Vodafone CEO sets out his priorities, as acquisition rumours start

Speaking at this week's Nokia World event, Vodafone's CEO Vittorio Colao detailed what he now sees as priorities for the company, and what assistance he wants from vendors to achieve these goals.

With little reference to Nokia, Colao's speech somewhat overshadowed the bull and bluster from the struggling Finnish vendor and warned against the market becoming too closed and losing its competitive edge.

"The industry needs high-speed, fast, ubiquitous high bandwidth. What is coming out of Vodafone's customers' interviews and research is that the expectation of network quality is rising very fast," said the CEO.

"We have to invest on all the platforms that can deliver this, not just the radio networks, transmission and access, but also in distribution and care. I would like to stress that we at Vodafone have been among the early ones investing in this sector, and we have never cut investments in this area. So today 50 per cent of our network delivers speeds of 14.4Mbps down and 2Mbps up."

He also made plain the need for tiered data pricing based on QoS. "Data costs and pricing have to adjust. I think today we are already providing caps, and different levels of service to customers, for different times of day, but more will come. The principle here has to be that every class of service must have its own price and every customer must be able to pay for whatever level of service he wants."

This emphasis on network quality and tiered pricing is being driven by how the infrastructure is now being used, said Colao. "The main job of our network today is to entertain and satisfy the entertainment need."

Last month, Vodafone saw consumers use their devices for data in a number of different ways. One third used them for browsing online, 25 per cent to play games, 20 per cent to access emails, 15 per cent for social networking and 11 per cent for maps.

Commenting on what he wants from vendors, Colao warned against the market becoming too closed and losing its competitive edge. "There is a smartphone explosion; there is competition and innovation. We need to avoid the closed, vertically integrated models. We need to limit the choice for the customers because this will turn into a worse experience for them. We want a truly open environment, the Wholesale Applications Community (WAC) that we've started is an example of that--in which OS, devices and apps are decoupled as much as possible and operators are all on the same footing."

Separately, while Colao made no mention as to future acquisitions, the UK stock market was awash with rumours that the company was a potential buyer for the UK phone retailer Phones4U, or TalkTalk--the home phone and broadband group.

Phones4U currently has nearly 500 UK retail outlets and is expected to report EBITDA of around £125 million on sales of about £800 million this year.

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