Vodafone UK attempted to set itself apart from market rivals with the launch of unlimited 5G tariffs, an upgraded converged offering and claims it will not charge a premium for the new network technology.

At the operator’s 5G launch event in London, held more than a month after rival EE switched-on its service, Vodafone announced three new consumer and business plans all offering unlimited data. Pricing is scaled on speed delivered rather than volume of data used.

During the event its executives repeatedly highlighted there would be no cost premium for 5G, as it would benefit the operator from an efficiency perspective to move consumers onto the new network.

Vodafone UK consumer director Max Taylor said the tariffs provided a “vital point of difference versus our competitors,” adding: “One of the benefits of 5G is that it helps us to provide more reliable service in congested areas, so why charge a premium for a service they should already expect?”

It also went head-to-head with EE-parent BT on convergence.

Vodafone’s plug-and-play fixed wireless and mobile converged offering will be the first in the country to offer 5G, Taylor added. The previous day, EE parent BT announced its version would receive the new technology in the Autumn and would also be a market first.

5G launch
Vodafone’s 5G service was officially switched on by five-time Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton (pictured, right, with the operator’s CEO Nick Jeffery). It went live in seven cities and will be available in 19 locations by the end of the year.

The company will also offer roaming services on the new network technology in 20 European cities by the end of the month including locations in Germany, Spain and Italy.

Launching the service, Jeffery said: “We don’t want to put limits on our customers, their potential or the digital potential of the UK. Today we announce a fundamental way to how we price data for consumers and businesses.”

It will initially stock the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G and Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 5G as supporting devices.

Analyst reaction
PP Foresight analyst Paolo Pescatore said Vodafone was “looking to go toe-to-toe with EE,” adding: “The scale of its ambitions should not be underestimated. 5G represents a significant opportunity to turnaround its fortunes in the UK.”

“This should appease investors, but the consumer business model for 5G is still unproven and further investment is needed to rollout costly 5G networks.”

CCS Insight director of consumer and connectivity Kester Mann said: “Vodafone’s move into unlimited data and its decision to price 5G the same as 4G indicate the emergence of a challenger mentality. This is in sharp contrast to its traditional premium-focussed approach.”

He added: “The big story of the event was the launch of speed-tiered unlimited data tariffs, a first for the UK. As a new concept, Vodafone will need to articulate the propositions carefully to consumers only just beginning to appreciate the value of megabytes and gigabytes.”