For the first time since 2011, Verizon has re-introduced its unlimited plans. Starting February 13, 2017, consumers, business, and government customers can switch to the Verizon Unlimited plan. Just last month Verizon’s finance chief, Matthew Ellis, said unlimited data plans were “not something we feel the need to do.” What changed? First, the company announced poor results with meager growth of 2.3 million monthly customers in 2016 compared to 4.5 million for 2015. Second, Roger Entner, a telecom analyst with Recon Analytics, has reported that Verizon’s cost to deliver a gigabyte (GB) of data has dropped by 40% to 50%.
Before enterprises and consumers make a change, there are some things to consider.
First, Verizon Unlimited requires that subscribes enroll in paper-free billing and Auto Pay. Most enterprises with telecom expense management (TEM) programs use electronic rather than paper bills, but Auto Pay could present problems. Opting out of Auto Pay will add a $5 surcharge per line. Second, if a provider sends HD resolution or 1080p video, it is not throttled to 480p like T-Mobile and Sprint do with most providers. Third, like unlimited plans offered by other providers, it may not truly be unlimited. Verizon may slow data speeds for some subscribers in congested cell coverage areas who consume more than 22GB of data per month. Fourth, Mobile hotspot tethering at 4G LTE speeds is part of the package, but there are limits for power users. Subscribers that consume more than 10GB of data via tethering will see their speed downgraded to 3G. Finally, when employees travel to Mexico or Canada, the plan provides unlimited talk, text, and data, but only for the first 500MB of data. After this, the 4G LTE speeds are degraded.
Verizon is actually offering two Verizon Unlimited plans. One offers the single line, which is similar to the 5GB-$55 and 7GB-$70 plans that Verizon introduced just last month. A second option provides a multi-line (Account Level) version that allows more than one person into the plan with a cap of 10 lines. The single line plan costs $80, while the multi-line plan starts at $100 with $20 line access fees per line. The multi line option seems best for enterprises, but there may be some additional wrinkles for enterprises to sort out, including hardware costs and volume discounts.
Employees may like the peace of mind from having an unlimited plan, but is it really necessary? Verizon reports that two-thirds of its customers use less than five gigabytes of mobile data a month. This figure includes consumers, but it is an important benchmark.
Before enterprises make any changes, they should compare their current costs with the costs of an unlimited data plan. Many enterprises may find that use of data pools in conjunction with a mobile policy that limits unnecessary use will be less costly.
While an unlimited data plan may seem like a good deal, the costs for the new plan may exceed the benefits. This is where reporting from a TEM program and optimization studies will help determine the best move.