Verizon Wireless spokeswoman Brenda Raney went into cleanup mode on Thursday after Verizon Communications CFO Fran Shammo said that long-time customers will be kicked off their unlimited data plan once they upgrade their phone to a new model. That's still the case to some degree, but doesn't mean unlimited data plans are gone for good.
Last year Verizon decided to terminate its unlimited data package for new customers, but current customers could still keep unlimited flow indefinitely. Shammo indicated that, in an effort to shift its business over to 4G LTE, "grandfathered" customers upgrading their phone will be forced into a shared data package with data caps once the new plan launched later this summer.
"A lot of our 3G base is on unlimited," Shammo said during the 40th J.P. Morgan Technology, Media and Telecom conference. "When they migrate off 3G they will have to go to data share. That is beneficial to us."
However Raney is now saying that "grandfathered" customers who pay full price for their new phone will be able to keep their unlimited data service plans for a flat fee of $30 per month, just like they do now. However those who subsidize their phone -- or rather, pay roughly $200 up front leaving Verizon to eat the rest of the device's cost -- won't have the option of unlimited data. That means the sparkly new $200 iPhone 4G will cost $650 instead, and the Droid 4 will cost $550 instead of the discounted $200.
Raney said that Verizon will enforce the new capped shared data plan on customers whether they're upgrading to a 4G LTE device, or merely shifting to a newer 3G phone. Verizon believes that a shared data plan will be better for everyone, preventing the "data hogs" from jamming up the data highways. The company has yet to officially announce the shared data plan pricing, but those who pay for capped data packages per line shell out $30 a month for 2 GB of data, $50 for 5 GB and $80 for 10 GB.
This move could potentially drive business to smaller rival Sprint Nextel. The company claims that it is the only national wireless carrier offering truly unlimited data for smartphones. Customers can sign up for Sprint’s Everything Data 450 plan with Any Mobile, Anytime for $79.99 per month which supposedly includes unlimited data, unlimited texting, and unlimited calling to and from any mobile in America.
"You are probably wondering how that compares to other options," the company writes. "Here is one example to consider. This Sprint plan offers a savings of $40 per month versus Verizon’s comparable plan with unlimited talk, text and 2 GB Web, or $10 per month savings versus Verizon’s 450-minute plan with unlimited text and 2 GB Web (excludes taxes and surcharges).
"We realize that a lot of consumers are keeping a close watch on their family budgets so the value of Sprint plans definitely is important. We also know, though, that many will appreciate the worry-free aspect of an unlimited plan with Sprint."