Vodafone is entering the fixed-line market for the first time with a range of NBN products, as the government corrals industry and regulators together to try and improve customer experiences on the national broadband network.
General manager of broadband at Vodafone, Matthew Lobb, said the company will gradually connect into all of NBN Co’s points of interconnect in coming years. Initially its product will only be available in the east coast cities of Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, Geelong, Newcastle and Wollongong.
“Customers want simple and straightforward plans that are relevant to their use of technology,” Mr Lobb said.
“As a first for a major telecommunication company, we’ll be providing bonus mobile data rather than insisting customers receive an outdated, plain old fixed telephony service”.
Vodafone says it will test the speeds available on a customer’s line within the first two weeks to ensure higher speeds are possible. And it will not actively market the lowest speed tier of 12 megabits per second (Mbps), for which it charges at least $70 per month on a two-year contract.
All the plans will have unlimited data and range in price from $80 to $110.
Vodafone will drive customers to its product by inviting “thousands” of customers who sign up early and offering three months free broadband if they help test-drive the new fixed service.
Vodafone will buy directly from NBN Co and has already announced plans to re-sell to Kogan so it too can offer NBN services.
“Over the past year Vodafone has listened to what many Australians who have connected to the old DSL services or the NBN have had to say about their experience,” Mr Lobb said.
“People are feeling frustrated with the connection process, underwhelmed by the products and information they were provided when they signed up, and are confused about the speed options on offer.”
Vodafone has already announced it will provide customers with a modem that defaults to its 4G mobile network if NBN’s fixed service is delayed or broken.
Meanwhile the Communications Minister Mitch Fifield is trying to find ways to reduce customer complaints about the government-owned network, which nearly every household will be forced onto in coming years.
Senator Fifield hosted a forum on Tuesday between major telcos and industry peak bodies, the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).
His office released a statement saying “the industry has committed to tackling the key migration issues for consumers including confusing information, handballing customer complaints, lead times for connections and rescheduled appointments.”
On Monday the ACCC released new industry advertising guidelines cracking down on excessive speed claims and forcing telcos to provide average speed data to consumers. The government has also asked the ACMA to use its information gathering powers to find out how widespread problems NBN connection problems are.
“Internet retailers, NBN and Government will continue to work together over the coming months to make more changes that will ensure the processes for switching to the NBN better cater to consumers’ needs,” the Minister’s office stated.
The forum will report back within three months.