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Verizon Wireless overhauls service plans with new options

7:25 AM, Jun 12, 2012   |    comments
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By Roger Yu, USA TODAY

Verizon Wireless, the nation's largest wireless carrier, is dramatically overhauling its service plans, replacing the entire lineup with a new set that focuses on devices sharing a bucket of data.

The new "Share Everything Plans," which will be sold starting June 28, include unlimited voice minutes and text, including video and picture messaging, as well as a single, capped data allotment for up to 10 devices. For new customers, these plans will replace its current tiered pricing plans that charge based on the amount of voice minutes and data consumed.

Verizon FAQ about new plans

"This is a bold move and directed at high-end customers," says Roger Entner, an analyst at Recon Analytics. "The carriers have tens of thousands of different permutations of plans. With this, it's really simple."

Under the new pricing structure, a smartphone customer opting for the cheapest data bucket, 1 gigabyte (GB), will pay $90 before taxes and fees ($40 for a phone "access" fee and $50 for 1 GB). Customers can also add a basic call-only phone, laptop and tablet to share their data allotment for $30, $20 and $10, respectively.

The data allotments will come in six buckets, ranging in prices from $50 for 1 GB to $100 for 10 GB.

Verizon is also throwing in the Mobile Hotspot service, which turns your phone into a Wi-Fi hotspot router, at no additional charge.

For those who use little to no data, Verizon Wireless is also introducing two packages that focus on voice calls - a $40 package (700 minutes, pay-as-you-go text and no data) and a $80 package (300 megabytes of data and unlimited voice and text).

The options available to you as you buy or upgrade your plans on or after June 28 will largely depend on your customer status.

New customer: If you're a new Verizon customer, you must select from an option in the "Share Everything" plan or either of the two voice-centric packages ($40 or $80).

Tiered-pricing customer: A tiered-pricing plan customer can upgrade by selecting either a "Share Everything" plan or one of the options in the current tiered plans.

Unlimited data customer: If you're one of a dwindling number of customers who retained the grandfathered the $30-a-month unlimited data plan, you will be asked if you ever choose to upgrade to select either a "Share Everything" plan or a tiered pricing plan. Verizon dropped the unlimited plans for new customers last year.

Existing customers may move to the new plans without paying a fee or extending their contract. "We are not going to force migrate customers to these plans," says Tami Erwin, Verizon Wireless' chief marketing officer.

She says the pricing overhaul was introduced in response to consumers' demand for simplicity. " One of the key messages is how hard and complex the buying decision is," she says.

The shifting of emphasis to data is a reflection of changing consumer habits. Fewer calls are made while videos and audio continue to take up much of the carriers' capacity.

That carriers are seeking for new ways to generate more revenue at a time when nearly all adult Americans have a cell phone also motivated Verizon to act decisively, says Rich Kapinski, an analyst at Yankee Group

"Smartphone penetration has gotten very high and it's difficult to add new customers," he says. "The game has changed to getting multiple devices to the network."

AT&T has also said it'll introduce device-sharing plans later this year.

USA TODAY

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