Vodafone targets business users with services blitz

28 Mar 2003

Vodafone is preparing to launch a major campaign for the hearts, minds and wallets of the business community.

The initiative, called Mobile Office, will consist of a string of new services, beginning with the launch of Mobile Connect Card next week. This is a Vodafone-branded GPRS data card that mobile users plug into the data slot on their laptops. The card comes in two forms – an enterprise version, which gives users access to the corporate local area network (LAN), and a SOHO/SME version, which provides internet access only. The Mobile Connect Card is designed as a plug and play system, so that when users are travelling they won’t need to reconfigure their laptops to get access to their emails or the internet.

The product will be available through Vodafone’s corporate accounts team as well as through retail outlets at a price expected to be around €200. Vodafone has also done deals with a number of leading hardware manufacturers to incorporate the Mobile Connect Card in their laptops and other mobile devices. So far Vodafone Group has signed OEM agreements with Dell, IBM, Fujitsu-Siemens, Hewlett-Packard (HP), Psion Teklogix and Toshiba. In so doing it creates a new sales channel for its services, which it is calling ‘Connected by Vodafone’.

Dell is the first Connected by Vodafone partner, which means that from next week Dell can supply Vodafone GPRS cards plus SIMs to its business customers. Dell business customers will be able to go directly to Dell and order a laptop and GPRS card, which will give them wireless access to the internet or their corporate LAN through the Vodafone GPRS network. The laptop will be fully configured for use on the Vodafone network. Vodafone is also in advanced stage of discussions with IBM. Eventually all these hardware suppliers will offer Connected by Vodafone computing devices such as notebooks, personal digital assistants and tablet PCs with easy connection to the Vodafone GPRS network.

The Mobile Connect Card initiative complements rather than replaces Vodafone’s existing mobile mail offering EmailAnywhere, which is an application customers can use with the data card. In fact, Vodafone is ramping up the service by completing a deal with HP’s value added reseller (VAR) network, whereby they will install and support EmailAnywhere for Vodafone corporate customers as well as cross-sell Vodafone services to their own customer bases. The five main VARs involved are CK Systems, PFH, Fitzpatrick Business Systems, Datapac and Compupac.

A spokesperson for Vodafone said that the Mobile Office was an umbrella term for a host of new services the company intends to launch over the coming months, the Mobile Data Card being just the first of these. The spokesperson added that, although the company feels that it has strong business products and services, the associated business benefits have been “relatively poorly articulated” to date and the new initiative is intended to correct that.

By Brian Skelly