Vodafone pushes its convergence capabilities

The company wants to make sure its business customers understand the range of services it offers

Vodafone has launched a converged fixed-mobile service for its small-business customers, which it says will make it easier to work at different locations.

The service, dubbed Mobility Solutions for Business, promises to simplify account and service management, reduce costs and combine support services into one point of contact.

Vodafone UK's chief executive, Nick Read, said on Tuesday that the launch constituted "one of the first steps on an evolutionary journey that will take us from being a mobile-only communications provider to the total communications provider of choice".

However, observers have suggested the low-key launch could be designed to reassure investors that Vodafone isn't lagging behind in the race towards "convergence" — one of the biggest buzzwords in telecoms today.

"To date, Vodafone has shown little of its hand in regard to its strategy for convergence. It has remained fairly sceptical about some of the prospects for technology-based convergence, even as its integrated operator competitors, with France Telecom/Orange leading the pack, are making much of their own abilities to meet all of the customers' needs," Ovum analyst Jeremy Green said on Wednesday.

"If the point is to demonstrate that the company also has a convergence strategy, it will have to try harder than this," he added.

Elaine Roberts, Vodafone UK's head of enterprise marketing, conceded on Wednesday that the launch was "very much focused on how we would position something we've been doing for three years already", but pointed out that customers had recently been asking if Vodafone could provide converged services.

Roberts argued that the new emphasis on customer-account management "makes it easier for our customers to think what their needs are".

Comparing the move to O2's new drive for enhanced and unified customer support, Roberts said that "convergence is what the industry needs to consider, but if you totally focus on the technology part and miss the needs of your customers, you miss the point.

"We're all recognising that to be really successful in this business you need to focus on the customer and how to focus on their needs," she added.