Why Verizon is funding a wireless competitor, Visible

Why is Verizon Wireless funding the new wireless competitor called Visible? How Visible could impact the wireless industry and Verizon growth going forward.

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Reuters

The wireless industry has grown and changed so much over the last few decades. In the last few years, major wireless brands AT&T Mobility, T-Mobile and Sprint have introduced or acquired several other brands like Cricket, MetroPCS, Boost, Virgin Mobile and more. They have focused on winning and growing in different slices of the wireless pie, and it’s working.

Verizon and Verizon Wireless has been quiet in this space. They tend to take a different route. They are the highest priced wireless service and it looked like things would remain that way. However, now they are doing a deal with Visible that changes all that.

I tend to worry about companies when they let the change wave go on without them. I don’t want the growth wave to pass them by and leave them behind like it did with companies like Blackberry, Nokia and Motorola. Leaders who missed the next change wave and now are struggling.

Verizon is not first. They always delay making the initial move as the wireless industry shifts, however they don’t seem to suffer. In fact, when they do join the rest of the competitors, they seem to catch up quickly and continue to grow.

Verizon Wireless new path with Visible 

AT&T and AT&T Mobility is the innovative force in wireless. They transform the industry direction time and time again. Other carriers tend to follow. Verizon is hardly ever first to market. However, that has not hurt them. In fact, they are stronger than ever.

So, while Verizon doesn’t steer the changes in the industry, when the industry settles on a new direction they do join in, and then they typically maintain their leadership position. This happened a decade ago with the Apple iPhone. They said no, and AT&T Mobility said yes. This gave AT&T the exclusive on selling the iPhone for several years. Something that helped AT&T.

It happened again with the unlimited wars. Every wireless carrier introduced an unlimited plan. That means AT&T Mobility, Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile, Sprint, C-Spire Wireless and others. This helped free the user to the new world of the smartphone and apps. Since then, the app market has grown from a few hundred one decade ago to more than two million today. That’s an incredible jump.

iPhone, Android and unlimited wireless data wars

Then the carriers seemed to drop the unlimited offering after a while. After a few years it was re-introduced by AT&T Mobility and T-Mobile within a couple days of each other. Then Sprint eventually joined the party. It took Verizon Wireless much longer, but they finally joined the group as well.

So, Verizon seems to change slower than their competitors. They like to maintain their current plans and numbers as long as possible. Then, when the writing is on the wall, they eventually make their move and join their competitors.

This has been the Verizon strategy for as long as I can remember, and while I initially thought this was a mistake, it has not hurt them. In fact, they are still a wireless powerhouse and take on the changing industry on their own terms.

Verizon strategy with Visible

That’s what I think is happening with Visible. Visible is a wireless company formed by ex-Verizon executives. Because they are well known to Verizon management, I think it made it easier to get funding from Verizon.

This reminds me how AT&T Mobility executive Jennifer VanBuskirk started her own pre-paid wireless company several years ago under the AT&T master brand. AT&T saw the long-term benefit and kept VanBuskirk as CEO of this new company which is now called Cricket.

Cricket has grown and changed over the last several years, but it is a wireless success story. Something I think Verizon wants to duplicate with Visible.

If successful, I think Verizon will ultimately acquire Visible. But it will be on Verizon schedule. Remember, a decade ago when they said they would never acquire Worldcom, but they eventually did. So, like with Cricket and AT&T, if successful I also see Visible eventually being acquired by Verizon.

Who is Visible in the wireless space?

Visible is a company started by ex-Verizon executives. Don’t know much about the company yet. Then again, no one does. I believe they are an MVNO. This lets them sell wireless services under a completely separate business model. Verizon already has prepaid services.

In this way Visible is similar to what AT&T has been doing with AT&T Mobility, Cricket and other brands. Or what T-Mobile has been doing with MetroPCS, or Sprint with Virgin Mobile and Boost. Each has their own brand identity in the marketplace. Each uses the network of their owner, so the service quality is known.

It’s just the pricing and service model that’s different for each slice of the pie. Wireless started out as one big pie. Over time, new slices have been created like pre-paid. More slices get introduced over time. Visible is one more slice to the wireless pie.

Visible only offers service on the iPhone initially. It’s surprising that they are starting their life in only one half of the market. But I expect the Android will not be far behind.

You can pay your bill using a credit card, PayPal or Venmo. I believe you can cancel anytime with no penalty because the service is contract-free. To sign up, you have to download an app, enter the code and they will ship a card to you for your phone.

Verizon Wireless growth strategy going forward

So, while Verizon Wireless has always been the priciest wireless option, apparently, they see value in a new slice of the wireless pie since I am told this will cost $40 per month. They are growing in several different directions. Remember their acquisition of AOL and Yahoo.

The brand relationship is key. That’s what Verizon has used all along. They have built a strong brand identity in the wireless marketplace. Today, there are many different customers who use wireless in different ways and like to pay for it differently. Now there is another slice.

It will be very interesting to see how well Visible does in the marketplace. How well they will market, advertise, price and service their customers in this new slice of the wireless pie.

So, to Verizon, welcome to this new slice of the wireless pie. It’s good to see you join this new area. This is an active environment with lots of competitors, prices and options. As you have always done in the past, even though you aren’t first, you are always a leader.

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