Vodafone says it will offer fixed wireless broadband to customers who are ‘frustrated’ waiting for a fibre connection. Customers signing for 12 months of the Vodafone Ultimate Home Fibre plan get an Ultra Hub Plus modem as part of the deal. In a media release, Vodafone says this will give them a “mobile broadband connection over Vodafone’s 4G/3G mobile network while they wait for their fibre broadband to be installed.”
The release quotes the outgoing Vodafone consumer director Matt Williams. He talks about “significant installation delays“.
According to Chorus, the average wait for a fibre connection is now 13 days. Enable says it generally connects customers in stand-alone buildings in under two weeks. These numbers do not sound like “significant installation delays”.
Installations can drag on longer for people in apartment blocks and more complex housing. So it is possible Vodafone’s wireless broadband offer will help in these cases.
Wireless broadband is a backward step
Most people who order a Vodafone Ultimate Home Fibre will either be on copper or Vodafone’s FibreX. Many will already have broadband speeds far faster than they could get from a 4G/3G fixed wireless network.
Broadband Compare reports Vodafone Home Basic 4G has a 36 Mbps download speed. It uploads at 10 Mbps.
Yet, the press release announcing the Vodafone Ultra Hub Plus modem deal promises less than that:
Maximum speeds will apply while the customer is connected to the mobile network through their Vodafone Ultra Hub Plus (up to 12 Mbps Download / up to 6 Mbps Upload).
Vodafone’s own Everyday Home VDSL plan has a Broadband Compare listed speed of 50 Mbps down and 10 Mbps Up. The company’s Smart Connect FibreX plan runs at 200 Mbps down and 20 Mbps up. Even Vodafone’s ADSL plan is 10 Mbps down and 1 Mbps up.
These speeds are only estimates. I have a Spark VDSL connection that runs at around 70 Mbps down and close to 20 Mbps up. There is a range of speeds, but the Broadband Compare figures are realistic averages. We can take them as a guide.
Life in the slow lane
Many Vodafone customers waiting for fibre will get slower broadband if they opt for Ultra Hub Plus.
That’s not all. The 36 Mbps speed is what you should get with a 4G connection. As Vodafone’s own marketing makes clear, some users will be on a 3G connection. Vodafone’s press release announcing the Ultra Hub Plus modem deal says (my emphasis):
The Vodafone Ultra Hub Plus 4G/3G connect and mobile backup are only available in 4G/3G coverage areas with sufficient capacity. 4G/3G not available everywhere.
The small print also says:
Traffic management and fair use policy applies.
In other words Vodafone can cut you off if you use it a lot. The copper plans mentioned above all have unlimited data options. So customers used to unlimited data might find this aspect frustrating.
Vodafone’s Ultra Hub Plus modem wireless broadband deal is not much of a drawcard at all.
Williams is on more solid ground when he says: “…others say they are putting off a move to fibre because they simply don’t want to be disconnected while they wait”.
It’s not as connection cuts anyone off for long. Most fibre installs only take a few hours. And if they are Vodafone customers then there’s a good chance they’ll have mobile phones. It’s not hard to get internet access on a modern mobile phone.
If that’s not enough, then, at a pinch, they can tether. That way phoned connect laptops or desktop computers for an hour of two while a connection goes in.
Another part of the press release says:
In addition to enabling customers to be connected while they wait for fibre installation, the Ultra Hub Plus modem will also provide a mobile backup connection allowing customers to stay connected in the event a fault affects their fibre service. Once the fault is repaired, the modem will automatically switch back to fibre, which ensures customers are always connected.
This is a good idea. Automatic failover is a good way of handling problems. Although fibre networks are more reliable than copper or fixed wireless broadband. Back-up is a nice-to-have. It would be wonderful for people who can only get a copper connection. Most people on the fibre network will never use it.