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Vodafone opens door to cheaper surfing

Vodafone looks to have taken a leaf out of 3 UK’s book and has decided to make it cheaper for its customers to surf outside of the walled garden.

On June 1, the mobile operator is launching a new data tariff which will allow users to download up to 15MB of data for £1 per day.

The company works it out by charging £1 for the first 0.5MB and then giving away the next 14.5MB for free, with a charge of £2 for every MB over the 15 mark.

At present, users are being charged £2.35 per MB, which makes surfing the ‘real’ web considerably cheaper. Viewing the Vodafone Live! and personal account pages is still free.

It also looks like Big Red is considering an all you can eat flat rate tariff. The company has put up an option to register your interest in a “monthly browsing bundle”.

The caveat however, is that services such as Skype or “peer to peer services such as instant messenger services, text messaging clients or file sharing,” will not count towards the £1 per day charge or monthly bundle and are charged separately at £2 per MB, with a £0.05 minimum charge for each data session.

In the past Vodafone has muttered something about the fact that it is still “testing VoIP,” which is why it is so reluctant to facilitate the use of the technology – the company recently launched a crippled version of the Nokia N95, which had the VoIP functionality removed.

But we think it is more likely to be something to do with Vodafone’s ‘Starfish’ project.

At the CeBit tech conference in Hanover last month, Vodafone demonstrated Starfish, the launch application for a combination of IP services including MSN Messenger, Skype and AOL IM.

Coincidentally, the same services that are presently being charged at a higher data rate are those covered by its own branded, or partner versions, in Starfish. At CeBit, Voda hinted that it may offer the software on its phones at some time in the future. That time may be fast approaching.

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