Vodafone’s 4G content proposition may have sting in its tail

Vodafone chose to lead its communications on the content deals it has brokered for the announcement around its 4G switch-on date and tariffs today (7 August) – somewhat surprisingly given its hefty investment behind the spectrum that provides the best indoor coverage. The operator should ensure, however, that deals with the likes of Sky and Spotify go beyond simply low hanging fruit-style introductory offers.

Lara O'Reilly

Vodafone’s flagship 4G tariff, Red 4G, will offer customers a choice between a service with Sky Sports Mobile that allows them to stream live sport (usually priced at £4.99 per month) or a Spotify Premium account (which usually retails at £9.99 per month). As headline offers, these appear rather attractive: two well known services that many consumers no doubt already pay for. “Vodafone could actually save me money here,” says Mr Imaginary Customer.

The inclusive sports and music bundles are only available to customers spending a reasonable amount with Vodafone: on Red 4G-ready 12-month SIM only tariffs of £26 per month or over, on 24-month Red 4G-ready handset tariffs worth £34 per month or over, or 12-month Red 4G-ready handset tariffs worth £52 per month or over.

Customers on those cheapest-available plans – the three options mentioned above – may be left in the red if they don’t pay attention to their T&Cs, however. Yes, they’ll receive either Spotify Premium or Sky Sports Mobile for free, but only for the first six months, after which time they’ll be charged the usual RRP for the services in their bills.

Such a crucial detail that could be overlooked by some customers in the T&Cs turns what seemed like a unique proposition into an introductory promotion. Vodafone must ensure it has more content add-ons in store for its early 4G adopters once those six months are up to keep them sweet.

Rival EE isn’t tantalising its customers on the lowest tariffs with inclusive content. It offers a choice of either Deezer Mobile, two games downloads, or access to 19 live TV channels only to customers paying £41 per month or more. The offer lasts for the duration of a customer’s contract and once those months are up, EE won’t charge any extra unless a customer chooses to downgrade their deal. That said, at £41 per month, most customers would expect something extra bundled in to their contracts.

O2 has yet to lay all its 4G cards on the table, although it has hinted that music will be “at the centre of its launch” and it looks as though such services may only be available for a contract’s duration and charged-for thereafter. Three, meanwhile, is not understood to be going big on 4G at all and has already given its rivals a poke in the eye by promising not to charge customers extra for upgrading them on to the new spectrum.

As I’ve already mentioned in previous missives, 4G itself is a dull concept. The vast majority of consumers are unlikely to notice – or care – about iterative improvements to speed, connectivity and network coverage, especially if they have to pay more for it.

To win the 4G fight, operators need to lead on tangible benefits – and content is certainly a good start. They must be careful, however, that seductive deals don’t come with stings in their tails if they are to keep their lucrative 4G customers on side for the long-term.

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