Vodafone to launch SIM only network for under 25s

1 September 2017, 14:20   By Helen Mumford

VODAFONE are to launch a SIM only network for under 25s on September 8th, enabling customers to use a wide range of popular social media apps without using up any data.

Named VOXI, the new network is being billed as "the UK's first dedicated youth mobile offering", and will essentially let customers use Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, WhatsApp, Pinterest, Snapchat, Twitter, and Viber for free on their phones.

Added to the zero-rating of these apps, customers will also receive unlimited texts and calls, regardless of the data plan they choose.

All of which makes the new network an attractive proposition for younger mobile users, despite its possible implications for net neutrality, and despite the fact that it's essentially the same Vodafone network dressed up in a few youth-oriented enhancements.

vodafone store front
Credit: kailim/Shutterstock.com


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That said, now that Vodafone have come up with a youth-focused network, it's a little mystifying as to how such an idea hasn't already been realised.

That's because Ofcom's 2017 Adults' Media Use and Attitudes report found that 93% of 16-24 year olds now use a smartphone, compared to 90% for the next highest age group (25-34 year olds) and 72% for the general adult population.

mobile phone use

Source: Ofcom, Adults' Media Use and Attitudes, 2017

Added to this, 94% of 16-24 year olds use their smartphone to go online, compared to 66% of the general population. In addition, more 16-24 year olds (24%) say not being able to use social media would most cause them to miss their phones, in contrast to only 12% for the overall population and 16% for 25-34 year olds.

mobile phone use

Source: Ofcom, Adults' Media Use and Attitudes, 2017

Someone at Vodafone must have been studying such figures, since it would seem as though the VOIX network has been conceived with precisely them in mind.

To begin with, in recognition that under 25s use their phones mostly for social media, the network and its three call plans all "zero rate" a number of apps, meaning that the use of them doesn't deplete the customer's monthly data allowance.

  • Facebook
  • (Facebook) Messenger
  • Instagram
  • WhatsApp
  • Pinterest
  • Snapchat
  • Twitter
  • Viber

We've written about zero rating before in the context of Three's Go Binge service, underlining that it might weaken net neutrality, insofar as it gives an unfair advantage to the apps listed above, at the expense of others that aren't zero rated.

Still, VOXI will mostly likely win the youth vote regardless, even though Vodafone admit there's a possibility the list above might change (they don't specify whether it could grow or shrink).

Added to this, customers may very well be attracted by the prices they'd have to pay for one of the three SIM only packages, as listed below:

PriceDataCalls and Texts


For the purposes of comparison, it's worth listing some of the prices of Vodafone's normal 30-day SIM only plans, which are their closest existing counterpart to the upcoming VOXI plans, which come without a contract.

£171GB1000 minutesUnlimited
£19.505GB500 minutesUnlimited
£2510GB500 minutesUnlimited

In other words, the VOXI plans are much better value for money than the current crop of 30-day SIM only plans Vodafone offer. They're cheaper, come with more data, and offer zero-rated app use that doesn't eat into a customer's data allowance.

And as with Vodafone's other mobile plans and deals, they and their zero-rated apps can be used in the EU for free.

It's for this reason and those above that Nick Jeffery, the CEO of Vodafone UK, had the following to say about VOXI: "We know today's young generation use their phones in a completely different way, with social media at the very centre of their lives. They want services that put their needs first. VOXI gives young people just that".

VOXI = Vodafone

Yet while VOXI may indeed offer a number of features that younger phone users will value, customers should nonetheless be informed that it's essentially the Vodafone network, repackaged with some nice perks.

As such, it will offer an underlying phone service that's only as good or as bad as the one normally offered by Vodafone, who have had issues with customer service in the past, most notably receiving a hefty £4.6 million fine in 2016 for billing errors and mishandling complaints.

They have endeavoured to improve their customer service as of late, announcing the creation of 2,000 UK-based customer support positions in March, as well as the creation of a "24/7 Digital Care" service involving social media help and a 24-hour messaging service.

That said, while their customer service ratings from Ofcom are improving, other networks are better rated when it comes to network performance and reliability, with EE having won RootMetrics quarterly ratings for eight consecutive quarters now.

Nonetheless, Vodafone do hold their own as a network, having been voted the UK's best network for voice, the UK's joint best network overall (with EE), and also London's best network overall by network analysts P3 Connect at the end of 2016.

This shows how they've been improving recently, and with the launch of VOXI next week, they'll likely be improving even further.

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