Sky is to offer its TV customers unlimited free calls and texts through its new mobile service, providing subscribers with an added incentive to stay with the pay TV giant.
SIM-only contracts for the new Sky mobile service will be available from mid-December, with a full market launch in early 2017.
Added sweeteners for customers include the ability to keep their unused data for up to three years, to be redeemed whenever they like, and have the flexibility to change their plan every month. Additionally, Sky TV customers will be able to sync with their Sky+ box, although not the newer Sky Q boxes just yet.
The Sync feature allows customers to create their own personal playlist of favourite shows, wherever they are. Customers can stream programmes over 4G or simply download over Wi-Fi to watch later, without the need for an internet connection or using up their data.
Sky Mobile customers with Sky+ will get Sky Go Extra included at no extra cost, enabling them to enjoy Sync on up to four devices. Unlimited Sky WiFi is available in thousands of popular places across the UK, where customers can enjoy their recordings without using their own data.
Data plans start from £10 a month for 1GB of mobile data. £15 will give Sky TV subscribers 3GB of data, plus unlimited calls and texts. Despite this being a relatively small amount of data, Sky cites market research that shows a majority of users don't use all the data they've paid for. Costs for non-Sky TV customers will see them have to pay an additional £10 for unlimited calls and texts making the Sky mobile service considerably less attractive. Alternatively, non-Sky TV customers can opt to pay for calls and texts as they use the service.
Sky Mobile will use the O2 network, which is currently mid-way through a major network expansion programme in conjunction with Vodafone. While calls and text coverage across the UK is very good on the network, there are currently dramatic differences with regards 3G and 4G mobile data between parts of the country that haven't yet been upgraded and those that have.
Announcing the launch, Stephen van Rooyen, Sky UK and Ireland Chief Executive, said:
“We felt it was time to shake up the mobile market and give customers a completely new way to manage their mobile plan – something no one else is offering. We’ve designed it based on what people told us they want – it’s easy, flexible and transparent and it puts the customer in control. With £2 billion being wasted each year on unused data in the UK, Sky Mobile customers will only pay for what they use. Plus we’re giving Sky TV customers a fantastic offer which will allow them to get even more value from their subscriptions. It’s time for people to have a smart new way to manage their mobile contract.”
All other major pay TV platform operators (BT, TalkTalk and Virgin Media) already offer a mobile option to their customers, as part of a drive to get customers to bundle all their services in one. Even BT sibling Plusnet has recently added a mobile service. Vodafone is meanwhile working the other way, working at the launch of a TV service. However, having one supplier for everything can make unbundling or changing suppliers in the future more difficult thanks to varying contract end dates for each service and the effect cancelling one service can have on the price of another service - so its no wonder such services are an effective customer retention tool.