BellSouth, SBC to Link Land, Cell Minutes
ATLANTA (AP) _ BellSouth Corp. and SBC Communications Inc. will soon let customers buy a single bucket of minutes that they can use either on their home phones or their Cingular Wireless cell phones, the latest incarnation of a telecommunications industry trend toward packaging services together.
The idea would let cell phone customers take advantage of unused wireless minutes on their clearer and more reliable landlines. Incoming calls to home wireline phones will not deduct from the bucket of minutes.
The plan is designed to keep customers from switching to other carriers in an increasingly competitive market. Cingular is a joint venture of Atlanta-based BellSouth and San Antonio-based SBC.
``Customers love simplicity and hate having to think all the time and count minutes,″ said telecom analyst Jeff Kagan. ``This allows the customer to stop thinking and just make the call. It’s an important step along the way toward a fully integrated, flat-rate, all-you-can-eat-world that telecom is moving toward.″
He said the effort, called MinuteShare by the three companies, could increase sales, boost revenue and profitability per customer and reduce churn, the rate at which customers switch carriers.
``We will see other carriers offering similar shared buckets of minutes in coming months,″ Kagan said. ``It’s a solid trend, not a fad.″
Sprint Corp. is already testing an offer of unlimited local, long distance and wireless minutes for $150 and up. The offer is available in 35 states and the District of Columbia.
A trial of the MinuteShare plan is underway in Texas, with customers who already had SBC local and long-distance service and Cingular wireless service.
MinuteShare service will be sold through the companies’ call centers and retail outlets. Prices for the service have not been disclosed.
SBC shares gained 35 cents to $26.53 on the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday. BellSouth fell 14 cents to $26.89.