By Kate Kellogg, The Washington TimesRead more"We're looking at a situation where a large part of the market is still not paying for internet service and they're looking to take advantage of a situation that we think could help a lot of people in rural areas," said Steve Kestler, an analyst with Forrester Research, who tracks wireless broadband."It's a bit like the cellphone market in the 1990s, w...
Verizon Wireless (VZ) is trying a different tack.
On Friday, the telecommunications company announced that it would be cutting off its unbranded Firefly Internet service and making it available only through a bundle of Verizon’s other offerings, such as voice and data, starting July 6.
The move follows a merger of Verizon with T-Mobile US.
The company also announced that all Firefly customers will be able to get access to a limited number of other Verizon services as well, including its broadband plans.
Verizon also has launched a limited beta version of its own unbranded broadband product.
A promotional video for Firefly shows a futuristic device that could offer users high-speed internet service and unlimited data.
However, Verizon also said that its broadband offerings are not designed to compete with Firefly’s plans.
“We’ve never done anything like this before.
We’ve never tried to sell people an unbranded product.
That’s the wrong way to do it,” Verizon Wireless CEO Lowell McAdam told reporters at a conference.
In a blog post, Verizon said that it had decided to make its un-branded service available in part because it was trying to address customer complaints that Verizon was not providing broadband access to everyone in the country.
Verizon said it would offer a limited trial of the service and then make it available through its new bundle.
Verizon said that customers who have purchased the Firefly bundle and are using it for data will also be able access the same bundle of other services as soon as July 6, though it did not provide a timetable for how long.
According to Verizon, the Fireflies offer is the same as the unbranded products offered by AT&T (T) and Sprint (S) that customers have used for years.
Verizon has previously said that the un-owned Firefly was a “troubled” product and would not work on Verizon’s 4G LTE network.
But Verizon’s announcement was met with criticism from Internet activists, who pointed out that the Fire flies service was only available to a subset of its customer base.
“The Firefly is not a great product.
And Verizon has been pushing the same crap for years that T-Mo and Sprint have been pushing for years,” said David Cole, a Verizon Wireless spokesman.
More than 2 million customers in the US have signed up for the Fireflies, which come with unlimited talk and text and a $20 data fee per month.
Verizon is also offering a limited “franchise” version of the product that includes a $10 data fee and a monthly $5 data fee, according to the company.
“Verizon is not providing the best broadband in the world for all its customers,” said Sam Kaplan, a policy analyst at the Free Press, a consumer advocacy group.
“The Fireflies are simply not a high-quality service and the only way they’ll be able make the switch is if Verizon is selling them more bundles.”