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Vodafone promises more tiers for data hungry customers

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Nokia World Vodafone boss Vittorio Colao has been telling attendees at Nokia‘s annual shindig that they‘re going to have to get used to tiered pricing, and quickly.

Not that this should come as any great surprise. Flat-rate internet access is not sustainable once customers start making use of it, so this is part of a softening-up process to gauge customer reactions and get people used to the idea that rich people will (one day) be able to buy their way to better internet access than their poorer contemporaries.

Vodafone has already announced its German LTE pricing, which will see customers shunted to 3G connections once they pop their tariff-related cap. Slowing down heavy users is a good strategy, and they'll likely be offered the option of buying some more high-speed capacity at the same time. It would be unsurprising to see the same thing cutting poor users down to 2G speeds - as long as there are 2G networks that is.

The only thing preventing such tariffs, other than some minor technical hurdles, is the risk of customer backlash. The blogosphere reacts badly to this kind of thing and can quickly whip up a media storm. 3 found that out when it started offering priority 3G access to corporate customers.

3‘s proposition works both ways: a poor user on an underutilised cell gets unlimited data, but a rich user on a congested cell gets priority access. 3 wasn‘t even planning to cut anyone off, but even the proposal to restrict users to a single YouTube video stream (surely enough for most mobile users) raised such a backlash that it was dropped.

But the basic premise, that people on corporate tariffs get priority access to 3G data, did remain in place, and still is. Other operators say they‘re evaluating the matter, but the truth is that they can‘t afford not to introduce tiered pricing and are just waiting until we‘ve been told its inevitable so many times that we start to believe it. ®

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