Vodafone will ensure Apple’s iPhone handset range gains critical mass this year in the UK business market, it reckons.
Its new iPhone distribution agreement, combined with heavy investment in its data network and its burgeoning unified communications offer, will invigorate Vodafone’s assault on the business market this year.
Vodafone UK enterprise director Peter Kelly (pictured) said: “Yes, Apple is interested in Vodafone in the UK because we understand the corporate space. It realises we have a strong footprint in the enterprise market, and good channels there. So, yes, we will maximise the opportunity for Apple in the corporate sector.”
Kelly rejected outright the notion Vodafone has been late to deliver products and strategy in the UK, even as rival O2 has enjoyed a long lead on the iPhone, led the indirect channel with revenue share and trumped Vodafone’s One/OneNet convergence offer with its own Joined Up proposition.
“I don’t think that’s a fair analysis,” Kelly responded. “Over the past 12-18 months, we have invested significantly in our network, which has allowed us to be leader in mobile broadband and mobile email in the enterprise space.
“We have bought [service provider] Central Telecom, and also put investment into Vodafone One and Vodafone OneNet.
“We have got great developing relationships with Research in Motion (RIM), Nokia and others in this market, and we have added Apple. Ultimately, our timing with network capability and new demand for smartphones is spot on for business users.”
Vodafone released the iPhone 3G and 3G S in the UK last week across its own direct channels and 20 choice independent partners (see right) simultaneously. On the high street, Carphone Warehouse and Phones 4U are also signed to sell the iPhone on Vodafone alongside 400-odd outlets of its own.
Kelly said there is pent-up demand for the device on Vodafone among consumers and businesses, and its network is a draw for interested parties. “We offer the best network. The capacity and reach of our data network is unsurpassed,” he said.
Kelly claimed 99 per cent population coverage for Vodafone’s 2G network and 82 per cent for its 3G network. But he said also Vodafone outruns UK rivals for network capacity.
“We have invested to ensure high speeds and extensive coverage. It is the most robust data network in the UK. The iPhone 3G S is twice as fast as its forbear – provided network coverage supports it.
“It is not just about breadth of coverage, but depth. You can have this kind of coverage, but the kinds of data devices now being deployed shrink the customer experience if coverage is not robust.
“We don’t have those issues. We have the requisite capacity for high data volumes.”
Kelly said also Vodafone Access Gateway femtocells, now dubbed Sure Signal, afford customers five-bar 3G coverage in the home and office.
“We are rolling them out to consumers and businesses in thousands. They can be moved around easily – a minor reconfiguration and you can take it with you, from a basement home in London to a holiday home in the Lake District.”
Data security and business applications will drive iPhone sales in the business market, remarked Kelly.
Apple already offers a range of software to enable the device to work as a business tool, and Vodafone has the know-how to integrate it with back-office systems and tighten security elements that some business users have found lacking with iPhone devices to date.
“One of the reasons RIM has done so well is its advanced security capability. Working with Apple, we can provide a range of security. We distribute the device already via 12 operator companies in the group, and our US operation is working with Apple to sell the device to Fortune 100 companies for whom data security is paramount.
“Security is an essential consideration and the iPhone can be as secure as a BlackBerry, or any handset, for large SMEs and corporates. Vodafone has built a strong reputation for that kind of security in the public and corporate sectors already.”
He added corporate applications for activity such as CRM, expense reporting and business planning also lend the iPhone to the business market. Its large screen and form factor, too, makes it appropriate tool for workers in the field or at logistics operations, suggested Kelly.