By Chuong Nguyen | August 19, 2010 1:27 PM
Verizon Wireless has announced that it is now testing out a $99 plan that offers unlimited talk, text, and web that mirror’s Sprint’s Simply Everything Plan. The change by the nation’s largest carrier would effectively slash prices of the all-inclusive plan by $20, but would only be available in limited trials in Los Angeles and San Diego, California, markets. It’s uncertain if Verizon would extend trials to other markets or even adopt these prices after the trial date.
Despite the price drop matching Sprint’s unlimited plan, Verizon’s plan may not offer additional value beyond the data pipes, and the latest move by Verizon still represents commoditization of the carrier’s infrastructure to bring wireless voice and data to connected devices.
Sprint’s plan offers more value in terms of including value-based services, such as free turn-by-turn GPS voice guidance in the form of Sprint Navigator, a re-badge of TeleNav, and also on-demand and live television and radio content from Sprint TV, as well as a host of other apps that are included in the price of the plan without subscription. Contrast that to Verizon’s new price cuts, users who subscribe to VZ Navigator will have to shell out an additional $10 per month and V-CAST TV will cost an extra $15 per month. Granted if you don’t use these services, it doesn’t really matter, but for those odd moments when you need directions or if you’re missing the game-winning goal, having Sprint’s services bundled for free may be a huge plus.
What’s interesting is that Verizon is bucking the trend here by emulating the strategy of smaller competitors, like Sprint and T-Mobile. In the past, the nation’s two largest carriers–Verizon Wireless and AT&T–have not reacted to Sprint nor T-Mobile, citing network advantages, coverages, mobile-to-mobile across a larger pool of subscribers, and other value than to copy their smaller rivals with price drops. The move here is a welcomed change and shows that Verizon is listening to its price-sensitive customers and that smaller carriers can have an impact.
Aside from Sprint’s Simply Everything Plan, Verizon is also testing an unlimited calling plan in the Southeast as a direct responsive to regional and pre-paid carriers, like Cricket, Leap, Boost Mobile, and MetroPCS. Additionally, in another homage to Sprint’s value plan, the Any Mobile, Anytime offering, Verizon is offering the Unlimited Any Mobile plan in parts of Texas and Louisiana, providing unlimited calling to any mobile in the U.S.
What about Verizon’s famed wide coverage? Well, if Sprint’s and Verizon’s roaming agreements hold, then you’ll have access to both carrier’s networks no matter which phone or carrier you select. Essentially, for the same price, and an identical coverage map, Sprint’s plans will give you Simply Everything and a Little Bit More. Now, what you really have to decide on is a phone–will it be between the Droid 2 and the Epic 4G or the EVO 4G and the Droid X. These increasingly powerful smartphones may be driving more sales and retention than pricing alone, and both carriers offer attractive devices to offer to their customers.