Verizon Wireless shifts focus to customer data usage

A pedestrian talks on a cellular phone as she walks by a Verizon Wireless store on April 19, 2012 in New York City.

Kai Ryssdal: There's all this buzz out there about mobile technology. Has been for a while now. About how that's where all the real money's gonna be in technology and the Internet.

You know what has to come first, though? Before advertising or mobile marketing or any of that? Data. Data plans, to be specific. And if what phone companies offer now isn't confusing enough, wait 'til you hear what Verizon Wireless announced today.

The carrier's gonna drop nearly all its data plans and replace them with a new scheme that encourages people to share what's essentially a bucket of data among their various smartphones laptops and tablets.

Verizon says most customers will end up paying the same or less. Analysts say: Really?!

Here's Marketplace's Bob Moon.


Bob Moon: Here's the deal: Instead of buying separate wireless plans for your smart-phone, laptop and iPad, Verizon will be offering unlimited talk and text, plus a data plan you can share among different devices. You can buy one gigabyte per month from $50; 10 gigabytes will cost $100.

Charles Golvin: In a world where consumers are talking less and less on the phone, carriers want to protect the revenue that they get.

Forrester Research analyst Charles Golvin also sees this as a way to simplify consumer options. Most Verizon customers will be able to keep their current plans, but newer customers will find some choices eliminated.

Tami Irwin is chief marketing officer at Verizon Wireless.

Tami Irwin: If I'm a new customer beginning on the 28th, these will be the only plans that are available for a new customer to purchase.

CNET senior writer Maggie Reardon says many individual users will have no choice but to pay more for their increasingly important data connections, because of the way the new plans are structured.

Maggie Reardon: I'm getting more voice, which I don't need, and I'm getting less data, which I'm going to need a lot of, and I'm probably going to need more of it in the future.

Already, AT&T has said it expects to implement its own shared-data plans. And Forrester's Charles Golvin says other providers will almost certainly follow.

Golvin: The basic model of, here's a bunch of data that you can attach different devices to, and we'll deduct bits from that pool -- I believe that that model is the model of the future, and we'll see it from all the carriers.

Golvin says those wireless providers might charge a little differently, but the days of cheap data plans are over.

I'm Bob Moon for Marketplace.

About the author

Bob Moon is Marketplace’s senior business correspondent, based in Los Angeles.

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