Vodafone enters UK consumer broadband market with Vodafone Connect

Vodafone launched its much anticipated consumer broadband service in the UK, marking the mobile operator's entry into an already crowded market and underlining its ambitions to be a converged fixed and mobile player across its European footprint.

Vodafone Connect will initially be available to existing Vodafone customers in Manchester and parts of Surrey, Hampshire and Berkshire and will soon be extended to Essex, Hertfordshire and Yorkshire. "We'll roll out to the rest of our existing customers later this year. We'll be opening it up to everybody else in the autumn," the company said.

On offer are three Vodafone Connect bundles of home broadband and telephony services starting from £5 (€6.80/$7.70) per month, with speeds of 17 Mbps, 38 Mbps or 76 Mbps. As a promotional offer, the service will be offered at £2.50 for the first 12 months.

Paolo Pescatore, an analyst at CCS Insight, said the company has made a good start, but more had been expected.

"We expected more features to be included such as cloud storage and content including pay TV, which are paramount in providing a truly comprehensive multiplay services offering. Most, if not all, broadband providers now offer a pay TV service," commented Pescatore.

A Vodafone spokesman told FierceWireless:Europe that the company will launch its home TV offering later in the year.

The spokesman also confirmed that the home broadband service makes use of the Cable & Wireless Worldwide network for fibre to the cabinet and BT Openreach for last-mile access. He noted that the Cable & Wireless network, which Vodafone acquired in 2012 and has so far been used for enterprise services, currently covers 20 million UK homes and will be extended to 22 million homes in two weeks.

As things stand, the company does not appear to be offering fully integrated quad-play bundles that combine Vodafone Connect with mobile plans. Instead, all existing Vodafone mobile customers will get £5 off their monthly Vodafone Connect bill and will also receive one bill for the two services. The spokesman said it is premature to be talking about a greater integration of the two services right now, but said "we are looking at it".

The move to offer home broadband services will pit Vodafone UK against wireline rivals including BT, TalkTalk and Sky, which in turn are all offering or planning to offer mobile services. BT is also planning to buy its own mobile network in the form of EE.

"For now, its rivals shouldn't be too overly concerned, but some may want to offer or market the new features Vodafone has launched such as Boost, the companion app as well as guest Wi-Fi. It is clear that the company needs to turnaround its fortunes in the UK and this is a step in the right direction towards offering a converged multiplay service. Its marketing slogan 'Power To You' uniquely describes its broadband service," Pescatore said.

It is also speculated that Liberty Global is still plotting a full merger with Vodafone Group, although the mobile operator has only confirmed so far that the two are in talks on the possible exchange of selected assets.

For more:
- see this Vodafone statement

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Vodafone UK's LTE strategy showing glimmers of success: analysts
Report: Shareholders urge Vodafone to offload networks, embrace Liberty Global merger
Liberty's Malone opens door to Vodafone tie-up
Reports: Vodafone mulls Liberty Global move as it considers UK options

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