Verizon defends new shared data plans

Meanwhile, customers object to Share Everything plans, and one has organized a Facebook group protest

The head of marketing at Verizon Wireless defended the new shared data plans that take effect June 28 against criticism from some analysts and many outraged customers.

Steve Mesnick told Computerworld the Share Everything plans announced on Tuesday aren't being forced on existing customers and will mainly benefit work groups and families with multiple smartphones who want to share data across as many as 10 devices.

"We're allowing the existing customer base to have a choice ... we're not forcing anyone to move to new plans ... I take exception to [comments] of people leaving Verizon," he said.

One analyst said Wednesday that Verizon mishandled the introduction of the new plans, which could hurt the company. But Mesnick said the announcement was made well in advance of the June 28 launch to give the public time to absorb a large amount of information that fundamentally changes how voice, text and data services are charged.

Mesnick said he's confident the plan will succeed, partly because Verizon interviewed 50,000 customers in advance to field their opinions. He provided Computerworld with a chart showing how the new plan will affect monthly fees of various existing customers and conceded that fees for "some people go up and some go down ... so people can make an assessment of wanting to switch."

Mesnick also admitted that Verizon knew that its decision to require current unlimited data users to pay full price for a new smartphone when they renew their contracts would cause a controversy. "We knew the unlimited news would be perceived negatively, so we weren't surprised," he said.

A "healthy percentage" of Verizon's smartphone customers currently have unlimited data plans, he said. In addition to buying a new iPhone at the full unsubsidized price of $649 in order to keep unlimited data, he suggested they activate an older device they already own or buy an inexpensive one on eBay.

Mesnick, who oversaw creation of the new plans, said their central intent is "simplicity" so that a family or work group could predict how much they have to pay monthly instead of tallying several data plans on a single account. "What customers care about is 'what's my total bill at the end of the month?'" he said.

He emphasized that small business customers will desire the new plans because a single account can include friends or colleagues or "whoever you trust to be on an account."

Mesnick said negative comments on websites by customers were to be expected because the concept is broad and new. "We're changing the structure of wireless and everyone is getting their head around it," he said. "The press especially is having a tough time trying to understand it."

In addition to the numerous details of the plans announced Tuesday in a press release and on the Verizon Wireless website, Mesnick said Verizon will also offer a plan for basic phones that costs $40 a month for 700 minutes of calling, with texting and data extra. Also, first-time smartphone buyers will be able to qualify for unlimited calling and texting and only 300MB of data per month for $80.

The other plans published on Verizon's website call for a monthly line access charge per device, ranging from $10 for a tablet to $40 for a smartphone, with data service charges added on that start at $50 for 1GB per month, which can be shared across 10 devices.

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