Converged fixed and mobile broadband on the way for consumers

3 Jun 2010

Fixed and mobile operator Vodafone is to unveil a new Broadband of Box platform that combines DSL with 3G services, making broadband a universal experience. This is being driven by demand for greater mobility, thanks to devices like the iPhone and the iPad. Stefano Gastaut is the new consumer director at Vodafone Ireland.

You are unveiling a new form of broadband access – DSL Wi-Fi routers that can also use 3G dongles. Why do you think consumers will go for this?

It’s a new Broadband of Box solution. We don’t think consumers are concerned whether their broadband is mobile or fixed, they just want to be connected at decent, fast speeds.

What we’ve effectively done is construct a new kind of modem/router for the home into which you can also plug a 3G dongle and take your Wi-Fi with you wherever you go.

This can be used to take broadband on holidays, as a backup, but ultimately means you can keep on working or keep the family connected at all times.

We’ve been putting together our fixed and mobile strategy over the last few years and we believe the key is making it simple for consumers.

It means people can have fixed speeds of anything between 3Mbps and 24Mbps and when they are on the move they can enjoy wireless speeds of 14.4Mbps.

Everybody in the telecoms world talks about speed, but no one makes enough of a fuss about performance and quality. Do you agree?

That’s a good point. What we have tried to do in our last mobile broadband campaign is instead of talking about speed, focus instead on speed, coverage and reliability. The questions people need to be asking of operators should not be about speed but about how well does it perform, how congested is the network?

The future of super-fast, uncongested data networks is on the way. The key now is to allow consumers to just plug in and get working in a few easy steps.

The mobile industry has changed so much in the past three years. What are the most profound changes in your view?

My sense is that it is very difficult to anticipate the applications of technology coming our way. If you thought back three years ago it would have been hard to imagine the iPhone and all the things you can do now with it.

Samsung, for example, is also doing incredible things. It is making smartphones more affordable for all and is working to bring mobile data to the mass markets. In Italy, people can use their iPhone as a boarding pass.

Vodafone is selling the iPad in the UK, will you be selling the iPad in Ireland?

All I can say is we have a global relationship with Apple. It will present a different model for the mobile industry to sell as a device – people will be able to buy a 3G version with a mini-SIM card or they can get a Wi-Fi version and have a Mi-Fi device to make it work.

It is going to be very successful as a niche and Apple has certainly got the user experience right. But keep an eye also on future tablet devices from companies like Samsung. It’s going to get very interesting.

How will the new Broadband of Box product disrupt the market in Ireland?

Speaking of Apple, the one thing Apple has driven, which the entire industry has had to learn, is that it is all about making the customer experience simple and effective. We have tried to do that with the new Wi-Fi router/3G dongle device and make sure that experiences are designed around the customer, not the technology.

Set-up takes place in four or five easy steps and the user can get DSL and 3G in one package for €54.99 that includes DSL, all fixed-line calls plus 40GB of fixed and 10GB per month of mobile broadband allowance – cheaper than competing DSL products in the market, which would cost €70 for the same.

By John Kennedy

Photo: Stefano Gastaut, consumer director at Vodafone Ireland

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years