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Verizon Wireless Adds Alltel's 'Circle' To Its Free Call Plan

The mutual calling plans like Verizon's Friends & Family have been an extremely successful promotion in the cell phone industry.
Verizon Wireless' acquisition of Alltel, completed last month, seems to be paying dividends to Verizon's existing customers, who now qualify for free calling among friends and family in a plan similar to Alltel's "My Circle" plan.

Announced Tuesday, Verizon's plan -- appropriately called Friends & Family -- gives certain Verizon customers the right to identify five or 10 numbers (depending on their Verizon calling plan) for free calling. Verizon noted that minutes used by members of the calling group won't count against their plan minutes.

"For the first time our customers can take control over their personal calling plans," said Mike Lanman, VP and chief marketing officer for Verizon Wireless, in a statement. "And since there are no long-distance charges, those numbers can be anywhere in the country."

Alltel's My Circle offering has been popular among its users, and Verizon would have had a problem eliminating it. So by extending the plan under a different name to its existing customers, it will continue to offer the same service to former Alltel customers, too.

The mutual calling plans have been an extremely successful promotion in the cell phone industry. T-Mobile's similar "myFaves" promotion has been a key reason for the company's impressive subscriber growth. "We continue to add high-quality customers to our ranks and myFaves is a key reason why," said T-Mobile USA CEO Robert Dotson in 2007.

Verizon said its customers can sign up for the Friends & Family service beginning Sunday. To qualify, customers must have a Verizon Wireless Nationwide Single Line plan with 900 or more Anytime Minutes or a Nationwide Family SharePlan with 1,400 or more Anytime Minutes.

Verizon said it plans to offer business customers similar Friends & Family plans later this quarter. The business offering will be able to be managed by customers' My Business online account management tool, the company said.

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