Verizon Revamps Wireless Plan, Jury Still Out On How It Will Impact Partners

Following the conclusion of a nearly two-month-long strike and with its popular former ’Can you hear me now?’ spokesperson now doing commercials for rival Sprint, Verizon is pushing hard to stay competitive in a crowded wireless market.

The Basking Ridge, N.J.-based telecommunications giant Wednesday unveiled a slew of wireless plan changes for consumers and business customers, all of which it says are aimed at helping it more aggressively compete with AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile.

The wireless plan revamp comes as competing carriers such as T-Mobile and Sprint are lowering fees while raising data allowances. Verizon, however, is actually hiking up wireless plan prices in exchange for increasing the data caps across its plans.

[Related: Verizon Strike Underlines Focus On Wireless Market, Partners Say]

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Rob Chamberlin, co-founder and chief revenue officer for DataXoom, a Berkeley, Calif.-based solution provider and Verizon partner that specializes in mobility services, called Verizon's news an interesting move which demonstrates that consumers and businesses are still willing to pay a premium for a service they believe to be the best in terms of national network, LTE speeds and overall network reliability.

"I think the news confirms that mobile data is the most valuable component of any wireless offering. 4G and LTE wireless data is a commodity, but it's a commodity that businesses and consumers will pay for every month and cannot do without," Chamberlin said.

At the same time, however, the wireless plan changes could actually help Verizon’s competitors in the market, he said.

"It will be interesting to see if competitors bash Verizon for raising prices, continuing the price war in wireless, or [if competitors will] follow their lead," Chamberlin said.

T-Mobile’s vocal CEO, John Legere, didn’t waste any time. Legere took to Twitter Wednesday to ridicule Verizon’s new wireless plan changes in a series of tweets. Legere noted that Verizon’s price hikes were as if the carrier was purposely ’trying to get everyone to switch to T-Mobile,’ and that Verizon’s failure to eliminate overages unless customers paid a fee wasn’t a generous offer.

Verizon did not respond to CRN’s request for comment on how the wireless plan changes could impact partners directly, but the carrier did share information regarding the new plans for its SMB customers.

Business customers, just like consumers, will have access to a new My Verizon app and Verizon Plan. Beginning Thursday, customers can choose the amount of data they want for their wireless plan through the app. Customers can also change and manage their wireless plans as often as they want through a real-time feed on the app, Verizon said. The carrier added that the changes will help users manage their own mobile experience and simplify billing.

Businesses can choose from small, medium, large, extra-large, and extra extra-large wireless plans, ranging from 2 GB to 24 GB per month. While the data pools in each of the new plans are slightly more expensive – about $5 to $10 more per plan -- both businesses and consumers will have access to data allowances that have been increased by about 30 percent per plan.

In a competitive move aimed at helping the carrier contend with AT&T and T-Mobile's rollover data polices, Verizon is introducing Carryover Data, a policy that lets users roll over unused data into the next month that can be used along with the normal data amount purchased for that new month.

Verizon is also introducing a data overage safety net called "Safety Mode" -- the focus of T-Mobile’s Legere Twitter remarks. For an additional $5 a month, users can protect themselves from data overage charges by automatically applying slower networking speeds to their data usage. This feature drops users from Verizon’s 4G LTE speeds to 128-Kbps speeds. Should customers want to return to the 4G LTE networking speeds, they can pay an additional $15 a month for each additional GB of data through a feature called "Data Boost." Both Safety Mode and Data Boost can be selected through the My Verizon app, the carrier said.

The initial impact on business customers will most likely be minimal, as many clients will remain "grandfathered in" to their current plans, DataXoom’s Chamberlin said. In the meantime, the solution provider will still be helping these customers pool mobile data usage across their accounts, minimizing overage charges and other fees, he said.