Vodafone in 360 degree reinvention


Vodafone last month set out its ‘360′ strategy to go beyond airtime provision and to reinvent itself as a software and social networking provider, similar to Nokia’s move last year beyond straight handset manufacturing with its ‘Ovi’ portal. Vodafone, as network operator however, already has the billing relationship with the customer, and controls mobile data supply.

Its 360 social network integration portal, supported by its new marketing tagline ‘power to you’, is part of a strategy to be “not just a network”. Vodafone group chief executive Vittorio Colao said last month: “Vodafone doesn’t want to just be a network. Our ambition is to be a communications specialist.”

All Vodafone marketing from now will feature the new tagline instead of the old ‘make the most of now’ slogan. Vodafone’s new 360 mobile internet service is to launch by Christmas along with several handsets including two specially produced Samsung devices that will run the whole suite of services – address book integrated with contacts from Facebook and MySpace (Twitter to be added after the launch), 3D contact view, web and handset search, maps, picture geo-tagging, music downloads, and the Vodafone Apps Shop, which launches with 1,000 mobile applications.

A range of other handsets, including four Nokia devices, will support the connected address book, Apps Shop, music downloads, web and handset search, and maps. One hundred more handsets will support the connected address book only.

Training and network

Around 25,000 Vodafone store staff in 7,500 stores across Europe have been trained to help customers sign up to the service, which requires account registration via the 360 website.

Said Colao: “This new set of initiatives is about driving the best, most innovative and most useful services in mobile. It’s also first proof of our new brand positioning, which we are adopting across the world. We are building a suite of services to improve customers lives personally and professionally. This is what Vodafone wants to be about now. This is a good, solid strategy based upon an optimistic vision for the future.”

Colao acknowledged the strategy was also about driving data revenue and smartphone uptake. Data use currently makes up 10 per cent of Vodafone revenues in Europe, with smartphones having just 15 per cent proliferation within Vodafone Europe’s customer base. Delivering the strategy relies on development of network infrastructure. Vodafone is currently trialling 21Mbps mobile internet download speeds. “Most important is the network, supporting better speeds. The best network will give the best experience and get the best customers,” said Colao.

Development support

Vodafone has also committed to application development with roll out of its App Shop to all markets. Vodafone is offering a 70 per cent revenue share scheme to developers. There is also a €1 million (£900m) prize fund to be shared between developers of the ‘best’ mobile widgets as part of a competition across Europe.

Vodafone Europe chief executive Michel Combes said: “We can’t do this alone – we need to open up the developer community. Developers can write their application once and sell them across all our European markets. We will extend our distribution to all markets, meaning a reach of 300 million customers.

“Our JIL (Joint Innovation Lab) partnership with China Mobile, Softbank and Verizon will allow for creation of new mobile widget platforms. There is an opportunity to monetise and distribute goods and services to a global customer base. Access to our billing platform means developers can charge the customer’s account, directly to their mobile bill.

“Developers will also be able to create truly location-relevant applications. But no customers’ data will be given to third parties – customers will always choose to reveal location details.”

Combes said Vodafone is also developing partnerships with businesses to extend their services to mobile, generating extra revenue streams for both parties. Partnerships have been forged with La Repubblica newspaper in Italy and El Mundo and El Pais newspapers in Spain to give customers access to content through Vodafone.

“We are putting serious money and trust behind our commitments,” said Combes.

Full article appears in Mobile News issue 449, out Monday October 5. To subscribe, click here