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Verizon May Switch From Unlimited to Shared Data

The days of unlimited data usage for Verizon Wireless subscribers is almost coming to a close, as the Big Red Network is expected to introduce tiered pricing plans sometime this summer, essentially forcing faithful subscribers to pay more for less. Goodbye flat fee... we loved you, really.

But the switch may get easier to digest later on, as Verizon plans to roll out additional options like family plans which allow users to share a set amount of data. Verizon Communications Chief Financial Officer Fran Shammo hinted to a family data plan during the Reuters Global Technology Summit, saying that families already share a bucket of minutes for phone calls.

"We had individual minutes for individual users," Shammo said. "Then we eventually got to what we call family share where everyone in the family shares the same minutes. I think it's safe to assume that at some point you are going to have mega-plans (for data) and people are going to share that mega-plan based on the number of devices within their family. That's just a logical progression."

Currently Verizon's roadmap for tiered data pricing is unknown, but may be similar to AT&T's two data offerings: 2 GB at $25/month and 4 GB at $45/month. Shammo stated earlier this year that he could see a potential of Verizon's customer base spending within the $30 to $50 range.

"As smartphone prices come down, more people will be able to afford them. We have to get those customers a sufficient entry point," he said in March. "We're still wrestling with what that entry point is."

Right now Verizon subscribers with family plans are required to pay a $29.99 monthly fee per smartphone for unlimited data – less for Internet-ready "feature" phones that don't qualify in the smartphone category. Still, with three smartphones on one plan, that's an extra $90 per month that users cannot cancel, as Verizon typically forces data plans on Internet-ready phones whether customers want it activated or not.

Tablet users looking for a 3G/4G data plan from Verizon are looking at $20/month for 1 GB. $35/month for 3 GB, $50 for 5 GB and $80 for 10 GB. Tethering and hotspot fees for smartphones and feature phones costs $20/month for 2 GB. While these pricing plans may not reflect what Verizon has in store this summer for subscribers, it provides some insight as to where the company may be headed. Either way, careless subscribers will eventually deepen Verizon's pockets starting this summer.