Alltel's My Circle goes full circle


Alltel's My Circle goes full circle 

I applaud No. 5 operator Alltel for its recent expansion of its My Circle calling program. The operator, which launched the first My Circle calling plan nearly two years ago, earlier this week expanded that offering to give customers more choices. In an era when the big Tier 1 operators seem to drive all the rate plan innovations, Alltel is a refreshing change of pace. The operator knows its customer base and caters to them.

Alltel's My Circle plan allows subscribers on rate plans of $49.99 or higher to select a certain number of phone numbers (wireless or wireline and from any telecom provider) and call them as much as they want for free. Initially, Alltel limited My Circle to 10 numbers. However, earlier this week the operator expanded it to include different options such as My Circle 5, which lets customers select five numbers, My Circle 10, which lets them select 10 numbers or My Circle 20, which provides unlimited calling to 20 numbers.

In a research note, analyst firm Current Analysis praises Alltel's decision to expand its My Circle calling plan saying that these plans are particularly compelling to small business owners, which have typically been ignored by large operators. "SMBs are an increasingly important customer segment for all carriers and favorable voice plans may be a compelling reason for them to choose Alltel over large carriers."

Of course, Alltel isn't the only operator to offer a calling circle. The most visible competitive offering is T-Mobile, which provides MyFaves. MyFaves allows customers to have unlimited calling to five numbers. Alltel's My Circle is more flexible because it lets customers change their My Circle numbers at any time from the Alltel website. T-Mobile only allows members to change each of their MyFaves once per month but lets customers make that change by using the user interface on the handset, which is a nice option.

With U.S. wireless penetration rates nearing 100 percent, operators need to come up with creative ways to keep customers from churning to other operators. My Circle is a good example of the type of innovation that works. -Sue 

P.S.  In honor of Martin Luther King Day, FierceWireless will take a publishing holiday on Monday, Jan. 21.