Monday, January 20, 2014

Bullet Point Analysis: Verizon Wireless' Share Everything Plan Minor Adjustment


Several tech news and blogger outlets have reported that Verizon Wireless will add a new 250 MB plan (at $20) level to its Share Everything plans as of January 21, 2014.


Big data users invariably dismiss this 250 MB level as miniscule, and it is. But there are two  areas why this makes sense. 

  • First - Migrate the featurephone base to Smartphones and Share Everything Plans.  The Share Everything plan is now the only postpaid plan vehicle to migrate customers off legacy voice-centric plans (e.g., America's Choice - remember that?).  The new data-centric plan is also inexplicably linked to smartphone penetration.  Since 1Q2013, an Share Everything plan slide has been every quarterly earnings presentation deck.   

In 2Q 2013


In 3Q 2013

Verizon Wireless wants steeper curves on smartphone penetration and postpaid Share Everything account migration.  Here are the illustrative results since 3Q 2012. 

Since 4Q 2013 earnings is around the corner, it's likely to assume that smartphone penetration should cross 70% given the company's track record.  We can also safely assume that once Verizon Wireless nears the 100% Share Everything plan goal, there will be another more important growth slide to take its place. 
  • Second - Provide a lower price point for featurephone users to convert to data. Previously, the lowest data price point was at $40 and provided 500 MB. Logically and in sales positioning, $20 and 250 MB is half.  While veteran smartphone users cringe at the low data level, Verizon Wireless is betting that once a non-data user starts to use data, they will get hooked and move up subsequent next tiers.  Increasing data usage is closely linked with helping increase Verizon Wireless' average revenue per account (ARPA) metric.

Some may believe that this is Verizon Wireless' action against AT&T revamping its Mobile Share plans back in December 2013.  When laid out, we find that the new plan is in fact less competitive to AT&T. AT&T still has the advantage for Verizon Wireless switchers at the low data levels.    Given the above logic, the new $20/250 MB level will not get featurephone switchers. Those who are making the smartphone jump are likely to have explored T-Mobile or Sprint.

Still Verizon Wireless' opportunity may be in the existing range of data bucket choices with more price points and advantage in addressing the small business and high data use consumer accounts.   

Looking ahead, if history repeats itself, Verizon and AT&T users will start getting a handle of monthly data consumption and adjust accordingly. Once that happens, the number of data levels should shrink and (ideally for customers) price points will decrease.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

LTE Speed Titles

AT&T has already taken the LTE speed mantle for 2013.  I think that speed will continue to be an important marketing differentiation.  Sprint Spark, based on 2.5 GHz spectrum as that opportunity to break Sprint out of its downward slide.  

My article in RCR Wireless entitled LTE Speed Crowns and Network Dependencies lays out some of my thoughts.  A key piece in increasing speed is when carrier aggregation kicks in. In a nutshell,   it's the ability to piece together disparate pieces of a carrier's spectrum portfolio to make a 'fatter pipe' in order to deliver to the user, a faster speed (and lower latency) experience. Of course there are a lot of hardware dependencies that go into it.

While speed is exciting, what looks to be a Sprint win may be a marketing and revenue loss in the non-metropolitan areas.  That is due to 2.5 GHz's poor propagation characteristics.  It just cannot reach out there and Sprint's problem is that thought it has a lot of the frequency, in order to make it effective nationally, they would have to expend a LOT more money to blanket the U.S. geography. This is a similar argument that you don't see a fully geographic national PCS network.  Verizon Wireless and AT&T will have that advantage with their sub-1GHz portfolio. When these larger carriers piece their deep cellular bands with their 700 spectrum, they will have the ability to deliver greater speed than Sprint outside of the metropolitan areas.  This won't happen for a couple more years late 2015-2017, perhaps.   

Sprint will need to execute on its 2.5 GHz Spark buildout to have a shot at the standard speed surveys that Root Metrics (various metro updates over the course of the year) and PC Magazine (May) performs. It may be that Sprint will win some important metros but may not get the 2014 title until those survey cities are 'Sparked.'  Throwing a monkey wrench in 2014 will be Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile tapping their deep AWS assets. T-Mobile has already been reported to have a 20 X 20 (20 MHz down/20 MHz uplink) in the Dallas area while Verizon Wireless has turned on  20 X 20 in New York.

When Spark reaches some critical market threshold, I fully expect Sprint to turn up the marketing to push speed and unlimited.(And introduce a deep Tri-band device portfolio). It should definitely appeal to the technology forward users.  I'm also thinking that the tech blogs should help the cause. Of course, it depends on getting that network going. 

2014 will be an interesting speed year.