Saturday, October 25, 2014

Interpreting Verizon's contract buzzwords

I recently upgraded my phone to a new iPhone 6+. It's great, but that's not the point of this article. In reading through the contract information, both before and after signing, I became aware of the fact that my contract has a lot of buzzwords that are not clearly defined.

In Googling for the definitions, I found that it is very hard to find definitions for most of these. As a service to my readers, here are all the line items from my contract, and the best explanation I've found so far for them. Some come from Verizon or from user-forum discussions I ran across. Some are based on my own intuition and understanding of wireless technology.

Corrections are welcome and will help to make the list more complete. I don't promise that it's all correct, but I hope people with specific knowledge will be able to help me improve it and make it correct.

Updated on June 4, 2015, based on reader comments. Thanks much!

Line item Meaning
Line Number This line is my phone number, so I know which line is being described
UPGRADE FEE Verizon charges a $30 fee per line to upgrade to a new phone if you buy it with a 2-year contract. I guess this lets them charge more for the phone while advertising the same price as everybody else.
MORE Everything Unlimited Talk, Text & 6GB This is our contract. We're paying for 6GB of shared data, unlimited talk and texting
Monthly Line Access This is the fixed charge per line ($40 for each of our three smartphones)
Text Messaging Pay Per Message This means we have text messaging support. On the web site, it's listed as "Pay As You Go ($0.20 per message)." The price is misleading - it only applies for texts that go over your plan's allowance and our plan is unlimited.
INTL FROM US MESSAGING $0 According to Verizon the "MORE Everything" includes unlimited text messages from the US to other countries.
MOBILE HOT SPOT TRIGGER $0 According to Verizon the "MORE Everything" includes "mobile hot-spot", allowing you to configure your mobile phone as a Wi-Fi internet access point.
RTR/UC TRIGGER ALP $0 "ALP" means "Account Level Provisioning" - a billing model where there is no primary line, but an "account" charge, and individual line charges. In my case, $80/mo for the 6GB "more everything" plan, and $40 per line for each phone on the contract.

"RTR" is "Real-Time Reporting", which lets you see your usage on the web site and to get real-time alerts as usage passes thresholds (e.g. 75% of data used).

Based on a comment from reader Henry Shen (see below), "UC" means usage control. I assume, therefore, that "UC TRIGGER" is describing the mechanism that allows various external factors to affect what a device can and can not do. For instance, to allow a kid's phone to lose data service after reaching a configured limit, or not allowing a line to make non-emergency calls between midnight and 6:00am every day.

EMAIL TRIGGER ALP $0 According to reader Henry Shen (see comment below), this means that their server will send an e-mail whenever there is a change to the ALP calling plan.
DATA PROVISION ALP This means there is a data-plan provisioned on an "ALP" contract.
Streamlined Billing The paper bill contains a summary of usage. Detailed usage is available from the web site.
Message Waiting Indicator I think this lets your phone display an icon to let you know when your voice mail box has unread messages. I don't think iPhones use this, because of the visual voice mail.
Decline Equipment Protection This appears on two of our phones - we didn't pay for them to replace the phone if it gets damaged. Verizon won't help if repairs are needed out of the warranty period.
Total Equipment Coverage This is on the third phone - Verizon will replace it if it gets damaged out of the warranty period
Caller ID The phone will display the number of incoming calls.
BUSY TRANSFER I believe this means calls are automatically transferred to voice mail if the line is busy at the time.
Conference Calling Allows you to conference multiple calls together.
CALL DELIVERY Verizon describes it only as "The way in which wireless calls are made and received". I think this means the line can receive voice calls. I'm not sure, but I would assume that data-only devices (like a tablet, MiFi or USB dongle) don't have this item and therefore can't receive calls, even though they (I'm told) have a phone number assigned to them.
Call Waiting Allows you to be notified when a call comes in while talking on another call, giving you an opportunity to switch to it and later switch back.
No Answer / Busy Transfer I believe this means calls are automatically transferred to voice mail if the call is not answered quickly enough.
Call Forwarding Allows incoming calls to be immediately forwarded to another number.
Data Roaming USA & Canada This allows data-roaming in Canada, but is not an international data plan. Canadian data is billed by usage and has no bundled data. It appears that some people may have the line "USA ONLY NO ROAM", which means roaming outside of the US will fail (so you'll have no coverage in other countries, instead of having coverage at the expensive roaming rates.)
Pay Per Message This means text messages will be billed. But it's meaningless here because the MORE Everything plan includes unlimited text messages.
DYNAMIC-PRIVATE IP This means the phone is getting a dynamic private IP address. Dynamic means it may change (hopefully only when joining and leaving the wireless data network.) Private means the address is not visible to the internet but is translated to a different address by the router(s) used to connect the phone to the internet.
4G INTERNET ACCESS I believe this means the phone's 4G/LTE data will be routed to the internet.
4G APPLICATION ACCESS I'm not sure what this means. I would assume that applications access the 4G network using the internet access. Maybe it refers to special Verizon apps that don't go through the internet, like those that run on non-smart phones.
PICTURE MESSAGE PROVISIONING I believe this means MMS messages (text messages with image/audio/video attachments) are supported.
4G Mobile Hotspot Provisioning MORE Everything includes mobile-hotspot capability. This is the 4G version.
SHARE NAME ID Allows you to pick the name displayed on Caller ID boxes when receiving your calls. Without this, Verizon Wireless calls all appear as "WIRELESS CALLER". Note that this text only seems to be available to land-line caller ID devices, not to mobile phones.
RTR FOR ALP See VZW Community thread. This stands for "Real-Time Reporting for Account Level Pricing" and refers to the fact that usage is immediately reported on-demand (via the web site) and that you can get alerts when you approach the limits of what you've paid for.
4G PROVISIONING $0 Another line referring to 4G data (included in contract.)
EMAIL ACCESS PDA $0 This will allow e-mail access. I'm not sure why this isn't just a part of the normal internet access.
FamilyBase FamilyBase is a feature that allows a parent to monitor and restrict a child's phone, for a $5 monthly fee.
FAMILYBASE 2ND PARENT $0.00 You can have multiple parents (without restrictions) on a FamilyBase, but only one pays the monthly fee. This item appears on the "second parent" line.
Usage Controls Provisioning Usage limits have been configured (via FamilyBase) for this line. In my case, I've restricted my daughter's data usage to 4GB per month.
FamilyBase Child See above for FamilyBase. This appears on your children's lines
VISUAL VOICEMAIL SPEC Visual voice mail allows you to selectively play and delete voice mail messages with a graphical interface. "SPEC" might mean "special", if the iPhone does this differently from other smart phones (I don't know about this.)
ACCESS - ADVANCED CALLING Advanced Calling is Verizon's buzzword for Voice-over-LTE (VoLTE)
HD Voice This allows higher quality voice calls when using VoLTE (voice over LTE) to call another phone that has VoLTE and HD Voice enabled
ACCESS - HD VOICE I'm not sure how this differs from the "HD Voice" line, above.
Embedded SIM This indicates that Verizon included a SIM card with the order.
Shipping Fee This one is obvious. The shipping charge to deliver my new phone (it was free)


Anonymous said...

Wow, this is incredible. Thank you for taking the time to do this. Very comprehensive. I thought a simple google search would take me to your page but I was getting hits from 2012 for some reason.

Anonymous said...

Thank you-- I was googling for help on why I had "pay as you go" messaging on an unlimited messaging plan, so I appreciate your research and explanation. -Chris

Anonymous said...

Yea< thanks a lot. I was looking at my daughter stuff but you saved me from googling everything!!!

Henry Y. Shen said...

UC: a usage control (UC) service that causes the second device to decrease available bandwidth or a data rate, associated with the session, when the quantity of bandwidth or data used during the session is greater than a threshold.
(This is copied from Verizon's patent doc)

Henry Y. Shen said...

I chatted with Verizon and was told "Email Trigger ALP" simply means an email will be sent to me when there's a change of the current plan. I really don't think such a tiny-teeny "feature" deserves a line there but hey, telecom companies have been playing their mumbo jumbo for more than a century.

Shamino said...

Thanks much, Henry. And my apologies for not approving your comment before now. I must've missed the notification that there were pending comments so I didn't see them until today.

I've updated the article based on your comments.

CRG said...

Thank you!! This is very helpful and was the only place I was able to get real answers about what was on my plan.

plonk420 said...

you should separate these out:
Line Number
MORE Everything Unlimited Talk, Text & 6GB
Monthly Line Access
Embedded SIM
Shipping Fee

...these are different from the others. call center employees see the rest as features on a phone line (be it smartphone, basic, tablet, mifi, connected device)... "SFO"s. and they should be ALL CAPS (at least to look familiar to call center reps). but other than that, good list. i wish i could send you more common ones, but i don't have access to account software, sadly.

Anonymous said...

I have "Roam Alternate Feature" what does this mean and not literally?

plonk420 said...

do you have Travelpass? if so, it's associated with it.