Light Reading

Vodafone Sets Small Cells Free in Greece

Michelle Donegan
LR Mobile News Analysis
Michelle Donegan

Vodafone Greece has launched a free 3G data service for its customers to access via public-access small cells located in restaurants and cafés across the country, according to a new case study published by Informa Telecoms & Media .

The news comes after Vodafone Group CTO Steve Pusey recently shared the operator's plans for small cells. (See Vodafone CTO Opens Up on Small Cells.)

The new service, called "Free 3G Hotspot," allows Vodafone customers to access 3G as well as Wi-Fi hotspots for free, without the usage counting against their monthly data caps. The access points are located at 200 Flocafe cafeterias and Goody's fast-food chains. Vodafone rolled out the Wi-Fi hotspots through its partnership with fixed-line service provider Hellas Online, while it deployed the 3G hotspots via a small cell and a directional antenna to cover the indoor areas.

An Android application is available to download from the Google Play store that alerts customers when they enter or leave a Free 3G Hotspot area. But there is a five-minute delay from when subscribers enter the small-cell coverage zones to when they receive an SMS text message that will notify them of the service availability.

As soon as users are "camped on" to the small cell, all data usage is white-listed so that it is not taken from their monthly allowance.

Informa published the case study as part of its quarterly small-cells market update, which reports that there are now 46 small-cell deployments worldwide. The market update also includes a survey, which finds that 55 percent of the 280 mobile operator respondents are most interested in public-access rollouts for small cells, while 35 percent of those surveyed were most interested in enterprise deployments.

Why this matters
Vodafone's new service model will be one that other operators contemplating small-cell services will want to study, particularly since it was launched in a country where dire economic circumstances don't allow operators much room to maneuver with new offerings. As Informa's case study points out, the service could provide Vodafone with new revenue streams, such as advertising or other location-based services. However, it would be interesting to know what proportion of the 200 hotspots are Wi-Fi access points as opposed to 3G small cells.

For more

— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Light Reading Mobile

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Michelle Donegan
Michelle Donegan,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:16:34 PM
re: Vodafone Sets Small Cells Free in Greece

Just learned that all of the 200 locations each have a 3G small cell and a WiFi access point. So, I think this case study will be even more interesting when there is some data on which type of hotspot has the better user experience -- for example, which one is easier to access and which do users prefer -- 3G or WiFi?

User Rank: Light Sabre
12/5/2012 | 5:16:31 PM
re: Vodafone Sets Small Cells Free in Greece

This is something i've been saying for a while is the real value and needs to be teh focus with small cells beyond just the coverage aspect. This can be about analytics and 3rd party applications which is the really cool aspect of it.

Michelle Donegan
Michelle Donegan,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:16:31 PM
re: Vodafone Sets Small Cells Free in Greece

Thanks, Dimitris!

This is definitely one to watch. Do you know of any other operators with a 3G hotspot service like this?

User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:16:31 PM
re: Vodafone Sets Small Cells Free in Greece


I believe that the cellular service is provided by Vodafone and the WiFi service by HOL (Vodafone's fixed partner who also provides the DSL backhaul).

3G is definitely easier to connect to, as no user input is necessary. Simple handover to the small cell triggers traffic white-listing.

Connecting to the WiFi network requires a username/password to be sent to a mobile handset via SMS.

I would also very interested to see stats, but bear in mind that the service launched yesterday (3rd December) and not many subscribers are yet familar with it!



User Rank: Light Bulb
12/5/2012 | 5:16:30 PM
re: Vodafone Sets Small Cells Free in Greece

Hi Dimitris,

Quick question. For WiFi, when you say username/password, does this mean the user clicking on a link sent via SMS, then keying in username/password? Or... just a password for connecting to the WiFi access point (like how we use WiFi on our mobiles)? If the latter, does this mean that one can get the password via SMS, then connect, e.g. using a laptop? Just wondering.....

User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:16:25 PM
re: Vodafone Sets Small Cells Free in Greece

Michelle, I am not aware of any other location based services driven by small cells.

Macster, the user has to connect to WiFi, enter his phone number, wait for an SMS with username/password and enter these to connect. So it's somewhat more complicated.

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