In a move that represents the first crack in Australian carriers' stubborn defence of outrageous data prices, a spokesman for Vodafone said yesterday that the $39 plan would "roll into next year" and the company "will ensure we remain competitive" in the market."
We've drawn a line in the sand on data prices," PR spokesman Dominic Hilton-Foster told me today, "and those plans will be continued after the new year." He said the company will look at its prices later in the year, in the context of new offerings from its competitors. Hutchison's 3 network, Optus, Virgin and Telstra have all cut their data prices at least temporarily, in a direct response to the Vodafone plan.
According to Hilton-Foster, Vodafone was "pretty happy" about the level of response to the new data plan, which includes either a free Mobile Connect USB modem or E800 Expresscard ($299 RRP), on a 24-month contract. "It's very clear that these prices have hit the sweet spot with customers," he said.
Vodafone Australia's data marketing manager, Tim Cowan, described the 5GB plan as a breakthrough which "ends the traditional view that mobile broadband is the exclusive domain of business customers". It replaced Vodafone's earlier "high-volume" plans of $79.95 a month for 2GB, and $69.95 for 1GB.
But telecoms analyst Paul Budde - who predicted earlier that Vodafone would have problems discontinuing the new packages - sees it as a long overdue acknowledgment that local mobile companies have been "getting nowhere" with recruiting mobile data customers.
"Mobile operators have been trying portals, offering content deals etc., and completely failing," he said, "because the consumer simply will not accept the current open-ended charging regime.
"They're not prepared to sign up for something when they have absolutely no idea how much they will pay for it. We've all heard shock stories of people being hit with bills of $900 or $1800 a month, and people are very worried about using these portals." CONTINUED
Vodafone has abandoned plans to ditch its new cheap data plans on December 31, after a stunning response to the 5GB for $39 per month offer since it was rolled out as a year-end special on December 7. The company says the plans are responsible for a threefold increase in data connections.
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