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Verizon’s “Unlimited” Confusion Plus Plan Now Really Means 30 GB Data Cap, Except When Its 50 GB

Verizon wireless plans: now more confusing than ever.

The concept of “unlimited data” rarely means unlimited on mobile plans and it can get very confusing for consumers trying to figure out what each carrier defines as “unlimited.”

Verizon has announced some plan changes that are not helping resolve this confusion.

As of late last week, Verizon introduced a new version of its “Unlimited Plus” plan, which attaches to existing wireless plans for an extra $30 a month. Then, if you would like to connect more devices to your plan beyond your phone, you can sign up for an unlimited connected device plan and upgrade to Unlimited Plus for another $10 a month. If you have a tablet or hotspot, Verizon will sell you another unlimited plan for those for an extra $20 a month.

What? Confusing!

Customers enrolled in the older standard “Unlimited Plus” plan received unlimited data up to 15 GB before a speed throttle kicked in. The new “Unlimited Plus” offers unlimited-unlimited 5G and up to 30 GB of “premium” 4G LTE data. So it appears you get double the unlimited data as well as an infinite amount of 5G service which is probably not provided in your area (or if you turn the corner, or go indoors in an area that has the service). But if you are connecting a hotspot, laptop, or tablet to your plan, then Verizon redefines unlimited again, this time to mean up to 50 GB of 5G data (almost not available anywhere) and then you get speed throttled to 3 Mbps for the rest of the billing cycle, but just on those devices.

Oh by the way, if you have an Apple Watch, Verizon has a plan for that as well, now priced at $10 a month, which gets you 15 GB of premium data, presumably on the watch.

Windstream Emerges from Bankruptcy, Promises More Fiber Broadband

Phillip Dampier September 22, 2020 Consumer News, Rural Broadband, Windstream No Comments

Windstream’s new logo

Windstream has emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy as a new privately held company controlled by Elliott Management Corporation, an activist hedge fund known for squeezing expenses out of companies and eventually selling its stake and exiting the business.

As a restructured company, Windstream shed almost two-thirds of its debt, amounting to more than $4 billion. The company will almost immediately tap $2 billion in new capital, targeting more spending on shedding copper wiring in several of its service areas, replaced by gigabit fiber that will primarily target its business customers. Windstream’s budget to upgrade residential customers is reportedly considerably less, but some customers will see upgrades in the future.

“Today marks the start of a new era for Windstream as an even stronger, more competitive company,” Windstream president & CEO Tony Thomas said in a statement released late Monday. “With the support of our new owners and current operational momentum, Windstream will continue advancing our long-term growth objectives while providing our customers with quality and reliable services.”

Thomas

The most immediate change most customers will notice is a new logo, which the company says aligns with the three segments of the business: consumer broadband, business customers, and wholesale/reseller clients.

Paul Sunu, who used to serve as the CEO of FairPoint Communications before it was sold to Consolidated Communications, is Windstream’s new chairman of the board.

“Tony and the Windstream team have made significant strides in the last 18 months to better position the company to compete for the long term,” Sunu said Monday. “The new board and I are confident that we have the right management team and right strategy to accelerate Windstream’s transformation, return to growth and drive sustainable value creation.”

Windstream was a publicly traded company since its 2006 spinoff from Alltel Corporation. As a private company, it will now answer primarily to its debt holders who acquired the company’s old debt in its bankruptcy.

Peacock Launches on Roku After NBCUniversal Reaches Agreement

Phillip Dampier September 21, 2020 Competition, Consumer News, Online Video, Peacock No Comments

NBCUniversal’s Peacock streaming service app is now finally available on Roku devices and Roku-enabled televisions, almost 10 weeks after the new streaming service launched.

Peacock’s appearance on Roku came after NBCUniversal and Roku reached a deal guaranteeing NBCU’s networks (and corresponding apps for 11 NBCU networks, 12 NBCU-owned local stations, and 23 Telemundo-owned local stations) will remain available on the Roku platform and in return, Roku will support Peacock. The deal was seen as crucial by analysts, because Roku has an installed user base of over 43 million accounts, with an estimated 100 million viewers in households across the country.

“We are pleased that NBC agreed to a very positive and mutually beneficial partnership to bring Peacock to America’s No. 1 streaming platform,” said Tedd Cittadine, Roku’s vice president of content acquisition. “We are excited by the opportunities to integrate NBC content within the Roku Channel while we also work together with Peacock on the development of a significant and meaningful advertising and ad tech partnership. This is a great outcome for consumers and we look forward to growing together with Peacock as they bring their incredible content to the Roku platform.”

Roku is also pleased whenever a significant content provider signs a deal with the company. Roku traditionally takes a 20% cut of all subscription revenue when a customer signs up for a service on the Roku platform. It receives at least 30% of the advertising time on free streaming services, allowing Roku to sell advertising and keep the money. NBCU appeared to be reluctant to accept those terms, and that is likely what caused the delay in debuting Peacock on Roku. Neither party would disclose the terms in the contract. Comcast is the parent company of NBCU.

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said last week Peacock had signed up at least 15 million new users over the last two months. But Roberts would not disclose how many were actually paying for the service. Peacock’s free, ad-supported tier offers over 13,000 hours of classic and current NBC programs, including entertainment, news, and sports. A small catalog of original series and other premium content is also available for $4.99 a month (or $49.99/yr), and users who want it all — without ads — can pay $9.99 a month (or $99.99/yr). Roberts likely needs a much larger subscriber base to make Peacock a viable proposition, making its availability on the Roku platform crucial.

Some analysts fear carriage disputes like this could open a new front in the “retransmission consent” wars, where national and local networks are blacked out when cable or satellite providers refuse to pay their asking prices. If Roku insists on being compensated in return for making services available in its app store and if content providers cannot reach an agreement, services could suddenly disappear, or never appear at all. HBO Max is still unavailable on Roku because parent company AT&T has yet to sign a contract with Roku, and Peacock remains unavailable on Amazon’s Fire TV platform and Samsung’s Smart TVs.

Google Fiber To Offer 2 Gbps Internet for $100/Month

A week after the cable industry signaled it was slowing down speed and system upgrades, Google Fiber has once again antagonized the cable industry with word their customers will soon be able to upgrade to 2 Gbps speeds for $100 a month, $30 more than what customers pay for Google Fiber’s 1 Gbps plan.

Google Fiber is testing its new 2 Gbps tier with interested “trusted testers” in Nashville, Tenn., and Huntsville, Ala., along with a new Wi-Fi 6 router and mesh extender capable of supporting reliable gigabit Wi-Fi speeds. Regular customers in those cities will get access to the faster tier sometime later this year, with Google Fiber and Google Fiber Webpass customers in other cities getting 2 Gbps available in early 2021.

“This year has made this need for more speed and bandwidth especially acute, as many of us are now living our entire lives — from work to school to play — within our homes, creating unprecedented demand for internet capacity,” according to an article on Google Fiber’s blog. “2 Gig will answer that challenge. At $100 a month, it’s double the top download speed of our 1 Gig product (with the same great upload speed) and comes with a new Wi-Fi 6 router and mesh extender, so everyone gets a great online experience no matter where they are in the house.”

Google Fiber also emphasizes the tier will come with no data caps or speed throttling. Google’s announcement may have come in part because cable and phone companies have gotten comfortable with their existing product offerings and have opted to slow down investment in upgrades. Some industry observers predict Comcast, and possibly Charter and Cox will perceive Google’s announcement as a competitive threat and reconsider plans to delay the introduction of DOCSIS 4, which allows cable operators to offer up to 10 Gbps. The announcement also calls out competitors for their anemic upload speeds, which are still a fraction of download speeds on cable broadband platforms. Google Fiber’s new tier will support 2 Gbps uploads.

Google Fiber is enrolling people to help test its 2 Gbps service, starting in Nashville and Huntsville next month and in our other Google Fiber cities later this fall. Customers can join the Google Fiber Trusted Tester program to get early access to the new speed tier.  Sign up here to be among the first to test 2 Gbps in your Google Fiber city.

Verizon Buying Prepaid Mobile Provider Tracfone in $6.25 Billion Deal

Phillip Dampier September 14, 2020 Competition, Consumer News, Reuters, TracFone, Verizon 2 Comments

(Reuters) – Verizon Communications said on Monday it will buy pre-paid mobile phones provider Tracfone, a unit of Mexican telecoms giant America Movil in a $6.25 billion cash and stock deal.

Tracfone, which serves about 21 million subscribers through more than 90,000 retail locations across the United States, said more than 13 million of its subscribers rely on Verizon’s network under an existing agreement. Verizon is the largest U.S. wireless carrier by subscribers.

The U.S. wireless industry is concentrated in the hands of three mobile carriers due to several mergers in recent years: T-Mobile, which in April completed its $23 billion merger with Sprint to solidify its position in the United States; AT&T, and Verizon.

America Movil, which was created from a state monopoly, is Mexico’s largest telecoms operator by far and is controlled by the family of Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, the Latin American nation’s richest man.

Verizon has not historically invested in prepaid compared with its rivals, such as T-Mobile, which revamped its MetroPCS prepaid brand and bought Sprint, which had a large prepaid business.

Verizon’s purchase of Tracfone comes at a time when the pandemic has ravaged the economy and Americans are cutting back on spending.

Tracfone had become popular with the lower end of the ultra-competitive U.S. telecoms consumer market and Verizon plans to provide new products for that segment after this “strategic acquisition,” said Hans Vestberg, chairman and chief executive of Verizon.

“This transaction firmly establishes Verizon, through the Tracfone brands, as the provider of choice in the value segment, which complements our clear leadership in the premium segment,” added Ronan Dunne, executive vice president and group CEO, Verizon Consumer Group.

Shares of Verizon were up more than 1% in morning trading. American Movil shares jumped more than 3.5% when the Mexican market opened.

The deal includes $3.125 billion in cash and $3.125 billion in Verizon stock.

Credit Suisse is acting as financial adviser to Verizon on the deal, which is expected to close in the second half of 2021.

Reporting by Ayanti Bera in Bengaluru and Drazen Jorgic in Mexico City; Additional reporting by Sheila Dang; Editing by Vinay Dwivedi, Will Dunham and Dan Grebler

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