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Verizon to Launch "Friends & Family"

This Sunday, February 15th, Verizon will launch a new feature on select rate plans called "Friends & Family". Similar to programs at T-Mobile (MyFaves) and Alltel (My Circle) -- now owned by Verizon -- customers will be allowed to select a group of numbers to whom they can make and receive calls, without the airtime counting against their monthly allowance. It will be available to both new and existing Verizon customers. Eligible single line plans will be able to choose 5 numbers, while eligible family plans can select 10 numbers.

MyRatePlan Analysis: As is usually the case with new wireless plan benefits, this one is more marketing smoke than actual fire. Few people will actually see their bills reduced. In fact, because the feature is not available on single lines under $59.99 or family plans under $89.99, the real winner will be Verizon --- they will see a modest bump in their average customer revenue, an important financial metric in the wireless industry.

The new program should also yield higher profit per customer for Verizon, as the benefit for most customers will be minimal. For example, let's take a look at a Verizon $59.99 plan. Today, this plan offers 900 anytime minutes, free unlimited nights and weekends and free unlimited mobile-to-mobile calling to the more than 80 million Verizon and Alltel wireless customers. This means there is no benefit whatsoever until a customer on that plan reaches their 900 minute allowance and makes a subsequent call that isn't already free. Put another way, if you already have a plan with 900 minutes and you aren't paying overage charges --- move along, there's nothing to see here.

By the way, some may find the term "Friends & Family" familiar --- it was a discount long distance program offered by MCI beginning in the early 90's. Verizon acquired MCI, and the "Friends & Family" brand name in early 2005.