Verizon Wireless, the No. 2 U.S. mobile service, plans to offer new options for customers who pay for calls in advance and the company will send advertising alerts to subscribers who ask for the information, according to marketing chief Mike Lanman.
The executive also promised an upgrade to the company's mobile broadcast television service, during a recent interview during which he demonstrated new gadgets for the 2007 holiday season.
Lanman said the venture of Verizon Communications and Vodafone Group Plc is planning to start telling customers in October about new options for prepaid services, with an aim to reach out to customers who use cell phones either more or less than average.
We want to address a broader range of the prepaid market than we do today, he told Reuters. We have very happy customers in the mid range ... There are customers that have infrequent usage that we'd like to address and there are customers that have higher volume requirements that we'll address.
Lanman did not give details of the new options, which will be widely available in November, but he drew the line at offering unlimited prepaid usage plans to rival those of Leap Wireless and MetroPCS, at least for now.
Don't look for us to be in that business this year, he said.
The U.S. prepaid market has long been dominated by specialist players such as America Movil's Tracfone and Virgin Mobile USA, a venture of Sprint Nextel and Richard Branson's Virgin Atlantic Airways.
Verizon Wireless is a relatively small player in the prepaid market as it gets the majority of its customers to commit to contracts and pay monthly bills. But as most people already have cell phones, prepaid services are expected to create the strongest growth in coming years.
Lanman also ruled out offering advertising sponsored services to customers any time soon, but he said Verizon Wireless plans to offer new options for mobile ads in the coming year.
Advertisers and media companies have been clamoring to buy promotional time on wireless devices, many of which are now equipped for Web surfing and text messaging.
Service providers have been slow to take advantage of the demand and have mostly limited such advertising to banners on Web sites, citing worries about crowding the small screens of cell phones with unwanted information.
Lanman believes he has found a way to avoid upsetting customers by asking them what they like.
We're going to be very smart and talk to our customers about what they want, he said.
Verizon Wireless will send its customers alerts on subjects they have signed up for in advance, he said.
For example a customer who has signed up for location based services such as driving directions, could ask to be alerted when coming close to a branch of a favorite coffee shop.
Or perhaps a customer wants to be a alerted when a certain type of handbag goes on sale at a certain store.
We'll make it easy for the customer. We'll develop the relationships and the customers will select which relationships they're interested in, Lanman said.
The executive also alluded to new features for its broadcast mobile TV service, delivered by Qualcomm unit MediaFlo USA.
He gave no details beyond saying that the upgrade was targeted for late October and would work on phones including the LG Electronics Voyager, which Verizon Wireless unveiled on Wednesday and is set to go on sale in November.