If you have watched TV at all over the last year you are almost certain to have seen a Sprint commercial with the guy formerly employed by Verizon as their pitchman. As it turns out, his contract with Verizon had expired, and Sprint asked him to try out their service. He now is a Sprint user and ad man for the company.
This is just one of the more unusual stories that surround the nation’s provider of the highest quality wireless services. That quality comes with a pricey tag to go along with it, but as with any product or service, it’s not for everyone. There are a number of things you may not know about Verizon, the company, and its operation. The following list explores some of the more interesting truths.
If you learn anything from this list is that Verizon does not do things helter-skelter. Even their name is not something that was created from somebody who was drunk at a bar or looking to create an advertising brand. There are some things they have learned to accept the hard way, but generally know what it takes to be a continually successful company. As one of the Big 4 telecommunication companies - the others being AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile – it is the company with the greatest 4G LTE coverage and the most reliable data connections. Even for the average consumer, these are qualities we have come to expect from our ISP, and Verizon has a stellar record of giving consumers and businesses the services they demand.
Here are 20 fun facts you might not know about Verizon:
1. Verizon lost 400,000 customers in the 6 weeks before it launched unlimited data.
Those were 6 weeks in the first quarter of 2017, with many of those customers migrating to T-Mobile. Insider information says that if it weren’t for the loss of the 400k customers, they would have stuck with the limited data plans. Prior to moving to unlimited data, the average plan would have given you 6 Gb of data a month, tacking on $15 for every Gb you went over the limit. It was a cash cow for Verizon, and you can see how they held out to the very end before making the switch to unlimited plans. Be sure to thank T-Mobile and Sprint for squeezing Verizon so hard it squealed.
2. That 400,000 customer exodus cost the company $2.5 billion in the first quarter of 2017 alone.
For the 4th quarter period ending December 31, 2016, Verizon raked in $32.34 billion. At the end of the 2017 1st quarter financial reporting, that revenue dropped to $29.8 billion. That loss, carried over for the entire year would have cost the company $10 billion is lost revenue – if not more. When Verizon finally “gave in” and stopped hemorrhaging customers, by the end of the 3rd quarter 2017 it returned to it more “normal” revenue of $31.7 billion for the quarter.
3. Verizon had its origins from an AT&T phone company.
For those who are too young to have been a part of this history, AT&T was such a dominant force in the 1970’s that the Federal government stepped in and ordered it to be broken up into pieces. It was classified as a monopoly, and the smaller pieces were called “Baby Bells.” While some cite the fact that AT&T was formed in 1893 and make the connection there, the Baby Bells would not have existed if it weren’t for the government order.
4. Verizon’s 2015 revenue from IoT devices and services was a reported $690 million.
If you have been paying attention to the media technology section, you have heard for the last few years that the IoT (Internet of Things) was coming. There is some commotion about individual privacy and the potential for hackers to access the data on your new IoT engineered microwave or television. Well, the IoT is already here, and Verizon has already posted a profit of nearly $700 million from its existence. Imagine what that number will be in 5 years.
Update: The more recent revenue from IoT has surpassed $1 billion.
5. Verizon has the least loyal customers of the 4 major telecomm companies
The company may have the broadest 4G LTE coverage but it also has the highest number of customers who are ready to flee for a better deal. In most cases, the flight will be the result of paying too much for too little compared to its Big 4 competitors. Its massive coverage definitely gives it an advantage since some businesses and homes are cornered into using Verizon because they are the only show in town. But once an alternative is available, customers flee in droves. The company with the most loyal customers? T-Mobile.
6. Less than half of Verizon’s outstanding stock shares are owned by the public.
The vast majority of Verizon’s stock is owned either by mutual funds or other companies. Why is that such a big deal? Because its day-to-day operations and long term goals are less likely to be influenced by its customers (the public). This is one reason why it was the last of the Big 4 telecommunications companies to offer unlimited data plans. It took losing literally hundreds of thousands of customers before they cried “Uncle!” and changed their ways. This can be both a bad thing and a good thing, because while it can cause management to be unreasonably stubborn, it can also act to insulate the company from too much public pressure.
7. Verizon cannot be accused of not paying its fair share of taxes as a corporation.
The company pays billions of dollars in taxes every year, much of which goes to supporting and improving the existing communication infrastructure that has become such a hot political topic. Its 2014 tax payment was $7.2 billion. What has not been made clear is whether part of those tax numbers comes from the mandatory taxes each customer pays to use their smartphone or other digital device. Those are federally mandated taxes and are earmarked for infrastructure maintenance and repair. But even if that is true, the company cannot be accused of hiding behind tax laws and paying zero dollars in taxes.
8. The company’s name actually has a real meaning.
When Bell Atlantic (a Baby Blue company) and GTE merged, its name came from the combination of a Latin word and an English word. The Latin word is “veritas” which translated means “truth.” The second is the English word “horizon.” The combination defines its corporate values, according to the company. It is a futuristic view of the company as it strives to be a company that conducts its business with integrity and respect, and always have a view of imagination and passion that can be seen just over the horizon.
9. Verizon has decided that copper wire is on the way out – permanently.
Less than 1 million Verizon customers were being served using copper wire, replacing it with the high speed, fiber optic technology. You can have a number of different perspectives on this change in technology, but what most people don’t know is that there is no turning back. This little tidbit of information comes from a cable installer who was transitioning an area in my old neighborhood. That means for many people who have Verizon as their only choice of telecomm carrier, they will have to pay the high speed rates or have nothing at all.
10. Your Verizon transfer of service request does not have to be acted on immediately.
Customers who want to transfer their phone service to another person (for example, when a couple are dating and have one bill for two phones, then break up) need to call and go through a transfer of accountability process. It begins with making a phone call and answering several questions necessary to complete the process. What isn’t made clear is that the request is available to the other person for a 30 day period. So if you submit the request, then change your mind, the other person still has 30 days to make the switch whether you like it or not.
11. Verizon is actually helping one of its competitors.
Verizon does some unusual things, but helping your competitors? The “help” that Verizon is giving comes in the form of supporting a rule that favors Google Fiber: allowing an ISP to attach their own wires on a utility pole without waiting for other providers to move theirs. This is another thing that most people could care less about. But for Google, this had cramped their expansion of the Google Fiber network. According to Verizon, it can take between 6 months and a year for the approval process to be completed, which is insane. If you are wondering why Verizon is being so nice, the reason is they are planning to do a ton of expansion for their own fiber cable network. It obviously is not afraid of Google or will remind Google of this “favor” down the road.
12. In both pay and benefits, Verizon is one of the best places to work.
This may seem like a promo ad for the company, but its on the record data shows that it pays its employees very well, especially when compared to its Big 4 competitors. Those benefits are not limited to its current workforce but extends to its retirees, something that has for the most part been forgotten about. There are almost 400,000 working and retired employees who are benefitting from the company’s commitment to provide an excellent benefit and retirement package. If you were wondering why Verizon customer service representatives are usually so happy, now you know why.
13. Verizon encourages its employees to play an active role in their community.
This can be a double edged sword. On the one side is where Verizon encourages community involvement with charitable organizations, which is a good thing. The numbers show that its employees logged more than 400,000 hours as volunteers helping in their communities across the nation. The other side of the sword is whether that “encouragement” is combined with a subtle message that connects the community service to advancement or even keeping your job. That would make it equivalent to being forced to join a union or buy tickets to a political event you have no interest in attending. It also seems to hint that a Verizon employee is a Verizon employee longer than just their 8 hour working day, otherwise why is the company keeping statistics on this?
14. Investing in drone technology is up on its list of future projects.
Verizon’s investment and profit in the IoT devices and services was mentioned earlier, but their interest has extended to drone technology. It has already laid a foundation for profiting from the future of drones by its purchase of Skyward, which has a suite of tools that can track drones, manage pilot records, and handle the assortment of paperwork that will likely be necessary once the drone demand is fueled up. It has been working with Sierra Wireless and American Aerospace Technologies to develop apps for drones. Add to this list NASA, which it hopes to build a drone monitoring partnership with.
15. Verizon still has a landline business.
This is somewhat surprising given its commitment to pulling up the copper wiring and dropping in the fiber optic cable. The reasons aren’t quite clear, but there are areas of California, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, Florida, Texas, and Washington, D.C. where landline service is still available. These might be areas where Verizon doesn’t have the 4G LTE capabilities, or it may be there are logistical problems that are more related to physical geography than a willingness to fold up its landline business.
16. Verizon has a definite interest in being involved in the self-driving car technology movement.
We call them connected cars, but Verizon wants to do much more than simply make GPS navigation and Internet connectivity available to car buyers. The company’s interest in drones was mentioned earlier, and being directly involved with autonomous travel by car is actually a natural next step. It has opened its own division to pursue the technology by purchasing Telogis, which creates applications for cloud-based telematics, compliance, and navigation systems – all currently used by the major auto manufacturers. What is not often thought of when discussing the self-driving car is that there will be a telecommunication company directing that car. Verizon sees this as a huge opportunity - and the future of driving.
17. Verizon did not always include Verizon Wireless as part of its offerings.
This is a fact that can be easily forgotten when everything digital almost always requires some type of wireless service connected to it. Even “The Price is Right” doesn’t give away smartphones without a one year data plan included. Verizon had paid $130 billion to acquire a once common household name in cellular – Vodafone. Those who remember Vodafone know it was one of the more reliable wireless carriers around, so the risk Verizon took in buying out the company was low. One important point to make with this idea is that Verizon does not have the history of other companies that are buying pieces of new technologies through acquisition, but focus on making long term strategic purchases like Vodafone.
18. It supports the nation’s infrastructure every single day through investment.
We often don’t give a second thought to connecting to the Internet or making a phone call because that’s what we pay for. We only notice the reliability of the network when it isn’t working. That fact means we are not aware of Verizon’s investment of $45 million every day of the week to maintain, improve, and innovate those network connections we depend on so much. The company’s total annual investment is just under $17 billion. When you think about the fact it has an annual gross profit of more than $17 billion, it is staggering how much money flows through the company every day and every year.
19. Verizon and the Fortune 500 have a strong connection.
It just happens that Verizon does business with 97 percent of the Fortune 500 companies. The math says that leaves only 15 of the 500 that have chosen to go in a different direction for their telecommunication needs. It also shows that the individual customer, while being wooed to come to Verizon, is not likely a major concern for the company’s bottom line. It definitely wants to retain those individual customers, but as was seen with its offer of the unlimited data plan to customers, it takes a lot to prioritize the one-phone customer.
20. As the meaning of its name suggests, it holds to conservative values.
In today’s politically charged climate, it is easy to alienate your customer base by taking the wrong side of the issue in their eyes. Verizon has a history of doing the “politically incorrect” thing but that apparently hasn’t hurt its business or profitability. It blocked messages from a pro-choice group in 2007. It got politically active by sponsoring a rally organized by a pro-coal group in West Virginia that maintained climate change was an overblown issue. It once had a tech news website, Sugarstring, that it pulled the plug on because it ran what it considered to be too many articles on the issues of net neutrality and the surveillance issues. It should be pointed out there is nothing wrong with a company in the 21st century taking a political stance. After all, companies are people too. The question is whether those positions affect the company’s bottom line. Thus far, in Verizon’s case, it has not.
After looking at all these facts, what can be said about Verizon and its unquestionable success? The first, and perhaps the most important thing, is that it takes care of its people. That includes the frontline employees as well as its retirees. Companies, especially tech companies, try to steal the best talent every day from other companies. By prioritizing the people who do the work they build themselves a shield that reduces the possibility of their best talent jumping ship.
A second consideration is that the company seems to do everything with a specific purpose and plan in mind. That even comes down to its company name, which ends up being part of its corporate mission statement. Thus far there haven’t been any major company scandals that have draped the front covers of online magazines. It’s possible they have kept the instances of improper conduct well hidden, but you can make the case that is the result of a great PR department and corporate culture that values integrity.
A third thought is that Verizon is structured in such a way where its business decisions are sheltered from the political chaos that affects so many other companies today. There are several reasons for this. First is the minority stock holdings of public investors, making potential shareholder “uprisings” that will negatively affect the company’s brand far less likely. Another aspect is that as it has the business of 485 of the Fortune 500 companies’ telecomm business, it provides it with a layer of revenue security. You or I can move to another carrier if we are really upset with the service, but for a business to do that on a whim is nearly impossible. Contractual agreements are part of it, but restructuring your entire business operations is quite another issue.
Perhaps the most ironic thing about Verizon is that is has jumped ahead of its corporate “mother,” AT&T. There are only the Big 4 telecomm companies left, and there is reason for Sprint and T-Mobile to be concerned as their recently attempted merger fell through. That would leave Verizon and AT&T to go head to head, which unfortunately would not be in the best interests of consumers. But it does show that Verizon is a force today and in the future. Telecommunications will be an essential industry for at least the next 100 years, as everything from the appliances we use at home to the self-driving cars and drones of the future will be dependent on telecomm service providers. Is it possible for Verizon to face the same challenges as its corporate “mother” a decade from now?
Written by Garrett Parker
Read more posts by Garrett Parker