Verizon's 'Friends & Family' plan offers less for more

Verizon Friends & Family plan can't compete with Alltel's My Circle in either pricing or benefits.

Now that Verizon Wireless has swallowed Alltel, Alltel customers are on the edge of their seats waiting to see how the carrier will integrate its new minion. Naturally, the future of Alltel's popular "My Circle" plan is a top concern--who wouldn't like an option for unlimited calling for up to 10 numbers? But if Verizon's "Friends & Family" announcement is a sign of how the integration will proceed, then I fear for my Alltel friends.

On Wednesday, Verizon unveiled a new My Circle-esque option that will allow unlimited calling to a select group of numbers, even landlines. Starting February 15, "Friends & Family" (does anyone else think of MCI?) will give single line users up to 5 numbers and family line users up to 10 numbers.

As with My Circle, you'll be able to call your friends and family members as often as you'd like without deducting minutes from your monthly allowance. Sound good? Well, in a way it is convenient, but a comparison with Alltel's MyCircle shows that Friends & Family is more expensive.

To be eligible for the plan, Verizon customers on a single line must have a minimum plan of $59.99 per month for 900 anytime minutes. Yet, Verizon's cheapest single plan offers 450 anytime minutes for $39.99. Family users must have a minimum plan of $89.99 per month for 1,400 anytime minutes, which leaves out the cheapest family plan of $69.99 per month for 700 anytime minutes.

On the other hand, Alltel's cheapest plan for five My Circle contacts is $49.99 per month for 750 anytime minutes. What's more, for $59.99 per month, Alltel users get 10 My Circle contacts. It's a similar situation with family plans. The cheapest family plan is $84.99 per month for 1,000 anytime minutes and 10 My Circle members.

Though it's worth noting that Friends & Family doesn't require a surcharge, it's disappointing that Verizon isn't matching Alltel's My Circle. Though getting less for more may be fine for Verizon customers who have never had such an option, it won't sit well for Alltel folks if they're forced to switch over. Lets hope that won't be the case. For now, Verizon says that won't be the case. But things can change.

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