Vodafone set to enter fixed-line business market

26 Feb 2009

Next week, Ireland’s largest mobile player, Vodafone, will enter the business fixed-line telecoms and broadband market. Anne O’Leary is director of business and enterprise at Vodafone.

It’s an interesting time to be entering the competitive fixed-line telecoms business. Why is Vodafone doing this?
The company’s strategy is to become a total telecoms provider. Vodafone has a strong pedigree in core mobile services and has a good brand. It has strong aspirations to be a fixed-line communications provider.

What kind of fixed-line services will Vodafone offer the Irish business market?
The initial product will be called Vodafone Office and a key differentiator in the product will be the ability to offer free landline-to-mobile calls to over 2.2 million Vodafone users.

The bundle will also include free local and national landline calls, and will include a choice between 3Mbps or 7.2Mbps DSL broadband.

We estimate this will be worth €650 in cost savings for businesses per year.

Are bundles the way forward for telecoms operators?
Definitely, from what we’ve seen in the consumer market. For businesses, cost control is key. A recent survey found some 32pc of Irish small businesses see telecoms costs as a major problem.

This is what customers want – fixed prices, an ‘all-you-can-eat’ mentality. People want to know what they’re going to pay month by month.

Will you tie in your mobile broadband offering with the bundles?
There will be a facility to use free mobile broadband until the fixed-line service is up and running, and you then pay for mobile broadband on a pay-per-use basis.

How do you see the ongoing device revolution in terms of smart phones and affordable netbooks tying in with the total telecoms vision?
The desire and need for mobility at the right price is driving demand for netbooks and BlackBerry-type devices. In recent weeks, Microsoft revealed a new family of Windows Mobile 6.5 devices.

For small firms, bundles of mobile and fixed services built around these devices will help them to remain agile and control costs.

Last week in Barcelona, Vodafone launched a Google Android-based device called the Magic. Will this be available in the Irish market anytime soon?
Unfortunately, I can’t comment on that, but watch this space.

Vodafone is selling Dell netbooks with mobile broadband embedded. What difference will netbooks make to PC penetration?
According to IDC, the mini notebook or netbook market will be a key growth market in 2009, with telecoms operators providing the main channel.

The analyst is forecasting the netbook market to grow 80pc in 2009. Over 50 million netbooks will be sold worldwide in 2009 and 45pc of these sales will be in Europe.

Netbooks are every bit as powerful as full notebook PCs, and are affordable and genuinely mobile. We see them occupying a key position between the smart phone and the laptop.

What will happen next in Vodafone’s total telecoms vision?
We’re launching Vodafone Office next week, but we have a portfolio journey with more fixed-line rollouts planned in the next 12 months.

This will consist of compelling converged data offerings, and then we’ll move into value-add services such as hosting, storage and software apps for productivity.

By John Kennedy