None of the news agencies that I can find seem to want to do their job when it comes to Vodafone's new 3G services "launched" today. (I put launch in quotes because it's not like you can go down to a Voda store in the U.K. right now and buy a phone - Jim tried and failed.) I'm annoyed at all the news sites out there that have done nothing but repeat Voda's press release about the launch without actually giving any hint at how much all the wonderful new data services that 3G enables are going to cost. One would think this is an important piece of information, no?
The best I could find were in this BBC article:
Vodafone is launching two price packages for its 3G services. The Â£40-a-month package includes 500 minutes of voice calls, 100 text messages and 50 minutes of video calls. Sending pre-recorded video messages will cost 60p per message, and the package also includes Premiership football highlights, breaking news and film trailers. The Â£60-a-month bundle includes the same features but includes 1,000 minutes of voice calls. Vodafone is also offering a pay-as-you-go service.
And other than the Press Release saying something along the lines of "Vodafone has created new pricing which is designed to be simple to encourage usage." There's no hard numbers. It does say that "browsing will be free" but does that include browsing outside of Vodafone Live's portal, or are they walling off their content?
Regardless, nothing actually tells you how much it's going to cost to load up an IM client on your Nokia 6630 and chat with your pals online, or how much it'll cost to use Kodak's Ofoto uploading software, etc. In other words, how much to just consume data? As a comparision, here's some hard info about AT&T Wireless/Cingular's UMTS 3G data plans. You take any voice plan and tack on unlimited data for $24.95 a month. There's some additional charges if you attach a computer, but other than that, it's clear and open. It took me about 14 seconds to find that page with pricing, etc.
Now, go to the Vodafone website. Pricing? Nothing. Lots of noise about the 3G launch, but no hard information about the new service. (Unless they're going to continue to charge .275p per kilobyte). And the press isn't doing their job either to ask them how much and obviously neither are their customers (not that there's any concept of customer service in Europe, but you get the idea). What this is doing is allowing the colusion between European operators to continue. The "reporters" enjoy their embargoed story access, Vodafone gets a splashy launch and the customers get screwed.
I'm all for Vodafone recouping the reported $26 billion they spent on 3G infrastructure and licenses, but like any business in a competetive market, they should make their pricing transparent. The fact that their prices aren't known means that there's something fishy going on - there's enough competition, but obviously there's no pressure on them to do so. It's a simple question, really, "how much?" Even if they're launching in over a dozen countries, it should be pretty simple to say "how much will an average customer pay for these services?" Europeans, especially should be asking this question as they're currently getting reamed on data price charges. It'll be interesting to see what happens when Orange and O2 launch their 3G services within the next month or so as well.
Oh well, like I said before, this gives American Wireless a fighting chance to catch up and surpass parts of the world which are currently ahead of us in terms of mobile consumption and services. It wouldn't surprise me if the U.S. becomes the number two region in the world for consuming mobile data services within the year. It makes sense - unlike the rest of the world, our market is not saturated yet and is booming, and because we've got more disposable income we're also the most profitable for the manufacturers and carriers alike. Voda's launch may be interesting, but since they're obviously holding on to their old-school telecom ways, it doesn't mean much does it?
I wonder how many years it'll be before they get a clue?