempt to meet the demand for data from customers without having to move to completely unlimited tariffs (as are gaining popularity in the US). Colao believes unlimited deals have a negative impact on networks and customer bills over time.

While some European operator zero-rated offers have attracted investigations into potential flouting of net neutrality rules, Colao said he was confident the Vodafone deal met requirements as it didn’t exclude any specific content.

“There’s no discrimination happening here,” he said. “Unlike other operators we are not saying this is only open to this service or that service. If you want a video pass it’s open to all video. We don’t discriminate and we don’t want to choose, that’s for the customers.”

Data demand
Vodafone Group reported a boost in data usage across its operations in its fiscal first quarter. In the three months to the end of June, data traffic increased 63 per cent year on year, with its AMAP – Africa, Middle East and Asia Pacific – unit reporting 70 per cent growth.

Average data usage per user reached 1.6GB compared to around 1GB at the same time last year, driven by increased usage of 4G. It now has 83.5 million 4G customers across the 22 countries, up 8.8 million in the quarter.

Colao added the roll-out of advanced versions of 4G now means in many areas cellular data is faster than Wi-Fi, especially in public spaces, with lower latency.

“There is a lot of demand for data. The quality of 4G and 4.5G means it is now much better than Wi-Fi. We want to give customers the choice and attract users.”

Revenue decline
During its first quarter Vodafone Group revenue declined 3.3 per cent year on year to €11.5 billion, attributed to the spin-off of its Netherlands business – which forms part of a JV with Liberty Global – and foreign exchange rate movements. Vodafone Group does not reveal profit figures for Q1.

The company added it had also seen an anticipated impact from European roaming regulations introduced towards the end of the quarter and the continued aggressive market in India, though the company noted the situation in India was now beginning to “settle” ahead of its proposed tie-up with Idea Cellular.