Making Sense of Verizon's New Data Sharing Plan

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A couple of months ago, I wrote a blog about plans by Verizon and AT&T to introduce family data sharing plans. As part of the blog, I complained that customers didn't want to have to keep track of monthly data usage by their family members.

A couple of months ago, I wrote a blog about plans by Verizon and AT&T to introduce family data sharing plans. As part of the blog, I complained that customers didn't want to have to keep track of monthly data usage by their family members.On June 28, Verizon introduced its Share Everything plan, under which participating members receive unlimited voice minutes and text messaging while allowing up to 10 wireless devices, including tablets, to share Internet data. Existing Verizon customers have the option of sticking with their current plans, including those who had existing unlimited data plans. AT&T has not yet unveiled its family data sharing plans.

The data sharing plan is widely viewed as good news for families or other groups of people on the same contract to have a pool of data to draw from while removing text and voice limitations. However, analysts say the plans may end up becoming more expensive for individual customers that use just a single device.

One of the things that I like about Verizon's approach is that existing customers like me are able to stick with their current plans if they want to. However, new customers must sign up for one of the new plans, regardless of whether they're planning to connect their phones to other devices.

Some critics contend that the new plans are difficult to understand. I agree. Here's a description of how the plans are priced in a recent Reuters article. You decide:

Today Verizon customers pay $30 for 2 gigabytes of data and $40 for the cheapest voice plan with 450 minutes of talk time and another $20 for unlimited text messages. But if a customer also wants to connect a tablet computer today they have to pay another $30 a month for another 2 gigabytes plan, leading to a total bill of $120 per month.

For a customer who needs a combined data allowance of 4 gigabytes for their tablet and their smartphone, the total fee, including voice, would still be $120 under the new plan.

As an existing Verizon customer, I'm happy to stick with the unlimited data plan that I'm on since it seems to make the most sense for me and my family based on our usage. I don't want to have to keep track of how much data I'm using or how much data our teenagers are using.

Still, Verizon's approach limits the choices available to its customers, especially new customers. A more customer-centric approach would have been to offer customers an option to select from a menu of a la carte services.

The market is still sorting itself out with these types of data plans. Time will tell what types of plans resonate with different types of customers. For instance, T-Mobile is positioning itself as a more flexible alternative by continuing to offer unlimited data plans. But in my case, T-Mobile isn't an option because their coverage in the area where I live is spotty at best.

What do you think of Verizon's approach? What would be a more customer-centric approach to packaging and pricing wireless data usage?

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