Vodafone puts the call out for NBN customers

Without revealing its NBN pricing and plans, Vodafone has asked customers to submit expressions of interest to be updated on when and where its service will become available.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

Vodafone Australia has put out a call for expressions of interest from customers and potential customers ahead of its deployment of National Broadband Network (NBN) services.

Saying only that it will be launching services as an NBN retail service provider "later this year" for homes and small businesses "in selected areas", Vodafone said it will use the details of those who submit an EOI form to contact them about when and where the network will be offered.

"Australians will soon be able to interchangeably use their mobile and fixed broadband to stream music and video, send messages, make purchases, or grow their business," Vodafone GM of Fixed Matthew Lobb said.

"For those customers who pre-register with us, we'll get in touch directly in the lead-up to launch to find out more about their fixed broadband needs and how we can provide them with the best solution."

While Vodafone said that the information will not be used to inform its planning process, or where its NBN connectivity will be provided or switched on first, the EOI form asks for consumers' street address, suburb, state, postcode, current broadband provider, and whether they would be using the connection for personal or business use.

Vodafone said its NBN service would bring "simplicity" to broadband plans, as well as more of a focus on customer experience.

Vodafone announced in October last year that it would be entering the NBN market as a retail service provider before the end of 2017, with CEO Inaki Berroeta saying the telco intends to be "the cornerstone of competition" in fixed-line broadband.

While Vodafone has not yet announced what speeds, data, and pricing it will offer in its NBN plans, it last month said lower-speed tiers such as 12Mbps and 25Mbps should not even be offered on the NBN.

"Given taxpayers have funded a network which has been dimensioned to deliver speeds significantly faster than DSL, it is not clear that these low-speed tiers should even be on offer," Vodafone argued in its submission to the Joint Standing Committee on the NBN.

"Since the majority of the costs of a fixed-line network are 'fixed costs' (ie, do not vary according to capacity or usage), once the NBN network is rolled out, there are only relatively modest additional costs to the NBN to offer higher speeds."

Pointing out that most NBN users are still on the 25Mbps speed tier, Vodafone said "urgent changes" need to be made to both the connectivity virtual circuit (CVC) pricing structure and the access virtual circuit (AVC) charge.

Saying the recent CVC discount is "unlikely to provide a substantial incentive to migrate customers to the higher-speed plans", Vodafone said the CVC is leading telcos to move customers from 20-100Mbps legacy services down to slower-speed 12-25Mbps NBN services.

"The industry is not currently incentivised to deliver the full potential benefits of the NBN," Vodafone explained.

"The current structure of this CVC pricing penalises RSPs for provisioning higher guaranteed capacity, and therefore more consistent guaranteed performance for their customers. The fixed AVC monthly charge increases steeply for higher-speed plans. This, combined with higher CVCs to guarantee the higher throughput customers would expect on higher-speed plans, means that the pricing model discourages RSPs from offering higher-speed data plans."

As a major proponent of infrastructure sharing in order to extend its own mobile network at minimal cost, Vodafone also suggested that NBN provide a wholesale mobile service using its fixed-wireless infrastructure in order to allow mobile carriers to expand coverage throughout regional and rural areas and to "maximise the benefit" of the millions of dollars being spent on building out the NBN.

NBN could alternatively share spectrum, fixed-wireless towers, equipment, and transmission and satellite backhaul with mobile carriers, Vodafone suggested.

Vodafone already shares one tower with NBN's fixed-wireless service after the latter activated its first wholesale cell site in February; NBN's Cell Site Access Service (CSAS) product allows carriers to use its towers and fibre services by installing additional antennas; however, Vodafone has now said that the fact that only one of these has been switched on so far "raises questions as to whether the pricing is competitive enough and whether the NBN has an incentive to drive the deployment of this service".

Vodafone added that NBN should share its mobile spectrum for 4G and 5G services.

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