April 21, 2006
The “Friends and Family" plan popularized by MCI more than a decade ago has come to wireless callers. Alltel will now allow anyone spending $59.95 or more on their calling plans to have a feature called “My Circle,” allowing the caller to make unlimited free calls to 10 phone numbers.
These calls will not be part of the allotment of minutes calculated in a calling plan.
Even though other carriers have plans that offer free calling at select times or within their respective networks this new initiative from the Nation’s number 5 wireless provider will allow callers to take advantage of calling at any time and to callers on any network.
I believe this plan will likely be successful as there are many callers that cannot control the phone networks of their friends and family members.
In addition this sort of plan makes sense to offer because customers perceive they are getting something for free – even though they are paying $59.95/month.
It is too soon to know if this sort of plan will have any impact on fixed line telephony as many VoIP providers already provide unlimited calling for a flat rate. Perhaps if VoIP rates continue to fall, a plan like this will be rolled out by popular VoIP providers as well.
In the end the phone businesses is becoming more and more commoditized and new service offerings and marketing ideas such as this are healthy. Customers will always spend more on service if service providers are able to find the right customer hot-buttons to push.