By Malathi Nayak
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Verizon Communications Inc <VZ.N>, the No. 1 U.S. wireless provider, said on Wednesday that it would increase plan rates but expand data buckets by 30 percent for its customers, who increasingly stream content through mobile devices.
Starting July 7, the company will roll out a revamped version of its My Verizon mobile app to let customers control data overages and billing, as well as manage plans, it said. Moreover, emulating moves by some of its rivals such as AT&T Inc <T.N> and T-Mobile US Inc <TMUS.O>, it will let customers carry unused data over to the next month and begin offering users on certain plans unlimited text and calling to and from Mexico and Canada.
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The redesigned plans and app come as the company, known for its high-quality network, is locked in a battle for subscribers with competitors in the saturated U.S. wireless market.
Smaller rival Sprint Corp <S.N> has been offering half-off discounts, and T-Mobile has launched free music, video-streaming plans and other customer-friendly offers and free gifts to attract customers away from competitors to their networks.
The new rate plans are meant to help customers tackle data overage costs and "reflect the significant growth in individual data use," Rob Miller, vice president of consumer pricing at Verizon said in a webcast on Wednesday.
Verizon is hiking rates and increasing data across all its plans. For instance, the basic "S" plan will cost $35, a $5 rise, and offer double the data at 2 gigabytes and the high-end "XXL" plan will cost $10 more at $110 and offer 24 gigabytes as opposed to the previous 16 gigabyte limit.
The company also said it will introduce a "safety mode" that protects customers from data overages by slowing down their speeds. The feature is free for those on the "XL" and "XXL" plans and costs $5 for those on the "S", "M", "L" plans, it said.
To tap new revenue beyond its bread-and-butter wireless business, the company has shifted its focus to the advertising-supported Internet business and acquired AOL last June for $4.4 billion. It is seen as the front-runner in bidding for Yahoo Inc's <YHOO.O> core Internet business.
Verizon shares were relatively unchanged at $55.93 in afternoon trading.
(Reporting by Malathi Nayak; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Marguerita Choy)