Vodafone is gearing up for the “imminent” launch of an internal National Broadband Network pilot ahead of a broader rollout of NBN services.
“We’re in the final stages of testing our network,” the telco’s general manager of broadband, Matthew Lobb, told Computerworld. “We’ll be staring with, initially, an internal pilot and then a friendly customer external pilot in the coming weeks and we will then move to a market launch.”
As part of a focus on delivering a “great customer experience” Vodafone will launch services progressively: Initially it will offer fixed-line NBN services in Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, Geelong, Newcastle and Wollongong; services in other areas, including within the NBN’s fixed wireless and satellite footprint, will follow.
Vodafone in March began accepting expressions of interest in NBN services and it has used that process to understand the pain points of customers when it comes to broadband, Lobb said.
The company earlier this month revealed that the Vodafone Wi-Fi Hub for NBN customers would integrate 4G cellular capabilities to provide broadband services while customers wait for their NBN connections to be activated and during outages.
The “Instant Connect” and 4G backup service offered by the device “is a key foundation for a different way that Vodafone NBN will be operating in the market,” Lobb said.
The telco has focused on simplicity when it comes to designing its NBN plans, details of which it revealed today. Vodafone will launch with three main NBN offerings, all of which offer unlimited downloads: Essential ($80 a month), Essential+ ($95) and Premium ($110).
The plans are based on the 25/5 megabits per second, 50/20Mbps, and 100/40Mbps NBN wholesale speed tiers. All three will offer a monthly post-paid mobile data bonus: 2GB for the Essential plan and 3GB for the other two.
As part of the sales process, Vodafone will focus on discussing a customer’s needs to match them with the appropriate plan, Lobb said. “It won’t be about all the techno babble that telcos have been throwing at the market about various types of technology, the megabits per second and all those kinds of things that customers really don’t see as useful indicators,” he said.
“What they want to understand is: What is the best product, the best service for my needs? We’ll be having conversations about what kind of household they are, how engaged they are with technology, how important making sure that the service doesn’t have any jitters on HD television is and so on. We’ll be guiding customers and making sure they understand what’s best for them.”
Lobb said Vodafone will also offer a 12/1Mbps service but has made the decision to not “actively sell” it. The Basic plan will cost $70 a month and come with 2GB of mobile data.
The 12/1 speed tier is “very much a legacy service — which is fine for those customers that are low users of broadband or don’t have high expectations of speed,” he said.
“We’ve been observing that customers on that [speed tier] are quite frustrated — because they come on to the NBN, the incumbent telcos have migrated them to that service and customers have an expectation that it’s going to be an improved experience, when in actual fact it’s pretty much more of the same.”
Vodafone will also within 15 days of an NBN service being activated conduct a speed check to ensure that customers are getting performance in line with their plan. Customers will be able to shift to a faster or slower speed without penalty once per bill cycle, Lobb said.
“We know that customers’ needs change over time so we want to make that easy,” he said.
The telco is offering a 30-day money back network guarantee for NBN customers, he added.
Vodafone will be connecting directly to the NBN at the network’s Points of Interconnect, Lobb said. “We have a 21st century core network and we’ll be using that core network for NBN services. We’re not using any reseller services – we’re directly connecting to the NBN at the POIs.”