If the technology industry wants 5G to change the world, placing prohibitive pricing on data tariffs is a strange way to go about it.
The count-down clock to 5G is heading towards the small numbers, and now Vodafone customers will be able to pre-order 5G-ready devices and decide on what tariffs they are able to afford. Unfortunately for some, the prices might prove to be too much of a premium for wallets to stomach.
Devices and various different tariffs are now available for pre-order through the Vodafone website.
|Tariff||Samsung Galaxy S10 5G||Xiaomi Mi MIX 3 5G|
|5 GB Red Extra||£149 upfront, £58 monthly||£99 upfront, £50 monthly|
|15 GB Red Extra||£99 upfront, £62 monthly||£99 upfront, £54 monthly|
|30 GB Red Extra||£49 upfront, £66 monthly||£49 upfront, £58 monthly|
|60 GB Red Extra||£49 upfront, £70 monthly||£49 upfront, £62 monthly|
|25 GB Red Entertainment||£99 upfront, £69 monthly||£49 upfront, £61 monthly|
|50 GB Red Entertainment||£49 upfront, £73 monthly||£49 upfront, £65 monthly|
|100 GB Red Entertainment||£49 upfront, £77 monthly||£49 upfront, £69 monthly|
All contracts set at 24 months
What is missing from the above table is a nod to Huawei. Vodafone has hit the pause button on devices from the under-fire Chinese brand. As with EE, Huawei’s 5G phone will not be sold through the Vodafone website for pre-order. It would appear this will be the case until the difficulties with the operating system and ecosystem are ironed out.
Despite these complications, the prices are what the prices are.
“Given its high-profile battle with EE to lead in 5G, I expected Vodafone’s initial tariffs to be punchier,” said Kester Mann of CCS Insight. “The entry £50 offer includes just 5 GB of data; on a 5G network, customers could quickly burn through that.”
Mann is absolutely correct; 5 GB will not last long given the promise of the 5G ecosystem and the usecases envisioned. However, upgrading to bulkier tariffs is perhaps cost prohibitive, potentially creating a new digital divide.
As it stands, the price is prohibitive for some. £52 as a starting point is a high barrier to entry. It seems only the privileged will be comfortable with spending so much on a connectivity contract, creating a society of ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ and another potential digital divide.
Although there have been promises 5G tariffs will be priced on similar levels to 4G, the premium should come as little surprise. People will be prepared to pay for bragging rights.
It should also be noted EE has priced the connectivity options at the same levels. Vodafone have slightly undercut EE for 5G tariffs, but not by much. This is perhaps a situation which we should have expected. Until all four MNOs are on the market with a 5G proposition, threatening to steal valuable postpaid subscriptions, the price will remain lofty.
|Tariff||OnePlus 7 Pro 5G||Samsung Galaxy S10 5G||Oppo Reno 5G|
|30 GB, one swappable||£64 a month, £50 upfront||£74 a month, £10 upfront||£59 a month, £50 upfront|
|30 GB, two swappables||£69 a month, £50 upfront||£79 a month, £10 upfront||£69 a month, £50 upfront|
|60 GB, two swappables||£74 a month, £30 upfront||£84 a month, £10 upfront||£69 a month, £30 upfront|
|60 GB, one swappable||£69 a month, £30 upfront||£79 a month, £10 upfront||£69 a month, £30 upfront|
|120 GB, three swappables||£79 a month, £10 upfront||£89 a month, £10 upfront||£74 a month, £10 upfront|
|100 GB, two swappables||£74 a month, £10 upfront||£84 a month, £10 upfront||£69 a month, £10 upfront|
|10 GB, two swappables||£59 a month, £170 upfront||£69 a month, £130 upfront||£54 a month, £170 upfront|
|10 GB, one swappable||£59 a month, £70 upfront||£69 a month, £30 upfront||£54 a month, £70 upfront|
|10 GB, two swappables||£64 a month, £70 upfront||£74 a month, £30 upfront||£59 a month, £70 upfront|
All contract set at 24 months
As you can see, the prices are not consistent with the overall rhetoric of the industry. For many years, the industry has preached of democratizing connectivity, while 5G was supposed to be a technology which benefitted the masses.
At the moment, the risk of a digital divide is very apparent. The rich will get the benefits while the poor remain in the 4G-era. While the genuine 5G usecases are yet to emerge, this is not necessarily an issue. 5G offers little more than increased speeds right now, a premium which isn’t really needed with the applications and services which are currently on the market.
Over the next 6-12 months, Three and O2 will enter the fray with their own networks. This should cause the price of 5G connectivity to tumble. Hopefully at least, as the current state-of-play is a connectivity world which has been designed for the privileged.