By James Pilcher, Enquirer staff writer
Cincinnati Bell will unveil Monday a new calling plan, allowing
unlimited calls to and from any Bell wireless or land-line number
within the local calling area. All the plans include no contract,
nationwide roaming, unlimited mobile-to-mobile calls, domestic long
distance, voice mail, caller ID, call waiting and unlimited incoming
text messages. Activation fees apply; off peak hours are 9 p.m. to 6
a.m Monday-Friday and weekends.
Here are the details (plans are also available for 1,000 peak minutes
and 3,000 peak minutes):
Plan Unlimited Bell calling Plus 500
Peak mins. Plus 1,500 peak mins.
Monthly rate $39.99 $59.99* $99.99
Nights & Weekends unlimited Unlimited unlimited
Add'l. minute charges 20 cents 40 cents 25 cents
Add'l. users $25/mo. $10/mo.** $10/mo.**
Max. no. of users 5 5 10
* offered at an introductory rate of $49.99 for the first 3 months
** or $25/mo. for a Cincinnati Bell calling user
"In Network?" "Friends & Family?" Cincinnati Bell thinks it's beaten such
The area's main telephone company -- and market leader for cell phone
customers -- Monday will unveil a network and pricing initiative that will
allow wireless subscribers to call any Cincinnati Bell phone, either
land-based or wireless, for one flat monthly fee.
It is thought to be the first program of its kind in the country,
because other regional telephone companies either don't not offer cell
phone service or are too large to pull off such an initiative.
"We are very uniquely positioned for this," said Bell's recently
installed chief operating officer Rodney Dir. "How important is it for
a customer to be able to call potentially up to 2 million other
customers without having it charge against their wireless minutes?"
The move is seen as a way for Bell not only to boost sagging wireless
subscriptions, but also to further defend its primary franchise - its
land-line business, which is under attack from cable companies and
other providers using Internet-based technology for home phones.
"The value of having a land line goes up immediately for people," said
Andy Castonguay, senior analyst with The Yankee Group, a Boston-based
the technology consulting and analysis firm. "It also helps their
branding from a standpoint that it encourages people to understand
Cincinnati Bell as a total entity offers a converged, simple, one-stop
The plan, dubbed "New Rules," calls for wireless customers to pay
about $40 a month for access to the network.
Then all calls to all Cincinnati Bell wireless and land-line phones
are free, as long as they are made within the local calling
area. Calls to customers of other cell phone providers or to land
lines operated by someone other than Bell or outside of the local
network would cost 20 cents a minute. Long distance and roaming remain
But Dir said that customers could pay an additional $20 a month to get
500 out-of-network minutes, adding that the $60 overall plan could be
the company's new "sweet spot."
"Our (revenue per user) for wireless is about $46 today," Dir said.
"This really could raise that, especially since we feel this takes the
worry out of having to make sure you're not going over on your
In addition, Bell is revamping its traditional plans for those
customers who don't want the free-calling feature, lowering its price
for a standard 500-minute plan to about $40, which Dir says offers
more minutes for the money than two of its major competitors in the
market, Verizon and Cingular. And its traditional plans will include
options for up to 6,000 minutes a month, which will cost about $200 a
"And believe me, there are customers out there who want that kind of
plan," said Dir, who previously served as an Atlanta-based vice
president for national retail sales and operations for wireless
Bell lost $3 million in the first quarter, with the wireless division
reporting flat revenues. It also reported that 2.6 percent of its
customers left for other carriers.
Dir said that the effects of the new efforts probably won't be seen
until the fourth quarter, but that the hope is that the new plans will
help build Bell's wireless subscriber base, which in turn could mean
more wireless revenue.
But Castonguay said that the new network plan could keep customers
from wanting to shut off their land lines and just use cell phones or
change home service to other operators such as Time Warner.
"It really capitalizes on that fixed-line network and makes it more
valuable," he said.
Program has risk to Bell
The company already had introduced free calling between Bell wireless
customers, matching programs such as Verizon's "In Network." Bell also
has offered free calls to a specified home number from a Bell cell
phone since late last year.
The extra charge Bell is asking for out-of-network calls could be a
"It's difficult to know how customers will react for that jump from
$40 to $60 for those extra 500 minutes, and that's a gamble," said
"But on the flip side, it could be a big hit with their business
enterprise customers as well."
At the same time Bell is launching the "New Rules," the company is
launching a marketing offensive touting its local wireless network as
the best in Cincinnati.
While saying that the new pricing and network plans as well as the new
ad campaign were positive moves overall, Castonguay said there are
concerns with setting expectations too high for customers.
"Those can be difficult to manage, with people thinking their bill
could be lower and then they call a bunch of out-of-network friends,"
"This is true for all the national wireless guys with major plans.
"Still, this changes the whole value proposition of a home phone line
combined with a cell phone," he said.
Copyright 2005, The Enquirer
NOTE: For more telecom/internet/networking/computer news from the
daily media, check out our feature 'Telecom Digest Extra' each day at
http://telecom-digest.org/td-extra/more-news.html . Hundreds of new
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