VZW: Focus on the free stuff

While the FCC debates whether to look into Verizon Wireless and AT&T’s competitive and pricing practices, VZW has taken an interesting strategy to combat any negative perceptions about the operator: rather than focus on what customers pay for, it’s focusing on what they get for free.

While consumers’ average bills have risen over the years, so have the number and amount amount of services they receive for those monthly charges. More minutes and data services are just the tip of the iceberg though, said Verizon Wireless spokesman Jeffrey Nelson. A host of services consumers previously paid for on their wireline or wireless plans now come gratis. That list includes voicemail, call waiting, call forwarding, caller ID, 3-way calling and account management features. Nelson even listed off applications that are now standard in almost every phone even if theyaren’t exactlycarrier services: calculators, alarm clocks, digital cameras, picture ID and the like. Other services that come standard in many VZW plans are far more substantial, though, including unlimited mobile-to-mobile calls between VZW subscribers and Verizon’s Friends & Family program.

“Remember the days of separate devices like calculators? Stop watches? Electronic (or paper) personal phone books?” Nelson said via e-mail. “We’re offering services–free–that are more relevant in today’s world than ever before. Content filters, Bluetooth connectivity for headsets, spam controls … even picture ID, a world clock and–with us alone–unlimited calls to more than 80 million people. … Sometimes its easy to forget those good old days when the only choice was the handsome, black ‘brick’ phone that retailed for many hundreds of dollars and phone calls at $1 per minute or more.”

Of course, the people Verizon has to convince are the FCC commissioners who are scheduled to vote Thursday on whether to open a broad inquiry into VZW and AT&T’s dominant role in the US marketplace.

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