Vodafone releases pricing for converged comms

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Vodafone releases pricing for converged comms

Vodafone will make its long overdue foray into office communications on Monday, launching a fully-managed package of mobile and fixed telephony, ADSL2+ Internet and office Wi-Fi branded together as 'Vodafone Business One'.

Built in collaboration with Cisco and RIM, Vodafone Business One will be sold under a choice of five 24-month voice plans, plus a subsidised bundle of office communications hardware sold under a 48-month plan.

The service was first announced in mid-2008. At the time it was promised to be commercially available by the close of the 2008 calendar year.

Pricing for the 24-month service plans range between $2599 to $9999 per month, featuring a specified number of included call minutes, text messages and voicemail.

The cheapest option, for up to 24 users, costs $2599 and includes 8000 minutes of mobile calls, 2250 minutes of fixed calls, 1000 text messages and unlimited voicemail and mobile e-mail.

The most expensive, for up to 96 users, costs $9999 and includes 32000 minutes of mobile calls, 9000 minutes of fixed line calls, 4000 text messages and unlimited voicemail and mobile e-mail.

There are also additional charges for adding an option of unlimited, untimed calls between employees or for adding cheaper international call rates.

The equipment rental plan is charged in addition and varies according to the choice of hardware (how many phones etc.)

Vodafone will also announce Monday a 'voice only' version of the Vodafone Business One service for those customers with tight budgets.

This service does not include unlimited mobile e-mail via the Blackberry service on every phone, nor support for dual mode phones/WiFi Office calling, and does not offer 24x7 support. Support is instead limited to 8am-5pm, guaranteed before the next business day.

The 'voice only' solution also comes as five choices of 24-month plans ranging from $1999-$7999 per month - a discount of around 20-25 per cent of the full Vodafone Business One package.

Hugh Humphrey, general manager of business markets for Vodafone Australia expects the voice-only plan will prove popular to Vodafone customers wanting to upgrade from its Business Cap plans.

"We have been watching the market for the last six months and noted the change in the economic situation for many businesses," Humphrey said.

"So we decided to have two solutions - one for progressive businesses looking for competitive advantage and increased productivity, and one for small businesses looking for a complete communications solution with a lower price tag."

Vodafone Business One was ultimately aimed at delivering a small business its complete communications needs in a simple package.

But the variety of plans, pricing and additional options does make the solution a complex sell.

Vodafone has attempted to address this issue with a 'Solution Builder' interface.

This interface allows customers to type in the number of phones they require, the number of minutes of calls they expect to make per month and what features they require.

The system then dynamically provides a suggested voice plan and quote for the required hardware bundle.

"The challenge is how to deliver a sophisticated and complex technology solution, but make it incredibly simple for the small business owner," Humphrey said.

"In the trials we did, customers asked for us to give them a front end where they can input their needs."

The service is fully managed by Vodafone's network of reseller partners - whose expertise will be augmented by Cisco channel partners (working under Vodafone branding).

"When a customer subscribes, they are provided a fully managed service from specification, installation through to support," explains Ian Ross, head of managed services for Cisco Australia.

"The level of technical skill a small business needs for its communications is reduced substantially."

Cisco distributor Westcon has signed up to distribute the hardware, while NetStar has been contracted to provide installation services under the Vodafone banner.

"Given the complexity of the solution, it has been a learning curve for some of our channels," Humphrey said.

"We have gone through a process of stringent evaluation and certification with our partners."  

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