Are Verizon's Share Everything Plans a Counterweight to Apple VoLTE?

Verizon Share Everything Plans, available June 28, may be Verizon’s way of hurrying ahead of Apple’s possible plans for VOIP on LTE, known as VoLTE, according to a new analyst report.

Verizon Wireless€™ Share Everything plans will be available as of this Thursday, June 28, and according to a new report, the timing of the plans is meant to get a step ahead of Apple and others that may offer Internet-based calling plans.

Investor€™s Business Daily cites a June 25 report from Citigroup analyst Simon Weeden, who wrote that as carriers€™ 4G Long-Term Evolution (LTE) networks become ubiquitous, other companies are likely to offer voice over IP (VOIP) services for LTE€”also known as VoLTE.

Calling the new Verizon plans €œradical,€ Weedon told investors, €œVoice and text are both unlimited in a move which anticipates the possibility of Apple extending its iMessage free (texting) plan to voice over IP as well as the improved VOIP capabilities of LTE for other OTT (over-the-top) Internet players.€

Users of Apple iOS devices can turn to Skype and its peers for free VOIP apps, and certainly eventually for VoLTE apps. Why would Apple get more directly involved?

€œThey€™d do it to do what Apple loves to do€”rebuild things according to the way they think it should be done,€ Technology Business Research Senior Analyst Ezra Gottheil told eWEEK. €œNo doubt there are people at Apple sitting around saying, €˜This is awful! We can do so much better than this!€™€

That said, Gottheil believes Apple is less likely to go down that path than to continue to provide a platform on which others can.

€œI don€™t think they€™re the ones to worry about,€ Gottheil added. €œFor the carriers, it€™s really a matter of pricing, more than anything else. They€™re going to a place of basically trying to charge you for data, and to some extent that€™s the correct things to do, because most of their costs have to do with deploying data and the enormous costs of [building out their LTE networks]. What they€™re charging is really a sort of patchwork of costs related to the value you believe you get out of a device.€

Verizon€™s Share Everything plans focus on an account, not a user. Up to 10 devices can be tied to an account, each with a particular charge€”smartphones are $40 each a month, for example, and tablets are $10€”and a data allotment is chosen for the devices to share. A gigabyte is $50 a month, 2GB is $60 and 10GB is $100, with additional options in between. Voice and texting are unlimited, and HotSpot capabilities apply to all capable devices. For families or small business, it€™s expected that the plans will offer some savings; for individuals with few devices, it€™s trickier€”though also not an obligation. Verizon has said publicly that no one will be forced into such a plan.

Still, the plans have upset some consumers, as a Verizon spokesperson has said the carrier expected they would€”though the plans do meet a need to share data, which is something that customers, particularly with the rise in tablet ownership, have been asking for.

Verizon has plans to launch VoLTE services toward the end of 2012, with the real push occurring closer to mid-2013, Verizon CFO Fran Shammo told an audience at a May 16 JP Morgan Chase event.

Shammo explained that VoLTE is not backward-compatible€”it works only on LTE technology, and so will drop a call if a user moves into 3G territory.

€œYou need to have the coverage map that a customer would experience the same on 4G versus 3G, because if we don€™t, we are going to have a lot of dropped calls and ineffective attempts and our customers will not understand why our [4G] network is not as reliable as the 3G network.€

The Verizon brand has been built around reliability and coverage and having the least dropped calls, Shammo explained. €œAnd that is something that is very, very important to us.€

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