By Steve McCaskill
Vodafone is to offer 4G as standard to all new contract customers, following in the footsteps of Three, which already charges no additional fee for LTE.
The 4G offer applies to new customers taking out a 12- or 24-month plan, while existing users in the middle of a 3G contract can upgrade for a one-off fee of £20 or for free if the new 4G deal costs at least £5 a month.
The company launched its LTE service in August 2013 and at last count, covered 57 percent of the U.K. population and had signed up 2.2 million customers—significantly less than EE's 7.7 million.
Vodafone could soon face unprecedented competition in the U.K. communications market as the trend toward convergence continues. BT's proposed acquisition of EE, the possible merger of O2 and Three and Sky's launch of a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) will intensify competition and accelerate the move toward 'quad-play' services.
The Newbury-based operator will hope its new 4G offer, along with the launch of consumer broadband and television services, will strengthen its position in the market. EE and O2 are now the only major operators to levy a premium on LTE and any customer who switches to Vodafone will be given a £20 credit on their bill as a reward.
Vodafone says it is prioritizing reliability over speed and coverage in its 4G rollout, claiming the use of 800MHz spectrum and LTE-Advanced technology will improve its service. The company is also rolling out voice over LTE (VoLTE) and Voice over WiFi (VoWiFi) to customers.