Mobile providers connecting customers to internet of things

9 November 2017   By Helen Mumford

VODAFONE have launched a new range of products exploiting the internet of things (IoT) and their mobile broadband network, allowing customers to keep track of their cars, pets and belongings wherever they are.

vodafone store front
Credit: kailim/

Dubbed "V by Vodafone", the line of products includes a dedicated IoT SIM card that can be inserted into compatible smart devices to keep them connected to wireless broadband, as well as a smartphone app that acts as a hub for each of the IoT-enabled devices a customer may have.

Yet Vodafone aren't in fact the first of the UK's mobile networks to move into the internet of things, with O2 having launched their own range of smart devices and products in September.

And if their examples are anything to go by, it may not be long before other providers follow suit, seeing as how the internet of things provides a fresh opportunity for them to increase the number of regular subscribers to their networks.

V is for Vodafone

Even if the IoT is a relatively new area of technology, Ofcom have estimated there will be 320 million active smart devices in the UK by 2022.

This is a big market, and in addition to recently setting their sights on under-25s and launching a new range of flexible mobile plans, Vodafone clearly want to carve themselves an early share of it.

That's why they're launching "V by Vodafone". On the one hand, it's an app-based system that allows users to monitor all of the smart devices they may have connected in their homes.

On the other, it's also the name of the new range of smart devices Vodafone have released in conjunction with the system and that can be connected to it.

These devices include the following:

  • V-Auto by Vodafone: a dongle that can be fitted to "most vehicles on European roads manufactured since 2002" and lets the user find their car, call for help in emergencies, and get ratings on how well they're driving
  • V-Pet by Vodafone: a dongle that can be attached to cat and dog collars; that can track a pet's movements via GPS and Vodafone's mobile network; and that can notify users if a pet strays beyond a preset range
  • V-Camera by Vodafone: a HD smart security camera that be used to monitor any location where there's a 3G or 4G connection
  • V-Bag by Vodafone: a dongle that can be attached to and used to keep track of bags, briefcases and handbags

As can be imagined these products all come with a one-off purchase fee, yet they also require a monthly subscription fee on top of this, which covers the "V-Sim by Vodafone" SIM card that comes with each device.

DeviceUpfront costV-SIM subscription fee
V-Auto by Vodafone£80£4
V-Pet by Vodafone£50£4
V-Camera by Vodafone£339£4
V-Bag by Vodafone£59£3

As the table above reveals, they aren't especially cheap, with the V-Camera in particular coming in at £339.

Still, Vodafone think they all offer value for money, largely because they offer peace of mind.

Their global chief executive, Vittorio Colao, said, ""V by Vodafone" makes it simple to connect a wide range of IoT-enabled devices, helping customers keep everyone and everything that matters to them safe and secure".

O2 Home

Yet if Vodafone think they have the growing IoT, smart-device market all to themselves, they'd be wrong.

That's because O2 beat them to the punch in becoming the UK's first operator to offer a range of IoT devices for the home, having launched the appropriately named O2 Home last September.

As with V by Vodafone, "O2 Home" is the name of the hub that, through a smartphone app, can control a user's smart devices.

On top of this, it's also the name given to a range of packages, which include the O2 Home Hub and a number of smart cameras that let customers see what's going on inside and outside their homes.

PackageDevices includedSubscription fee
O2 Home See InSamsung SmartCam;
Two open and close sensors, which can text the user when doors are opened
smart plug that can be turned off via phone
£15 for 12 mths,
then £5 a mth
O2 Home See OutOutdoor camera;
Two open and close sensors;
one smart plug
£15 for 12 mths,
then £5 a mth
O2 Home See MoreSamsung SmartCam and Outdoor camera;
Two open and close sensors;
one smart plug
£20 for 12 mths,
then £5 a mth

The main difference between O2's and Vodafone's offering is that none of O2's packages require an upfront fee. However, their subscription fees for the first 12 months are considerably more expensive, meaning that customers cover the cost of the devices they receive over the course of the first year.

Trojan horses

Yet as innovative and as helpful as O2 and Vodafone's IoT products are, it's clear they have an ulterior motive in launching them: attracting new mobile customers.

In Vodafone's case, this motive is extremely clear cut, since they state on their website that "V by Vodafone is exclusive to Vodafone consumer mobile customers".

In O2's case, it is possible to take up one of the O2 Home packages without being an existing O2 customer. However, given that all the devices being sold by O2 come with an O2 SIM card (which they need if they're not connected to home broadband), it's clear that O2 Home is intended at least in part as a showcase of their mobile broadband network.

This means that, if the internet of things becomes more mainstream and popular, EE and Three could be forced to offer IoT services of their own, or risk having customers stolen by Vodafone and O2 (something which Vodafone are no stranger to attempting).

And if that were to happen, then the internet of things would see itself installed as a standard part of what mobile operators sell to their customers, who would be able to make calls and check to see who's at their front door using only a single provider.

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