Verizon Wireless Tackles Data Transfers With New Billing Plan

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Verizon Wireless hopes to make its next-generation wireless services more palatable to business users with a rate plan that bills per Mbyte rather than minutes used when downloading data.

The Verizon Wireless plan, unveiled Thursday, paves the way for mobile professionals to use the network to access back-end data from notebooks and handhelds or receive e-mails on a phone. The new pricing is $35 per month for up to 10 Mbytes of date and $55 per month for $20 Mbytes of data, with additional pricing scaling up to 150 Mbytes of data.

When Verizon Wireless launched the Express Network in February, pricing was set at $30 per month on top of a voice plan of at least $35 per month. Connection minutes used to download data would be deducted from the user's allotted minutes that month.

That type of plan, said Dan Elliott, vice president of mobile solutions at CompuCom, Dallas, is out of tune with how mobile workers will need to use the network. He favors flat fees for a fixed amount of Mbyte usage, such the plans announced by Verizon Thursday, or an "all you can eat" plan.

"You need to separate voice bill from data and allow for that always-on experience," he said.

Mobile users want to be able to receive e-mails and other data files at any time without having to be billed per minute for the download, he said.

Although Verizon Wireless has yet to offer up an "all you can eat" option, one source familiar with the company's plans said it is being discussed seriously at high levels.

When the new pricing takes effect next month, Verizon Wireless also will have expanded its network in the Midwest and in major cities in the South, executives said Thursday. The expansion will allow the network to service a total of one-third of the carrier's 72 million customers in the United States, the executives said.

The Verizon Wireless network uses 1XRTT CDMA technology to provide packet-based data transfers of 40 Mbps to 50 Mbps with peaks up to 144 Mbps, the company said. Verizon Wireless has been selling a Kyocera 2235 phone and a PC Card from Sierra Wireless to complement the service. In addition, channel executives at the company said they are actively recruiting large VARs and integrators for their wireless data channel program.

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