O2 UK launches 5G network with no tariff premium

As the last UK operator to switch on its 5G network, O2 seems to be trying to make up for lost time by charging its customers no premium to switch from 4G.

The ‘new’ tariffs are the same as the old ones – i.e. you get the same amount of 5G data as you would 4G data, including an unlimited tier coming it at 40 quid a month. Initially only the following cities will have access to O2 5G and only in certain parts: Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh, London, Slough and Leeds. That will grow to 20 towns by the end of the year and 50 by the summer of next year.

“Today is a significant moment for our customers and our business as we switch on the O2 5G network,” said Mark Evans, CEO of Telefónica UK. “We’re launching with a range of tariffs that make it easy and fair for customers to access 5G, with flexible plans that cost no more than 4G. We’re also switching on 5G in important parts of towns and cities first, places where it will benefit customers and businesses most.

“I believe 5G is going to revolutionise the way people and businesses use mobile connectivity, unlocking huge possibilities for our economy and society. No one in the country has all the answers today, but I’m excited about getting it into the hands of our customers and working with leading partners to help shape the future of 5G for the next generation.”

Here are the tariffs, with the second one including some kind of virtual reality music service:

O2 UK 5G launch tariffs

Custom plans along with O2 Priority are important features that resonate with its customers,” said analyst Paolo Pescatore. “These will be paramount in the future in maintaining its customer centric leadership in the U.K. Expect content to feature more prominently in the future as it seeks to broaden O2 Priority for customers.”

The decision to charge no premium for 5G seems sensible as there is little incentive for them to pay it while the network rollout is still in its infancy. Instead 5G will become table stakes over the next year or so and the usual differentiation challenges will apply. Whether or not VR music will be a significant one remains to be seen.

Telefónica pulls its SOCs up with Nokia’s help

Operator group Telefónica is changing its UK Network Operations Center into a Service Operations Center to show how customer-centric it is.

That was the distilled message from a press launch in central London this morning, co-hosted by its vendor for this project – Nokia. Building a SOC will allow O2 UK to make customer-led, as opposed to engineering-led, decisions about its network, we were told by Brandan O’Reilly, the CTO of O2 UK.

Telefónica has apparently already got started on this process in some of its other markets, including Chile and Germany, but this is a first for the UK and also the first time Nokia has been the vendor. So this seems like a big deal for them – hence the press event.

Tim Smith, VP of Nokia Software Europe, explained its SOC platform aggregates and standardises the various network data feeds in order to be able to compare and optimise them. It’s all about being proactive rather than reactive when it comes to network management and AI seems to play a big part, as you might expect.

A lot of the questions from the grizzled telecoms hacks in attendance focused on what specific benefits a SOC offers over a NOC and how they might be measured. While reduced churn is an obvious way to track ‘customer delight’, as Smith put it, Telefonica has its own metric called NCX (Network Customer Experience), which is currently at 79 and O’Reilly hopes will jump by at least a couple of points as a result of this shift. Here are the canned quotes from the press release.

“Telefónica has always aimed to offer the best possible experience to our customers which a reactive network monitoring approach to operations could never guarantee,” said Juan Manuel Caro, director of network and IT operations at Telefónica. “With SOC we have already transformed this in three of our markets reaching the next level in automated customer experience management, granting us flexibility and adaptability that serves as a key differentiator. Nokia’s solutions and services will allow us to achieve this goal in a competitive market like the UK.”

“Telefónica is pioneering the transformation toward customer-centric operations with the deployment of Nokia eSOC,” said Bhaskar Gorti, president of Nokia Software. “Nokia is proud to support Telefónica’s digital transformations and SOC deployments across the globe and with the flexibility to adapt to existing ecosystems in local markets.”

This all seems like quite a lot of effort to go to just to labour the ‘customer-centric’ concept that has become endemic to the point of cliché in the business world. But to be fair to both companies they are at least announcing concrete measures being taken in pursuit of that aim and thus holding themselves publicly accountable for delivering it.