Vodafone ditches contract NBN for month-to-month plans

Posted: 27 June 2018 9:00 am

We chat to Vodafone's Matthew Lobb about the big changes coming to Vodafone's NBN plans, including loyalty bonuses and a mobile landline service.

Vodafone has announced significant changes to its Vodafone NBN services from today, including a price drop if you're an existing Vodafone Postpaid Mobile customer, the removal of 24-month plans, a new mobile landline service and new Vodafone hardware in the form of a Wi-Fi speed booster.

For customers already signed up to Vodafone as a postpaid mobile customer, the loyalty bonus deal will cut $10 off the price of the Essential+ (NBN-50) and Premium (NBN-100) plans per month. If you're only looking at the Essential (NBN-25) plan, the bonus is lower at just a $5 discount per month.

Vodafone is also simplifying its NBN plan structure, dropping 24-month plans in favour of month-to-month offerings, although it does have a dangling carrot to keep users on its network.

The Vodafone Wi-Fi Hub Modem remains compulsory, but you won't pay anything upfront for it. Instead, it's technically charged to you at $5 per month over 36 months, and you get a $5 credit for each month you've been a customer. Stay for 36 months and the Wi-Fi Hub Modem is free, but if you leave before then, you've got to pay the equivalent of 36 months minus however long you've been a customer times $5, up to a maximum of $180.

Further in its hardware plans, Vodafone is also going to start offering a Wi-Fi Booster device to improve customer Wi-Fi reception in their homes and businesses. The Wi-Fi Booster is an AC1900 Dual Band device with 2 gigabit Ethernet ports and support for up to 32 connected devices. Like the Wi-Fi Hub Modem, it can be yours for $5 per month over 36 months, but with no freebies, or you can buy it outright for $180 upfront.

Finally, Vodafone's also getting into the fixed-line business at a time when research suggests that Australians are dropping fixed landlines en masse. However, what it's doing is offering a "Mobile Landline" service, charged at $5 per month that essentially redirects your existing landline number to your mobile service.

That's a lot of changes to take in, so I sat down with Matthew Lobb, Vodafone's General Manager Fixed Broadband to talk through the new plans and services.

Finder: For the mobile landline product, how big a market do you think this will be?

Matthew Lobb: "We launched last year but before that we spent a lot of time talking with customers, about how we can be different, and what's important to customers. The research was very clear that customers love broadband, they love telephones. But their number one priorities were that they love simplicity, and they want their service to work.

"Customers are very converged; they use their smartphones on their home Wi-Fi or on mobile broadband when they're out and about. They love that seamless experience.

"So we were very keen to break out of the incumbent perspective. So when you talk to customers about the traditional fixed phone, most people don't use it any more.

"The vast bulk of calls these days are on your mobile. Mobile phones were the first to go unlimited on calls, and so customers aren't wedded to the technology. But a proportion of customers is wedded to having a home phone, or a home phone number.

"Either they've got long-lost relatives where that's the only number they've got, or even long-lost friends, or if you're a small business you might want to keep the fixed number.

So we had a look, and thought, why don't we offer a very simple redirect service, so they can keep the number?

"So we had a look, and thought, why don't we offer a very simple redirect service, so they can keep the number?

"The benefit of that is that you've got one less thing stuck in your cupboard, which is the fixed phone. The other benefit is that number is now no longer wedded to that geography. So if you move across the city, or interstate, that number can now move with you and you can take the calls. If you're on holiday, they'll go with you.

"The experience is very much that your mobile becomes your home phone. Your calling number display works, and missed calls go into your mobile message bank. So you also don't need another worn-out bit of technology with a fixed message service at home.

The experience is very much that your mobile becomes your home phone.

"Many incumbent telcos have a fixed phone as part of their offers. The standalone costs for line rental can be $30-$40. This is one less product in your house. It's a relatively niche product, but it's certainly one that customers said they were interested in."

Finder: What about if my friends are calling me on what they think is a landline number but is redirecting to a mobile. What sort of charge will they hit, and will this be obvious to them?

Matthew Lobb: "If your friend calls you, they'll pay whatever they would normally pay. Let's say it's a local call; they'd pay whatever their carrier charges them for a local call."

Finder: While landlines are on the decline in Australia, those that have them tend to be very protective about numbers that they may have felt they "owned" for many decades. With that in mind, what happens if a customer switches to Vodafone and then wants to switch out for a more traditional fixed-line service with another carrier?

Matthew Lobb: "That can be a challenge. That's something we'll communicate to users. It does shift the number off the fixed-line network and onto our capabilities. There is a process for porting it back, but there is the risk that you may lose that number. It's a very small proportion, though.

There is a process for porting it back, but there is the risk that you may lose that number.

"It's the same on other networks. If you had a phone number on the fixed Telstra network and you ported to, say, the fixed Optus network, the same risk is there."

Finder: Can you get a Vodafone NBN plan without the Wi-Fi Hub?

Matthew Lobb: "We made the policy decision to include the Wi-Fi Hub as part of the offer. We want to be known for great customer service. The 4G backup is something that customers absolutely love. We've embedded that into the way that we activate and the way that we measure faults."

Finder: So if I move away from Vodafone NBN after, say, six months, I've still got the Wi-Fi Hub to pay off. I'd assume that the 4G part wouldn't work, but will the rest of the router actually function with other NBN providers?

Matthew Lobb: "The longer you stay with us, the less you have to pay, but it will work with other NBN providers if that's what you want to do."

Finder: In relation to the Wi-Fi Booster device, with so many competing mesh network and repeater solutions, why get into the networking hardware game?

Matthew Lobb: "Most people use Wi-Fi in their homes; it's the overwhelming norm. A key part of the fixed broadband picture is Wi-Fi performance. Some houses have challenging parts for Wi-Fi – I'm in one of them – and so we just thought this would be a useful additional part of our offer suite.

"It's not compulsory but it's certainly something that integrates with the look and feel of our Wi-Fi hub. We think it's a great option for customers. Of course, you can choose to use someone else's device, but this has been designed with our Wi-Fi hub in mind."

Keen on a Vodafone NBN service? Compare Vodafone NBN's plans below!

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