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Sunday, December 03, 2006

Unlimited On-Net Calling Groups

I have noticed more and more of the UK operators moving towards differentiated on-net pricing. The grandest of these schemes is the Vodafone Family Plan, whereby regardless of pre or post pay someone can set up a four person calling group with unlimited monthly calls if a member of the group commits to paying £5/month. It can be extended to another two people for an extra £2/month.

The name of the plan is “Vodafone Family” because of its suitability for the atypical home of two adults, two kids and a pet, whereby Mum & Dad ensure the kids can call them at any time and the kids can pay personally for calls & texts to their friends. However, Vodafone doesn’t discriminate and it can be used by Students, Small Businesses – in fact anyone who wants to set up a calling group.

The beauty of this plan is that although call volumes will rise dramatically, all of the traffic will be on-net and therefore incrementally the costs will be zero. The plan may result in a drop of fixed-mobile traffic, because no-one will call their kids from a fixed line phone and instead will ring them from their mobile. It may also result a drop in revenue where a particular group are already exceeding £5/month in on-net revenue. However, the big bonus is three-fold:
  • it will result in more customers converting to the Vodafone Family making its network bigger and more valuable, especially as group members also make calls outside the group and other network customers call Vodafone Family members resulting in inbound revenue ;
  • it is an almost impossible plan for the MVNOs to match. People like Virgin Mobile who pay T-Mobile according to the volume of calls have to price accordingly and cannot offer unlimited call packages economically; and
  • it becomes a much bigger and complicated decision to churn.
O2 have a half way house product named “o2 Friends” where for £5/month, you get a 50% discount on calls and messages to three people.

It will be interesting to see if Vodafone picks up market share with the Vodafone Family. I suspect it will be a big winner in the marketplace and eventually force a reaction from the other networks.