Vodafone Announces ‘Out Of Bundle’ Data Charges

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Vodafone is bringing in new charges for its Pay Monthly customers who use more than 500MB of data per month

Mobile operator Vodafone is introducing new charges for customers who exceed their monthly data limits. In a blog post dated 6 May, Vodafone announced that “Out Of Bundle” charges would apply for customers who use more than 500MB per month.

“The reason we’re introducing these charges is to make it fairer for everyone, and to protect our network from data abuse,” the company stated. “We’re introducing a real-time notifications service to be completely transparent about these charges and keep customers in control of their spend.”

According to Vodafone, monthly bundle customers will be charged £5 for every 500MB they use after the first 500MB. Customers without a monthly bundle will pay 50p for every 10MB they use after the first 25MB. These Out Of Bundle charges will take effect from 1 June 2010.

Vodafone struggling under data strain?

The announcement was met with some surprise from the industry, especially since Vodafone boasted earlier this year about the strength and robustness of its network to deal with the increasing data strain imposed by smartphones. In February, Vodafone was found to be the fastest network for mobile web browsing, in an independent survey commissioned by rival operator O2.

However, Vodafone’s decision to introduce data charges has been described by some commentators as regressive – particularly as the popularity of streaming applications continues to grow – and suggests that Vodafone’s efforts to increase its data capacity have been unsuccessful.

In June last year, Vodafone launched the first commercial 3G femtocell in Europe, designed to boost signals indoors and offload traffic from the mobile network. Like a home router, femtocells give 3G coverage indoors, and use home broadband to connect calls across the Internet to the mobile network.

At the time, Vodafone played down the ability of femtocells to reduce network data traffic, presumably to avoid complaints from fixed-line operators who are expected to shoulder the burden. “It’s mostly voice, and a small amount of data traffic,” said Lee McDougall, the senior manager at Vodafone. “It’s a very small amount of traffic, not like the iPlayer.”

The iPhone changes data demands

However, since Vodafone began offering Apple’s iPhone in January, the situation has changed, and customers are now demanding more and more from their mobile network. With the addition of other data-hungry smartphones such as Google’s Nexus One, as well as Apple’s iPad tablet PC billed for later this month, the demand on its Vodafone’s network has increased massively.

Vodafone’s blog made no apology for the new charges, simply stating: “Whilst you’ve all previously been used to there not being any Out Of Bundle charging, the current information available online is clear in explaining that we could introduce such charging at any time.”

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