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Vodafone 5G launch reaction round-up: dealers and analysts comment

Paul Lipscombe
July 23, 2019

Mobile News has gained the views from observers on the operator’s 5G debut

After delaying its 5G launch from the end of May, Vodafone has become the second UK
operator to switch on the brand new technology. This follows EE’s 5G launch in late May.

Vodafone launched its 5G offering at the lavish Sky Garden in London, where Mobile News was in attendance to hear all about the operator’s roadmap for the technology.

Around 200 members of the press saw five-time Formula One world champion and Vodafone ambassador, Lewis Hamilton, hit the red button to make 5G go live in
seven UK cities.

At the launch, Vodafone called the network a “game changer”, with UK CEO Nick Jeffery defiantly telling attendees that Vodafone “will revolutionise the market.”

While Vodafone’s current 5G device line-up is not as extensive as that of EE – with
the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G and Xiaomi Mi Mix 5G the only smartphones available – the operator grabbed headlines with its unlimited data packages.

Speaking to dealers and analysts in the days after the launch, Mobile News gathered views on what 5G means for general users and businesses.

Dealers

Onecom CEO Ben Dowd

Vodafone’s new 5G proposition changes the conversation. By offering unlimited data to
all customers – not just those using 5G – it moves us to a new era in which speed and experience become more important than data usage.

Our customers will find the new tariffs competitively priced. They will also get access to a
new marketplace of affordable business apps and services that will enable them to be more productive and efficient, and give them the support they need to be successful in business.

These services demonstrate a renewed focus on the particular needs of business customers from Vodafone. The impact that 5G can have on UK business is exciting and transformational, and we are excited by the role we can play in making that a reality.

Olive Communications CEO Martin Flick

I think Vodafone’s 5G offering is very compelling and comes at a time where Vodafone needs to be innovative. It feels like a sleeping giant has awoken, and what Vodafone is doing with 5G gives it the potential to see off the competition.

The approach that the operator is taking commercially is the right one: it’s about making
the technology accessible to everyone rather than being priced out of the market, and I think for small and big business customers this is a real game changer.

One of the big benefits I see with 5G is that it is going to have a huge impact on people’s
carbon footprint. At a lot of businesses, people have to travel from place to place to meet others, but if you use a pervasive, always- on transport layer like 5G effectively, it means that you can open up very rich collaboration and meeting services that are virtual and can
be used to drive a change in working patterns. This can save on the cost of travel that businesses need to spend.

I think the demand will come for the technology, though it might take some time to get the
message out to people about what the difference is between 5G and 4G. It’s about getting the message out there.

Vodafone has made 5G cost-effective for their customers and the prices and this is encouraging.

iData managing director James Wilson

I would say that despite launching 5G after EE, Vodafone has the advantage with its
offering. Having Lewis Hamilton on board as an ambassador for the company will also be an advantage, with his high level of appeal able to help drive awareness of Vodafone’s 5G service.

With the speeds that 5G offers and the content that will be used, it’s wise that Vodafone
has gone unlimited with data.

The launch marks a huge comeback and is a sign that the operator is turning things around. From a business partner perspective, there have been a lot of changes in what Vodafone offers customers and this launch was a statement.

5G will take until next year to become more widely adopted. I think you’ll get some early
starters, but it really depends on where you’re based as a dealer because the technology won’t be widespread yet, with just a few cities connected.

I think Vodafone’s brand and the people behind it, plus its UK partners, put the company in a great position to be number one for 5G.

Tela Technology CEO Shez Cheema

Vodafone really pulled out all the stops for its 5G launch and demonstrated how it will spur
innovation – particularly, how the technology will benefit the UK’s small and medium-sized businesses in the future. It’s all about being responsive in real time.

I was impressed by the live demonstration of how low network latency works. 5G will enable real-time live video streaming, less buffering and pixelation during video calls, and augmented reality – the technology applications are endless and will change how we do things.

Vodafone has got the proposition right: the operator’s decision to price the technology
the same as for 4G by not charging a premium demonstrates its aggressiveness to capture 5G market share in the early stages. An offer of no premium access always goes down well with customers and helps differentiate against the likes of EE’s 5G price plans.

We’ve had interest about 5G availability from our customers, which have been asking about the price plans that Vodafone will offer – so it seems a price-sensitive matter for them.

Citycom managing director Vinod Kakkar

The introduction and rollout of 5G will require significant investment by mobile network
operators and other players. The business models for the technology will create new revenue opportunities for existing operators and also open up possibilities for new players to enter the UK market.

A particular highlight of the Vodafone launch was the demo from Wasps rugby club. This saw player Juan de Jongh clad in a full-body Teslasuit to help create the force of a real-time rugby tackle by teammate Will Rowlands from over 100 miles away using the 5G network.

Vodafone has got the proposition right and the introduction of unlimited business plans is
a huge step. The fact that the operator is offering a series of new plans that give business customers access to unlimited data and 5G at the same price as for 4G is revolutionary.

We have had a lot of interest from our customers about the plans coming out for the
technology. Now that 5G has been launched, we are looking forward to sitting down with them and providing them with the capability to have the most cutting-edge technology in their business.

While the roll out of 5G will take its time to reach all over the UK we are in a great position as most of our customers are based in London.

Analysts

CCS Insight director, consumer and connectivity Kester Mann

After a turbulent recent period, Vodafone finally has its mojo back. At long last,
there is an air of optimism, positivity and ambition to regain former
glories in its home market.

Vodafone’s move into unlimited data and its decision to price 5G the same as 4G indicate
the emergence of a challenger mentality. This is in sharp contrast to its traditional premium-focused approach. It could spell bad news for Three, which has built a strategy based on challenging industry norms.

The big story of the event was the launch of speed-tiered unlimited data tariffs, a first
for the UK. As a new concept, Vodafone will need to articulate the propositions carefully to consumers who are only just beginning to appreciate the value of megabytes and gigabytes. Once understood, however, Vodafone Unlimited could prove a powerful acquisition tool.

The stronger push into convergence was overdue, and the new brand, single billing and
attractive pricing should reinvigorate Vodafone’s standing in this market.

Coverage will form a lead part of the operator’s 5G message as it seeks to differentiate its offers from those of rivals. In addition to its UK rollout, roaming in Germany, Spain and Italy will help justify its ‘5G in more places’ claim.

IDC research manager European mobile devices Marta Pinto

Vodafone’s 5G launch was impressive and comes after a hiccup in May, when at the very last minute it postponed this. Vodafone executives made sure to set up a complete show, not only inaugurating the service but also giving practical examples of how 5G networks can improve things for virtually all industries and consumers. Regarding smartphones, it was a bit disappointing to have only Samsung and Xiaomi mentioned, but this is an accurate snapshot of the current status of the market – with the focus of 5G moving away from just smartphones towards other connected devices.

Vodafone’s focus is on making sure there is no surcharge on 5G bundles both for consumers and companies. This is important, as investors will continue to closely observe how carriers balance the need to heavily invest in fast 5G rollouts with monetising the network.

Vodafone clearly wants to bring consumers on board its 5G services quickly and make the
transition as smooth as possible – and it has taken the opportunity to revamp its branding and communication strategy.

The decision to use the “Unlimited” brand was a clever one. Until now, the 5G value proposition has been around speed and promises of how great it will be, but focusing more on bringing an easy and clear proposition for an unlimited experience is a very good move. Aside from attracting the more tech-savvy users that understand the new possibilities of
5G, it will also appeal to those who are just looking for unlimited bundles and are not yet aware of the new technology.

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