Vodafone is so desperate to be down with the kids, it’s launching a new mobile network. Voxi, a sub-brand of Vodafone, will offer three SIM-only plans aimed at people aged 25 and under. All of them include “free” data for the following social media apps: Facebook and Facebook Messenger, Instagram, WhatsApp, Pinterest, Snapchat, Twitter and Viber. The rest of your allowance can then be saved for the essentials — emails, navigation, that sort of thing — and hefty streaming apps such as YouTube or Spotify.
Customers can pay £10 for 2GB, £15 for 5GB or £20 for 15GB every 30 days. It’s a month-to-month contract, meaning you can cancel at any time. Each plan also comes with unlimited texts, calls and no premium roaming in Europe, which of course is now mandatory thanks to the European Commission. If you burn through your monthly data allowance, you can buy another 1GB for £3 (Vodafone will send an alert when you’ve used 80 and 100 percent of your plan.) The company will also offer “passes” in the future so customers can use specific video and music apps for “free.”
If this sounds like zero-rating, that’s because it is. Almost every major UK network is exploring the concept as a way to entice subscribers. Last month, Three launched its “Go Binge” plans with “free” Netflix, Deezer and SoundCloud streaming. Virgin Mobile disregards all Twitter, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp use. EE, meanwhile, is offering six months of free Apple Music streaming. These deals, while advantageous for consumers, arguably impact net neutrality. Critics worry the trend will suffocate innovative startups that offer superior services, but lack the funding to “buy in” to carrier and ISP zero-rating initiatives.
Voxi is launching on September 8th. It will have its own distinct branding — very Urban Outfitters — and marketing campaign developed in partnership with young artists, filmmakers and designers in the UK. In short, the company is trying its hardest to differentiate Voxi from the rest of Vodafone, which has a pretty musty, “old reliable” image. “We’ve worked with hundreds of people aged 25 and under, and have really listened to them,” Dan Lambrou, head of Voxi said. “They are a generation that’s tired of being stereotyped and talked at.” These comments, while a tad overkill, do suggest the company is serious about attracting a younger audience.