That didn’t last very long: Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ), with just one month of iPhone sales under its belt, plans to phase out unlimited data plans this summer, right around the time Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) is expected to launch the iPhone 5.
Bloomberg caught comments by Verizon’s Fran Shammo, the company’s chief financial officer, during a conference held by Morgan Stanley in which he said unlimited data plans for the iPhone are “not a long-term solution” and said Verizon plans to end the practice this summer. It’s not clear if existing Verizon iPhone customers on unlimited data plans will be able to keep their plans, as AT&T (NYSE: T) allowed unlimited data plan iPhone customers to do when it also announced plans to phase out the practice last summer.
It’s also not clear how much the new Verizon plans will cost, although Shammo said that he expects the majority of Verizon’s data customers to eventually spend between $30 a month and $50 a month, according to the report. Verizon currently offers a $29.99 a month unlimited data package for all of its 3G smartphones, including the iPhone.
The report implied that Verizon’s new plans will only apply to iPhone customers. A Verizon representative did not immediately respond to a request for clarification, but the company had hinted such a move was coming after its event in January to introduce the iPhone on Verizon’s network, telling reporters the unlimited plans would be available for an unspecified “limited time.”
However, the details and timing of this strategy are certainly interesting, not just because Verizon has only been selling the iPhone for a month, but because if Apple’s usual summer iPhone rollout strategy is in store for this year, the new plans could be timed to arrive along with that device. Data consumption has gone up every year that a new iPhone has been announced, and at some point Verizon probably concluded that unlimited plans stop making business sense at a certain level of consumption, perhaps one tied to the iPhone 5.
Shammo wouldn’t divulge how many iPhone 4 units Verizon has sold since sales began in early February.
UPDATE: A Verizon Wireless representative declined to elaborate on Shammo’s comments but pointed out this transcript of his comments (PDF).