Vodafone launches NBN Wi-Fi booster and new plans

Vodafone is dropping its upfront charges for customers switching to NBN services, as well as unveiling new plans with discounts for post-paid mobile customers and launching a Wi-Fi booster.

Vodafone Australia has announced three new parts of its National Broadband Network (NBN) offering in a bid to win more customers, including a Wi-Fi booster and refreshed plans rewarding bundled customers.

Speaking with ZDNet, Vodafone GM of Fixed Matthew Lobb called the new Wi-Fi booster a "mini-me version of our Wi-Fi hub".

Lobb told ZDNet that Vodafone again worked with Technicolor, the same company it used for its Wi-Fi Hub -- which provides backup 4G internet access in the event of an outage or delay in migration -- and it has similar capabilities, including dual-band Wi-Fi with the ability to connect 32 devices.

The booster extends the signal into blackspots in customers' homes, and costs AU$180 upfront or AU$5 per month on a 36-month plan.

Vodafone's "rejigged" NBN plans will then reward its post-paid mobile customers with AU$10 off their monthly NBN bill across the 50Mbps and 100Mbps plans, and AU$5 off their 25Mbps NBN services.

Vodafone's NBN plans now cost AU$69 per month for 25Mbps; AU$79 per month for 50Mbps; and AU$99 per month for 100Mbps prior to the post-paid mobile customer discounts.

Vodafone also wants to avoid "sneaky" charges to customers, Lobb explained, as well as the upfront hits to the wallet consumers take on other telcos.

Instead, Vodafone will waive its AU$180 upfront charge for the modem and installation until a customer leaves their plan, crediting AU$5 each month. For example, if a customer leaves their Vodafone NBN service six months in, they'll be charged AU$120 on exiting, rather than AU$180 upfront.

"Upfront charges are things customers don't like; they're a roadblock to moving providers," Lobb told ZDNet.

According to Lobb, TPG's upfront charge is AU$100, Optus' is AU$200, and Telstra's is AU$435, plus Telstra's early termination charge is AU$735 if customers leave in the first month of the contract.

According to Telstra, however, its fees are far lower than this -- and it too has a 30-day satisfaction guarantee on its NBN plans.

"There is a AU$99 connection charge for new customers signing up to a Telstra home internet bundle. Early termination charges vary based on the plan a customer has signed up to and the length of time they have remaining on their contract," a Telstra spokesperson told ZDNet.

"There is no early termination fees apply for casual customers who are also charged a AU$120 upfront fee, and need to purchase a Telstra Smart Modem upfront if they don't have a compatible Telstra modem."

Lastly, the new Vodafone Mobile Landline solution has been launched in response to the "almost universal" feedback Vodafone received from customers that most don't use their fixed phones anymore, but that a very small portion of customers wanted to retain their fixed phone number.

"Mobile Landline is effectively a call diversion, so calls going to that number will be diverted to your nominated Vodafone post-paid mobile. It will effectively mean your home phone will now be on your mobile," he said.

Vodafone Mobile Landline will cost AU$5 per month, which he said is preferable when compared to a stand-alone fixed phone charge of between AU$30 and AU$40 per month.

"It's a simple solution to really the last reason why customers are sort of wedded to their fixed phone," Lobb explained, adding that it's all about "simplifying, trying to get rid of all the old legacy ways of doing things".

Vodafone had in March announced an expansion of its NBN services to five more areas, reaching Adelaide, Perth, Brisbane, Tasmania, and the Gold Coast as of April.

This marked an almost doubling of its original NBN footprint, the telco said at the time; Vodafone launched NBN services in December last year, initially only providing the service to Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, Geelong, and Newcastle.

At the same time as its initial launch, Vodafone's 4G backup service also became automated.

"Initially in the pilot, Vodafone would turn on the 4G service after some troubleshooting work with our customers," Lobb told ZDNet last year.

"We changed that so the device will automatically move to 4G as soon as there's a fault ... there'll be no time when they're disconnected."

Also using Vodafone's NBN footprint is Kogan Internet, which is offering unlimited data and no exit fees across all plans.

In addition to a AU$69 modem, Kogan Internet's month-to-month NBN plans start at AU$58.90 per month for the 12/1Mbps speed tier; AU$68.90 per month -- currently discounted to AU$58.90 per month for the first 24 months -- for 50/20Mbps speeds; and AU$88.90 per month for speeds of 100/40Mbps.

Updated at 3.50pm AEST, June 27: Added comment from Telstra

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