Verizon launches shared data plans, as T-Mobile knocks them

Verizon Wireless' (NYSE:VZ) new shared data plans became available Thursday, as the carrier hopes to get more subscribers to sign up for data services and customers brace for the changes.

While it is far too soon to tell how Verizon customers will ultimately receive the plans and how many customers will sign up for them, the new plans are a fundamental shift in how carriers sell data plans. When the plans were formally announced earlier this month, Verizon faced a strong backlash from customers concerned they would need to pay more for services they do not need or because they are not in a family of data users.

"We're changing the way you buy wireless," Steve Mesnick, Verizon Wireless director of marketing, said in an interview with the Star Tribune of Minneapolis. "Since data is what really matters to customers, why charge for voice minutes and text message plans?"

Verizon's new plans, dubbed "Share Everything," are now available for new customers and existing customers who want to switch to them. All of the plans include unlimited voice minutes, unlimited text, video and picture messaging and a single data allowance for up to 10 Verizon devices.

In addition, the carrier's Mobile Hotspot service on all the devices is included in the Share Everything Plans at no additional charge. Customers are free to keep their existing plans, but there is no fee or contract extension to move to the new Share Everything plans. Customers pay a per-device connection fee per month ($40 for smartphones and $10 for tablets, for example), and then pay for data on a usage-based scale ($50 per month for 1 GB of shared data up to $100 for 10 GB of shared data).

Importantly, customers who were grandfathered into Verizon's unlimited data plans can keep those plans but only if they buy and unsubsidized smartphone when they upgrade.

Mesnick acknowledged that the plans are not a good fit for everyone, and that an individual customer might pay more under the new plans, but he emphasized the benefits for families sharing a single data bucket.

Verizon spokeswoman Brenda Raney told FierceWireless the company is "pleased with the response to the first day of availability" for the plans. She said "the plans tap into pent up demand from customers who want to share their data allowance with all the devices on their accounts and we saw many customers who couldn't wait to take advantage of the opportunity."

T-Mobile USA used the Share Everything launch to knock Verizon's new plans as costly, complicated and punitive. "Before these plans were announced we said this approach would not deliver a better value to customers and would be complicated for families to manage," Harry Thomas, T-Mobile's director of segment marketing, wrote in a company blog post. "Now that we have the details, we're even more convinced."

According to T-Mobile, its customers will consistently save customer more money per month than customers will using Verizon's new shared plans. In response, Raney said Verizon always welcomes competition.

For more:
- see this Star Tribune article
- see this WHNT article
- see this T-Mobile blog post

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