Portuguese mobile operators Vodafone, Meo and Nos will re-extend the free use of their 5G networks, once again postponing the date they will start charging customers for this technology. An official Vodafone source said that it will extend free use of 5G until 31 March 2023.
Since the operators first launched their 5G networks, they have repeatedly postponed the deadline to start charging for the use of 5G. The most recent postponement was announced this past November, when the free period was extended until 15 January 2023.
Back in November, we noted that Portuguese operators had a bit of a challenge on their hands: their customers having become used to a year of 5G speeds without an accompanying price increase, making it virtually impossible for the MNOs to transition their subscribers into higher prices for the same service.
With all three major operators having simultaneously extended their customers’ use of their 5G networks for free yet again, it is even clearer than before that Portuguese operators have painted themselves into a corner. The first operator to blink will lose in a big way, but the other two are not likely to come out of this standoff unscathed either.
That operators have expended considerable time, money and labor developing their 5G networks is undeniable. It is therefore reasonable to expect that this investment would eventually pay dividends. However, the global market is gradually realizing that most consumers still don’t understand the benefits of 5G technology. Considering the average consumer’s use of mobile data, 4G speeds were likely sufficient, and so to them, claims of “faster speeds” with 5G hold little to no meaning. Without a tangible difference consumers can identify, there isn’t much incentive for them to pay more for 5G.
Recognizing this, some operators in other countries have adjusted course. Rather than trying to charge customers more for 5G access across the board, they are developing offers that accept a baseline, unchanged rate for basic 5G access, instead establishing pricing for different speed tiers, and/or bundling in apps and services heavily dependent on 5G (e.g., gaming subscriptions, 4K video, etc.). It is in these more creative monetization alternatives that Portuguese operators may finally discover a way out of their self-imposed standoff.