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Verizon Wireless Fighting Back

Verizon Wireless has long contended it wouldn’t be dragged into the price-war mud, but it has stepped cautiously into the mud up to its ankles.

Last month, the carrier launched a deal offering $200 in the form of a gift card to newcomers who trade in their existing smartphone and buy a new model on an installment-payment plan. Consumers also get a $100 bill credit for a total incentive of $300.

On Friday, the top carrier by subscriber count unveiled a simpler rate-plan structure that cuts the price of some access-line charges and some shared-data plans while eliminating other data tiers to simplify choices.

The small, medium, large and extra-large plans launch Aug. 13, all with unlimited talk and text and data sharing for up to 10 devices. The company is also eliminating the option of getting a two-year contract with subsidized-phone prices.

Monthly access charges per phone go to $20/month from $40 for customers who have a contract and from $15 or $25 for phones previously bought on an equipment installment plan. (The Edge name for installment pans is being dropped.) Access charges for mobile hotspots drop to $10/month, down from $20, making the price the same as the price of adding a tablet.

New shared-data plans look like this:

Small:  $30/month for 1GB of shared data, with no change in price.

Medium:  $45/month for 3GB compared to a previous $50 for 3 GB.

Large: $60/month for 6GB compared to a previous $70 for 6GB.

Extra-Large:  $80/month for 12GB of data compared to a current promotional price of $80 for 10GB.

The carrier is dropping shared-data plans of 2GB at $40 and 4GB for $60, though consumers can add an extra 1GB to their plans at an additional $15/month.

The Verizon plans follow increasingly aggressive pricing by Sprint and T-Mobile. Sprint recently launched

a family-plan promotion offering unlimited talk, text, and 10GB of shared data at $100/month and 40GB

of data for $120. The two plans require no per-line access charges on the first four lines when a consumer switches to Sprint.

A new promotional T-Mobile family plan gives each family member 10GB of LTE data without sharing but with unlimited talk and text at a cost of $100 for two users. The cost for each additional family member is $20 more per person, also entitling each person to 10GB of LTE data. For a limited time through Sept. 7, a fourth line can be added for free. The plan significantly increases the amount of LTE data compared to some of the carrier’s existing family plans.

Prediction: AT&T will soon trim pricing, having lost postpaid phone subscribers in its second quarter.