Vodafone UK touts data sharing plan amid warnings its LTE prices are too high

Vodafone UK stepped up marketing for its latest 'Red' contract tariff that includes data sharing for families, amid criticism from some analysts that its LTE prices are still too high for the competitive UK market in spite of efforts to bundle in free content.

The company this week launched Red+ on the UK market, offering the option for families or single households to share a data allowance through the use of up to nine SIM cards. So-called Red+ "leader" plans come with up to 13 GB of data, while individual data allowances can be set at 500MB, 1GB, 2GB or 4GB.

The move means that Vodafone UK joins EE by offering data sharing on the UK market, although EE's shared plans are not tied to families or households.

Kester Mann, an analyst at CCS Insight, noted that Vodafone UK has been offering shared data for a few months but has not really promoted it until this week. "It's an important move in my view and crucial to tapping into the opportunity to connect more devices, particularly tablets," he said.

However, Mann has also recently been critical of Vodafone UK's LTE pricing generally: on Twitter, he said unless Vodafone UK changes tack from its premium-priced approach, "by year-end it'll remain in last place with a 4G market share scarcely above 10 per cent."

Vodafone UK has so far focused on inclusive sport, TV or music content within its Red 4G plans to lure customers. But its prices are still higher than rivals even without these value-added services: on SIM-only plans, Vodafone UK currently offers 1 GB of 4G data for £22 (€27.50/$36.70), compared to £16 from O2 UK, £16.99 from EE, and £10 on a 12-month plan from 3 UK, which also still offers "all you can eat" data even on its 4G plans.

In Mann's view, Vodafone's LTE prices are too high for the "ultra-competitive UK market". The operator and its rivals are also facing new competition as mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) such as Tesco Mobile and BT get into the LTE market.

At the same time, Mann commented that Vodafone UK's "4G ARPU is probably higher than their rivals (and was 18 per cent higher than their 3G ARPU according to their end-March 2014 results), so this is also a factor to consider."

Indeed, Vodafone will assert that it's not all about low prices and a race to the bottom, although it has yet to be determined if its strategy will ultimately help it gain market share over cheaper rivals.

Meanwhile Vodafone UK insists that it is pleased with its progress to date.

"We have more than a million 4G customers on 4G Vodafone Red price plans and they are actively using our exclusive content from Sky, Spotify and Netflix, and generous data allowances. On average our 4G customers are using three times more data than 3G users," said a company spokesman.

For more:
- see this Vodafone UK post

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