A Little Something Called Competition Forces Verizon To Bring Back Unlimited* Data

from the we-compete-when-we-want-to dept

Despite the rising competitive threat of T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless has spent the last few years simply refusing to seriously compete on price. That stubbornness has extended to the company's refusal to match T-Mobile's unlimited data plans, eliminated by Verizon back in 2011. In a truly competitive market, you're supposed to listen to your customers and try to provide whatever they're clamoring for. But Verizon's tack has been the exact opposite; the company spending the last few years trying to tell consumers they don't really want simpler, unlimited data options -- and that these plans are unnecessary and unviable.

For most of this time, Verizon Wireless' excuse du jour was that it didn't have to compete on price or service because its network was just that phenomenal. But a report last week by Open Signal found that T-Mobile, once considered an under-cooked upstart, was finally fielding a network that nearly matches Verizon in terms of both speed and overall coverage:

"Our testers were able to find a Verizon LTE signal 88.2% of the time, cementing Big Red's place at the top of our 4G rankings. But T-Mobile has been systematically closing the gap. In the fourth quarter its 4G availability was less than two percentage points below Verizon's, the closest we've seen that difference."

Initially Verizon tried to downplay the results, insisting that because Open Signal uses crowdsourced data, that the results souldn't be taken seriously. That didn't go over particularly well over at T-Mobile:

But Verizon then did a 180, announcing late last week that the company would finally be offering unlimited data again, and without throttling video, music or games as a result (which is now standard practice at both T-Mobile and Sprint). Of course the industry's definition of "unlimited" remains as murky as it has always been, with Verizon quick to note that by "unlimited," they actually mean somewhere around 22 gigabytes per month, after which your connection will likely be throttled:

"On all Verizon Unlimited plans you get our fast LTE speeds. To ensure a quality experience for all customers, after 22 GB of data usage on a line during any billing cycle we may prioritize usage behind other customers in the event of network congestion. While we don’t expect to do that very often, network management is a crucial tool that benefits all Verizon customers."

Still, a good move is a good move. And Verizon's decision will likely push AT&T (which currently only sells you unlimited data if you bundle your wireless connection a with DirecTV service) to follow suit. Granted competition in telecom is fickle and inconsistent, and non-price competition -- where theatrics trump actual value -- is generally the rule of thumb. And should rumors of a new Sprint, T-Mobile merger be accurate, we could very quickly be facing three large carriers with, once again, little to no incentive to actually give consumers what they want.


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2017 @ 11:03am

    I wonder if this new plan will affect Verizon's Unlimited Data grandfathered users. Specifically the tethering and deprioritized (slow lanes) caps.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      AEIO_ (profile), 13 Feb 2017 @ 4:06pm

      Re:

      I doubt there's many of us. Unless there's some overriding financial reason, I imagine they'll just leave us alone or lump us in the new unlimited set, whatever's easier.

      I know one point in one month I used (was a 3x spike) 120G and showed up like a nail on their usage charts. The next month my target was magically unavailable, so instead I watched V NFL Sports, the unlimited free version. A LOT more than that. (After a month I got bored and stopped.)

      It's amazing how airwaves -- what you'd think would be scarce -- are free only while you're talking to a box on their internet network. **It's almost like they want to charge extra for network egress to the Internet.**

      My! That sounds like portable AOL, which for a lot of people *WAS* the internet.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2017 @ 11:47am

    Being throttled sucks, but I'd rather that than being hit with overages.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Judd Sandage (profile), 13 Feb 2017 @ 11:48am

    meh

    I am just going to leave this here, since everyone is thinking it.

    link

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    I.T. Guy, 13 Feb 2017 @ 11:57am

    First they told us we needed unlimited data. Then they told us we did't, now they say we do. I wish they could make up my mind already.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Hopsa, 13 Feb 2017 @ 12:17pm

      Re:

      The circle of life at a telecom company.

      I do not think customers need unlimited data anyways because they will never consume unlimited data. I'd rather see a all you can eat data plan without restrictions. Just pay for a certain speed and have fun. Makes more sense that way but where is the fun in that.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        William Braunfeld, 13 Feb 2017 @ 1:09pm

        Re: Re:

        Pay per byte? Hasn't that been argued here before? I seem to remember some vehement objections, but I'm curious about peoples' thoughts on the subject. Myinherent response is to point out that dataflow isn't the main cost, it's infrastructure, so per-byte charge doesn't make sense; however, I feel underinformed on the subject.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        DannyB (profile), 13 Feb 2017 @ 1:09pm

        Re: Re:

        That is an interesting idea. Charge for speed rather than data cap.

        One could even define a "speed" plan as:
        XXX megabits / second for first 22 GB of data, then
        YYY megabits / second for next 10 GB of data, then
        ZZZ megabits / second for as much data as you can use

        And you could qualify it with "subject to availability" because you cannot guarantee that data rates might drop due to unexpected crowding -- but I don't want to open the door to abuse by ISPs.

        But remember AOL almost got in serious trouble with state AGs back in the day, with one AG saying it is as if AOL sold 10,000 theater tickets to a theater with only 3,000 seats. The problem being AOL didn't have enough inbound phone lines to not get a busy signal.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Hopsa, 13 Feb 2017 @ 8:36pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Shouldn't be a real problem for telecom. Because they would just advertise with up to speeds just like the fixed line isp's with the congestion these days. I'm paying for 200down/10up and at peak times it dips to 13down from time to time. Yet this is all possible within the law.

          Let's hope 5g will fix the congestion problem by a significant amount so this can actually happen.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Jeremy2020 (profile), 13 Feb 2017 @ 2:32pm

      Re:

      just sign your paycheck over directly to them for the rest of your life and throw your phone away. You won't have to worry anymore.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2017 @ 12:10pm

    It would have been helpful to but 22GB instead of unlimited in the title.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      hegemon13, 13 Feb 2017 @ 12:59pm

      Re:

      There's not actually a 22GB limit. There's a "deprioritization" when you exceed that. How much that impacts you depends on where you live, how busy your nearby tower is, and when you use the phone. While not great, this is still a lot better than a data cap.

      Also, the plan includes 10GB full speed tethering, plus 3G speeds after that (as compared to 2G on TMO and nothing after 5GB on Sprint).

      Again, not perfect by any means, but it more closely fits the definition of unlimited than either of the joke plans from Sprint and TMO. I'm still in shock that this is coming from Verizon.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2017 @ 2:02pm

        Re: Re:

        "There's not actually a 22GB limit."

        Looks like a "limit" to me, or you have a different definition of the word. Just because they start "limiting" the amount of speed you have beyond the 22GB "limit" does not mean it is not a "limit". If they advertise "unlimited" then they cannot impose any arbitrary "limit", even if the function of that "limit" is only to "limit" the speed of data instead of just straight up "STOPPING" your data entirely.

        Notice how I needed to use a different word (other than limit) to convey that?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2017 @ 12:15pm

    I barely use any data wifi everywhere near me in Arizona. Project Fi using about $3 of data a month is perfect. Verizon's high prices and my lack of needing much data finally got me to switch after being a customer for at least a decade.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DannyB (profile), 13 Feb 2017 @ 1:15pm

    Tethering vs Phone

    As I understand it, you get unlimited data "for the phone" but limited data for tethering.

    Now just what is "for the phone" vs "tethering".

    We all know what they *WANT* it to mean.

    But tethering is nothing more than an app that creates a hotspot and routes packets.

    What if I had my own app that would talk over bluetooth or USB to my laptop? Is *that* tethering? I didn't use the built in tethering feature of my phone. And it is just a custom app using data on the unlimited data plan for the phone.

    What if I didn't use either bluetooth or USB. Suppose I drop the phone into a gadget with an Arduino board. (This is hypothetical) The arduino has a sensor that watches the bottom right corner of the screen for blinking to represent bits received, and it has an LED emitter right in front of the camera port to represent bits sent. Then this arduino has an ordinary USB cable or WiFi hotspot for my laptop to work with. So all that is on the phone is an app that blinks pixels and reads light signals from the camera port. Oh, and the custom app uses the internet.

    Can you tell me now if I'm tethering or not?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      orbitalinsertion (profile), 13 Feb 2017 @ 3:33pm

      Re: Tethering vs Phone

      Only if they can tell you are tethering by normal and approved tethering methods. That's tethering, as far as they are concerned.

      But shhh, because they will start making claims that ppls iz cryptotethering, and raise the rates on everyone.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Whoever, 13 Feb 2017 @ 3:38pm

    Ajit Pai?

    Does this vindicate Ajit Pai?

    Competition in the industry forcing consumer-friendly changes?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Tin-Foil-Hat, 14 Feb 2017 @ 6:41am

    Not Throttling

    T-mobile's reduction in video resolution on their mobile network is a good idea and can be disabled by the user. I wish I had the option.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    TitleMax (profile), 10 Apr 2017 @ 4:14am

    Wow!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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