Ovum Comment: Vodafone introduces flat rate data tariff for roamers

Vodafone is to introduce a flat rate data tariff for roamers. The plan will allow customers roaming on to Vodafone-owned networks within Europe to pay Euro12 for a 50MB bundle of data. As with Vodafone's existing Passport voice roaming tariff, the service is available on an opt-in basis but carries no activation charge.

Ovum principal analyst Jeremy Green comment:

Vodafone's new offer is a good thing which will make using data services abroad cheaper for many users; but the primary response it has generated around Ovum has been one of cynicism. This is an eloquent testament to the almost total absence of goodwill among users towards anything that mobile network operators do regarding roaming.

It's easy to find things that are wrong with the offering. The tariff is available to laptop card users, and apparently not to other data users. As with Passport, it's down to the user to work out when a Euro12 outlay is cheaper than just paying on a per-MB basis. Vodafone's suggestion that 50MB per day constitutes 'practically unlimited data usage' seems a little out of touch with reality - a short while browsing BBC web sites can easily rack up 10MB, for example. That's not core business usage, but it's not unfair use either.

So this isn't really a flat rate, and it isn't really unlimited either. It's an offer that's roughly comparable to what you might pay on a daily basis to use hotel broadband - which might be trickier to use, and billed on a less enterprise-friendly ad hoc basis, but might also work better in your hotel room.

Perhaps the most important part of the Vodafone announcement was buried some way down in the press release: an offer by the group; an offer by Vodafone to other operators for lower wholesale data roaming rates, on reciprocal basis. These aren't flat rate or unlimited either, and probably couldn't be under any realistic scenario. They are, though, a small practical step towards ending the roaming logjam, and as such are worthy of some approbation.

Jeremy Green is a principal analyst specialising in enterprise mobility

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