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.
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— Michelle Donegan, European Editor, Light Reading Mobile