Verizon wades into double-data promotional battle with Sprint, AT&T

Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ) is jumping into the game of increasing the size of its data buckets for shared data plans, too. The carrier is launching two new promotions after rivals Sprint (NYSE: S) and AT&T Mobility (NYSE: T) launched promotional offers to increase the size of the data buckets they offer for high-usage customers.

Starting Oct. 2, Verizon said customers on its More Everything shared data plans can get 15 GB of data per month for $110, up from 12 GB before, or 30 GB of data for $130 per month, up from 16 GB before.

Meanwhile, starting Oct. 2, customers with monthly data allowances of between 20 GB and 50 GB will be able to get double the data for the same price. Those "double data" promotional plans will be 40 GB for $150 per month, 60 GB for $225, 80 GB for $300 and 100 GB for $375. All of the plans come with unlimited voice and texting.

Customers who choose Verizon's Edge handset-upgrade and equipment-installment program when buying or upgrading their smartphone using these promotions, or who bring their own device, can add those phones for a $15 monthly access charge. However, if customers buy a smartphone with a two-year contract, they need to pay monthly access charges of $40 per smartphone.

As with the Sprint and AT&T promotions, Verizon's promotional offers end Oct. 31. The promotions indicate that carriers are clearly banking on customers wanting more and more data for their family's shared data bucket, even though few families are likely to burn through 60 or 80 GB in a month.

When it's all sorted out, Verizon and AT&T's double-data promotional plans are exactly the same price for plans of 30 GB or more. Sprint still offers double the data allotment at the same price for nonbusiness customers.

Under Sprint's promotion, new and existing Sprint customers will get double the sharable data, for the same price as AT&T's new promotional plans, on Sprint's 32 GB, 40 GB and 60 GB Family Share Pack plans, which also come with unlimited voice and texting. The new Sprint promotional plans give customers 60 GB for $130 per month, 80 GB for $150, or 120 GB for $225.

Additionally, Sprint is trying to woo business users. Beginning Oct. 3, Sprint Business customers will get double the sharable data on the 40 GB, 60 GB, 80 GB and 100 GB Sprint Business Share plans if they sign up by Oct. 31. Under that promotion, customers would get 80 GB a month for $135 a month, 120 GB for $200, 160 GB for $270, and 200 GB for $330.

Under AT&T's promotion, its current 15 GB plan, which starts at $130 a month, will be doubled to 30 GB, significantly more data than the company's 10 GB/$100 plan. AT&T also offers 20, 30, 40 and 50 GB plans that will be doubled to 40, 60, 80 and 100 GB for the same pricing as the smaller data-bucket plans ($150, $225, $300 and $375, respectively). The AT&T plans all come with unlimited voice and texting, and customers are charged $15 a month per smartphone line if they buy their device through AT&T's Next handset-upgrade program.

Jefferies analysts Mike McCormack, Scott Goldman and Tudor Mustata wrote in a research note that "Sprint, unsurprisingly, remains the most aggressive. The carrier doubled its offerings introduced just a month ago after being matched by AT&T this past weekend. Verizon remained disciplined, largely matching AT&T's offers. With data doubling for plans starting at $110/month, we see minimal repricing risk, and believe carriers are looking to encourage upsizing, drive store traffic, and reduce churn."

The analysts added that given that the promotions are only for high-usage data plans, they are "clearly targeting multiple device accounts as well as heavy users. With limited penetration of large bucket data plans, the risk of a price down is minimal."

However, they wrote that the promotions "could prove attractive to a) customers nearing their existing cap; and b) subscribers on marginally lower data plans who could significantly increase data at a comparable price. In both cases, these customers could upsize to higher data plans, realizing greater incremental value than non-promotional plans."

For the carriers, they wrote, the promotions are likely to hasten increases in revenue thanks to growing data usage. Additionally, the promotions come as carriers are battling each other amid the latest iPhone upgrade cycle, "and are likely using the promotions to both drive store traffic and reduce churn among existing customers. While the promotions highlight a competitive marketplace, they continue the industry mantra of maintaining absolute dollar price points, and enticing customers to move up in pricing by offering a better value."

For more:
- see this Verizon post

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