Vodafone: more data tiers will come on mobile networks

Vodafone seems set to introduce further data tiers, as networks get serious about managing the effects mobile services are having on their networks.

“Data pricing has to adjust,” Vodafone CEO Vittorio Colao told the Nokia World summit in London on Tuesday morning. “We are already providing, today, (data) caps. More will come.

“The principle here must be that, a bit like motorways or hotels, every class of service must have its own price and customers must be able to pay for whatever level of service he or she wants – we cannot penalise those who pay more.”

That will ring an alarm with advocates of net neutrality – the principle that all internet data packets should be routed with equal efficiency.

But tiering the speed of internet services to end users – which is already common practice from many landline ISPs – is not necessarily the same issue which riles the campaigners.

Some carriers have struggled to meet the expectations of a wave of new smartphone users with network capacity. O2 UK, which was Apple’s exclusive iPhone retailer for a time, has fallen over several times in the last couple of years. Colao said Vodafone had not shirked from improving network infrastructure, which he listed as #1 out of five industry priorities at Nokia World, even during the recession.

But carriers have this year introduced caps on monthly data use, limiting customers to significantly less than their liberal “fair use” allowances.

Colao referred specifically to last week’s Economist cover feature which examined “The Web’s New Walls” – ways in which internet services are fragmenting despite not necessarily riding over “net neutrality” concerns.

“One can agree or not agree with the points in the article,” Colao said. “But it’s very important we have a debate on the future of the networks, especially the mobile part of it. We cannot get the incentives of all the players wrong.”