Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Verizon Wireless' new - and more rational - pricing plans

In an industry whose price structures often seem senseless, Verizon Wireless appears to be striking a blow for transparency.

Verizon Wireless' new - and more rational - pricing plans

Behold the Verizon iPhone 4: subject of the biggest, most wildly hyped technology launch since, um, AT&T´s iPhone 4. Maybe even since the iPad. (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta)
Behold the Verizon iPhone 4: subject of the biggest, most wildly hyped technology launch since, um, AT&T's iPhone 4. Maybe even since the iPad. (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta)

I'll eventually have more to say about Verizon Wireless' new "Share Everything" pricing plans, which represent a major overhaul of the pricing hodgepodge that emerged during the wireless industry's adolescence and that often didn't seem to make sense. One key question is whether other carriers will follow suit.

But at a glance it seems clear that Verizon is pursuing two strategies that too often seem absent in wireless pricing: transparency and rationality.

For instance, Verizon and its competitors have been simultaneously offering unlimited-data plans or per-gigabyte metered pricing while also charging 10 or 20 cents for text messages that amount to minuscule data transmissions. Lately, three of the four national carriers have dropped unlimited-data plans for new customers and have used data-speed throttling to encourage existing customers to give up their unlimited plans in favor of new, metered plans.

Verizon is now laying more of its cards on the table. It's telling customers they have to pay for data while offering them some new, more attractive options, such as the ability to use a smartphone as a hotspot for a tablet without paying some irrational premium for the data they transmit or receive.

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Here's how Verizon describes the changes:

Verizon's Share Everything Plan changes the way you will see your wireless plan choices. You'll no longer have to wade through lots of plans options with varying minutes, messages and data add on options. You just make one decision - how much data will you need - the rest is all included and unlimited. To help make your decision easier, it may be useful to know that Verizon Wireless data devices average between 1 and 2 GB of data per month. The data options on Share Everything Plans come in easy 2GB increments for an additional $10. To figure out which plan may work for you visit www.verizonwireless.com/shareeverythingcalculator ...

Share Everything Plans include Unlimited Minutes, Unlimited Messages, and a single pool of data to share with 1 to 10 lines on your account. Plus, Share Everything includes Mobile Hotspot so, if you have a Mobile Hotspot capable device, you can connect and share your data with multiple WiFi-enabled devices.

There's a good argument to be had over how much Verizon plans to charge for data under its new structure - perhaps other carriers will offer more attractive deals. For now, Sprint is making a name as the only carrier that still offers unlimited data on an iPhone.

But any step away from confusion and toward rationality seems like a step in the right direction.

Inquirer Business Columnist
About this blog

Jeff Gelles, who writes the Inquirer's weekly Consumer 14.0 and Tech Life columns, takes a broad look at the marketplace of goods, services, and ideas.

Reach Jeff at jgelles@phillynews.com.

Jeff Gelles Inquirer Business Columnist
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