More than half a million Vodafone customers will receive unlimited mobile data for no additional charge for the next 30 days to help them stay in contact with family, friends and work during the COVID-19 lockdown, the network has announced.
Vodafone's most vulnerable customers will be automatically upgraded to unlimited data packages and notified of the change via a text message. And additional 500,000 customers can access the offer through the network’s VeryMe rewards scheme, available through the My Vodafone app.
Customers need to act quickly, however: the offer is limited to the first 500,000 accounts to sign up. However, Vodafone said it would monitor traffic and “if network capacity allows, it is our ambition to offer further passes to even more customers.”
The upgrades will allow Vodafone customers to keep in touch with loved ones via video calls, stream content to entertain themselves and give children to access e-learning sites. Vodafone had already relaxed data caps to allow customers to access NHS services without using their data allowances.
Vodafone launched its first unlimited data package just last July, to inaugurate its 5G network. For customers who want unlimited data for more than the next 30 days, Vodafone is currently offering its 24-month SIM-only unlimited data plans with six months half price.
Nick Jeffery, Vodafone UK CEO, said: “Our role in these difficult and worrying times is to keep the UK connected, even while we have to stay apart. We are offering 30 days of unlimited free data to our most vulnerable customers and the first 500,000 customers to sign up, to help ease any worries about running out of data or incurring additional charges.
“If our network capacity allows, we would love to be able to offer this to even more customers and will be monitoring the feasibility of this. In short, if we have more to give, we will. This is one of a series of measures that we are taking to help. We have already expanded our networks [and] given our customers free access to NHS online services.”
Vodafone’s data giveaway comes as competitor O2 lifts its limit on voice minutes, giving all customers free calls.
Meanwhile, EE will give free calls, texts and data to its existing disabled and vulnerable customers. EE has contacted qualifying customers to notify them of the change but didn’t clarify how long the offer would last.
A spokesperson for EE said: “We’re continuing to look at other ways that we may be able to help our vulnerable customers at this difficult time."
The four main mobile networks and the most of the UK’s broadband providers recently announced a series of measures agreed with Ofcom and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) to support customers, and particularly vulnerable customers, experiencing difficulty during the epidemic and lockdown. All providers have agreed to offer “new and generous” mobile packages, to remove data caps on fixed-line broadband connections and to “work with” customers who are struggling to pay their bills.
Meanwhile, all mobile operators have shuttered their shops and kiosks, directing customers with problems to online and telephone services. Three has gone further, shutting all but one of its call centres and is asking most customers to refrain from using its phone and live chat services so it can be used by "our most vulnerable customers."
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