Verizon cuts prices on shared data plans and smartphone access charges

Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ) is shaking up its shared data plan pricing, cutting both prices and access line charges for devices while eliminating some data tiers. The carrier said that its new rate plan structure will be simpler and appeal to the vast majority of its customers.

Starting Aug 13, Verizon will move to these new plans, which all include unlimited voice and texting and the ability to share data with up to 10 devices:

  • Small:  $30 per month for 1 GB of shareable data (the same price as before)
  • Medium:  $45 per month for 3 GB of shareable data (down from $50 for 3 GB)
  • Large: $60 per month for 6 GB of shareable data (down from $70 for 6 GB)
  • X-Large:  $80 per month for 12 GB of shareable data (Verizon's current $80 promotional price point offers 10 GB of data)

Verizon is eliminating other data buckets for its More Everything shared data plans, such as 2 GB for $40 per month or 4 GB for $60, but notes that customers can get an extra 1 GB for $15 and that customers needing more than 12 GB per month can talk with Verizon Wireless sales and customer representative for more details.

Additionally, Verizon is cutting access charges for adding devices. Under the new plans, every smartphone line will cost $20 per month, down from $40 currently if customers have a two-year contract, or $15 or $25 if they bought a phone through Verizon's Edge equipment installment plan, depending on the plan. Verizon is also jettisoning the "Edge" name and is just calling is EIP program its "device payment option."

Verizon also said Jetpack mobile hotspots will cost $10 per month to add, down from $20 and now the same as adding a tablet. Connected device lines for devices like smart watches are $5 per month.

Rob Miller, vice president of pricing and promotions for Verizon, said the carrier conducted extensive research with its customers and those of competitors as well as sales representatives and customer care reps in devising the new plans. In an interview with FierceWireless, Miller said that based on customer usage today, the four data buckets Verizon has chosen "meet the demands of the vast majority of our customers."

Verizon will still have a plan for feature phone customers that offers 700 voice minutes per month and unlimited texting for $25 per month. But Miller said the new plans will be "the ones we really market, considering we're trying to consider what customers want most."

Miller said Verizon simplified and cut its access charge for phones because it received feedback asking it to do so. "We really think we delivered on that," he said.

There is one wrinkle that's a bit complicated in all of this. New customers who are on two-year contracts who want the new pricing can adopt the plans but will still pay the $40 per smartphone per month access charge until their contract is finished. After that point, Verizon will automatically drop the access charge to $20.

New customers and customers who are off contracts who want the new plans will need to buy a smartphone through Verizon's EIP program or pay full retail price for the phone.

The Verizon plans come shortly after Sprint (NYSE: S) launched a family plan promotion that offers unlimited voice, texting and 10 GB of shared data for $100 per month. The carrier also said that families can choose Sprint's 40 GB shared data plan for just $20 more per month, or $120 in total. For a limited time, Sprint will also pay off customers' leftover balance of monthly device payments and wireless contract if they switch. Sprint also said these new 10 GB and 40 GB options on the plan have no per-line data access charges ever on the first four lines when a customer switches.

T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) also recently unveiled a new family plan promotion that offers each customer unlimited voice, texting and 10 GB of data, and includes a monthly price of $100 for two lines. Under the new T-Mobile plan, each additional line beyond the first two costs $20 more per person.

Under the T-Mobile promotion, T-Mobile has said customers can add a fourth line for free when they sign up or switch to the new plan from now through Labor Day, which is Sept. 7. T-Mobile said a family of four can get 10 GB of LTE for each person for just $120 per month under that offer.

For more:
- see this release

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