Verizon Wireless crunches numbers for you — or tries to

Verizon Wireless customers getting stressed out about whether they’d charge past their 2-gigabyte download limit? The company is here to help, at least in theory. 

 Tomorrow the company is eliminating its $30/month, unlimited data plans for new smartphone customers (existing users can keep their plans).

But long before the change, Verizon Wireless had offered something called the data calculator on its website, a handy service that estimates how much data you’d use if you send, say, 250 text-only emails a day (the answer is apparently 73.24 megabyes of data).  That sounds really helpful — but then it gets a little confusing. 

Apparently some of the data on Verizon’s online caculator is actually incorrect, so they’re planning to fix  it all tonight before they roll out tiered pricing: starting at a $30/month fee for 2 gigabytes of data use.  

Spokeswoman Brenda Raney said the company “found some issues on the back-end so “we’re correcting it and getting it in place for the new usage-based plans.” She added that the company wants its customers to “use the calculator to select the best plan.”

AT&T’s ad spending outpaces Verizon’s — by a long stretch

Anybody who wondered how AT&T managed to stand up against the Verizon Wireless  February iPhone launch wasn’t paying much attention to their TV set.

AT&T had been assuring investors for much of 2010 that its numbers wouldn’t fall off a cliff  if  arch-rival Verizon Wireless got its hands on iPhone, ending its exclusivity.  The logic was that customers wouldn’t want to break their two-year contracts.  Most customers were also tied to AT&T via family plans, making it even more tricky for them to leave.

Still, AT&T wasn’t about to leave it to chance. So it went about things the old-fashioned way: it threw money into advertising.

Tech Summit Q&A, final day: Verizon, Foursquare, LivingSocial

Being social,  going local, and paying for the privilege were hot topics on the last day of the Reuters 2011 Global Technology Summit.

Verizon CFO Fran Shammo got testy when Reuters reporter Jim Finkle asked him if he would reconsider charging mobile customers in addition to their data plans to tether their devices:

Shammo went on to explain Verizon’s decision to replace unlimited mobile data mobile plans with tiered pricing this summer.

Verizon’s iPhone antenna ‘death grip’ proof?

vzapplOn the face of it, the iPhone 4 unveiled by Verizon Wireless on Tuesday is pretty much the same device that AT&T has been selling. It costs the same, and features essentially the same bells and whistles — with the nice addition of a personal Wi-Fi hotspot, that allows up to five other devices to share its wireless signal.

But the blogosphere quickly picked up on one intriguing change in Verizon’s iPhone: the all-important antenna, which wraps around the device. You can see some pics from Gizmodo here, highlighting the differences between iPhones offered by Verizon and AT&T.

You will recall that the antenna for AT&T’s iPhone was the source of quite the uproar last summer, when some users complained of poor reception and dropped calls when holding the device a certain way.  The issue unexpectedly snowballed, giving rise to such memorable phrases as “Antennagate” and “iPhone 4 death grip.” Of course, none of it seemed to dent iPhone sales.

MetroPCS boasts first U.S. LTE service, phone

Ninety percent of MetroPCS customers have been using its handsets for data services. More than half of them rely on MetroPCS handsets as their primary means to accessing the Internet. On Tuesday, the pay-as-you-go company become the first carrier to launch commercial high-speed wireless long term evolution services in the United States. LTE is a fourth-generation technology that Verizon Wireless and AT&T plan to support. “We think this is going to serve the sweet spot for consumers who want more, who want the next best thing and who are willing to pay a little more for the handset,” Chief Operating Officer Tom Keys said. MetroPCS launched the world’s first commercially available LTE handset, the Samsung Craft. The service is first available in Las Vegas and is expected to most markets it serves by the first quarter of 2011, Keys said. The company is offering 4G LTE services under two service plans – $55 or $60. Under its plans, customers pay a monthly fee in advance for unlimited phone calls without committing to a long-term contract. MetroPCS is offering the Samsung Craft for $299, after $50 instant rebate, plus tax. MetroPCS plans to launch another 3-5 handsets in the next 12 months, Keys said. “2012 will probably have a larger roadmap in terms of handsets for the entire LTE ecosystem,” Keys said. The company is also considering offering tablet-like devices, he added.

MetroPCS LTE PhoneOn Tuesday, MetroPCS  said it has become the first US carrier to launch commercial high-speed wireless Long Term Evolution (LTE) services and and an handset, beating its biggest rival Verizon Wireless to the post.  LTE is a next-generation technology Verizon Wireless and AT&T plan to support.

Verizon has promised  by the end of this year to offer LTE services for laptop users in 25 to 30 US markets with a population of about 100 million people. But the top US mobile provider has said that it does not expect to start selling its first LTE handsets until 2011.

However, the high-speed MetroPCS service is 0nly available in Las Vegas for now. The company’s  Chief Operating Officer Tom Keys said he expects the service  to reach most MetroPCS markets by the first quarter of 2011. MetroPCS also said it started selling its LTE phone, the Samsung Craft.

Telcos are winning the cable TV battle but are they losing the broadband war?

War scene

The latest quarterly numbers from AT&T and Verizon Communications points to steady addition of TV customers which they are very likely winning from the cable companies as well as satellite players. AT&T said it posted its first ever billion-dollar revenue quarter for its U-Verse services (which includes Internet).  It added 209,000 U-Verse TV subscribers and now has 2.5 million in total. Meanwhile Verizon said it added 174,000 FiOS TV subscribers and now has 3.2 million in total.

Together the telcos, wh0 only launched their competing services less than five years ago now have a more than 5 percent share of U.S. pay-TV homes.

So well done to the telcos! Or is that the whole story? Analysts at Bernstein Research point out that both phone companies lost a combined 65,000 Internet access subscribers (after netting out additions from U-verse/FiOS and losses of DSL customers).

Analyst sees T-Mobile USA as iPhone contender

Kaufman Bros analyst Shaw Wu threw his hat in the ring on Thursday with an answer to one of the mobile industry’s favorite questions of the season: Which US carrier will be next to get their hands on Apple’s popular iPhone?

According to Wu, the answer is likely  T-Mobile USA, a distant fourth in the cutthroat US mobile service market.
This would be a surprise, as most of the rumors have surrounded Verizon Wireless, a Verizon Communications and Vodafone Group Plc venture, because that company is the market leader and has made no secret of its desire to get the Apple phone on its shelves.

But Wu says T-Mobile USA may be the best candidate to get the phone first because it uses the same network technology as AT&T Inc, currently the exclusive US iPhone provider. While Verizon Wireless has more customers than T-Mobile USA, its network runs on a technology that Apple currently does not support. Interestingly enough, Wu said, the newest version of iPhone would also work on 2100 Mhz frequency of wireless spectrum, which T-Mobile USA uses.

Verizon’s Seidenberg on broadband, China and Cheney


Verizon’s Chief Executive on Tuesday tackled subjects ranging from US healthcare reform,  iPhone, China, his lack of interest in a merger with Vodafone and his feelings about former Vice President Dick Cheney.

Here’s a sample of comments he made at an event held by the Council on Foreign Relations on Tuesday.

On the likelihood of a Vodafone/Verizon merger:
Absent new information a merger doesnt seem to have a lot of appeal.

Verizon grows prepaid but sticking to “bread and butter”

verizonwirelesslogoVerizon Wireless brought in almost half of its customers from its wholesale prepaid business in the fourth quarter, seemingly confirming analyst predictions that this market segment is becoming the biggest driver of mobile.

But Verizon is careful to downplay the importance of any services other than its lucrative postpaid services for high-value monthly bill paying customers.

“That’s our bread and butter. Our real focus is the retail postpaid base,” Chief Financial Officer John Killian told Reuters.

Verizon CEO gearing up for retirement, or not?

seidenbergCEOs are always pretty coy when asked about their retirement plans.  Verizon Communications Ivan Seidenberg, 63, definitely falls into that category as evidenced by his request that the Wall Street Journal’s Joann Lublin keep his reply off the record when she asked him about succession at a conference on Friday.

Surprisingly Lubin agreed, never mind that the two were discussing the matter onstage in front of a sizeable audience at a Nasdaq conference.

But even this wasn’t enough to make Seidenberg spill the beans because, as he said,  setting a date would create issues. The executive did say that he would “stay until the board decides it needs a change” causing us to wonder if  this means he’s hoping to work for as long as possible.