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Verizon phasing out unlimited data as customers switch to 4G

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Updated. Verizon Wireless(s vz)(s vod) plans to close down the mobile broadband buffet for good, phasing out unlimited plans as customers upgrade from 3G phones to 4G. Verizon CFO Fran Shammo revealed the policy plan change on Wednesday while speaking at a J.P. Morgan conference, saying it must turn off the unlimited spigot as a prerequisite for moving to shared family data plans, FierceWireless reported.

Verizon ended unlimited data last summer, but it also grandfathered its old all-you-can-eat customers into their $30 plans in perpetuity. That practice now seems to be ending. Shammo said that Verizon will launch its data share service in mid-summer, which would eliminate the single device/single data plans it offers today. But Shammo added that those shared plans would be the only tiers it offers for 4G customers, meaning anyone upgrading from a 3G to 4G device would have to discard their unlimited plan and sign up for a monthly data tier, according to Fierce.

We’re not sure how this affects customers who carried their unlimited 3G plans over to 4G devices. Nor do we know if Verizon plans to shut down unlimited for all of its customers, even if they stick with 3G devices. It will be increasingly hard for them to do so, however, since Verizon plans to stop selling 3G-only devices and turn its entire smartphone portfolio 4G. We’re still trying to get more details from Verizon and will update when we know more.

Update: Well, we heard back from Verizon, but didn’t get much. A spokesperson said she had no comment beyond what Shammo said in his speech. We’ll probably have to wait for Verizon to officially announce the share plan before we know more. What we do know is that this will affect a lot of customers. Verizon has sold an awful lot of 3G smartphones in the last few quarters, and while it doesn’t report how many of those customers are grandfathered into unlimited plans, AT&T(s t) provides a useful point of comparison. Last quarter AT&T reported that 39 percent of its smartphone customers were still on unlimited plans. AT&T ended all-you-can-eat 13 months before Verizon, so it’s had a lot more time to shift customers over to data tiers.

Update 2: Verizon Wireless issued a statement late Wednesday. Though it didn’t address the phasing out of unlimited directly, it did confirm that any overhaul it’s pricing structures would be linked directly to the introduction of shared data plans:

As we have stated publicly, Verizon Wireless has been evaluating its data pricing structure for some time. Customers have told us that they want to share data, similar to how they share minutes today. We are working on plans to provide customers with that option later this year.

We will share specific details of the plans and any related policy changes well in advance of their introduction, so customers will have time to evaluate their choices and make the best decisions for their wireless service. It is our goal and commitment to continue to provide customers with the same high value service they have come to expect from Verizon Wireless.

10 Responses to “Verizon phasing out unlimited data as customers switch to 4G”

  1. Lovely, they can’t or won’t provide me with decent 3G service 6 miles off of the I-35 corridor in the Dallas area and now I’m going to have to go to their “great” 4G service that the neighbors constantly complain about and pay more for the priviledge…yippee! Guess I better start researching…

    • My 4g phone has shown 4g one time at a hospital, otherwise it shows 3g most of the time, but even 1g a lot of the time. I pay $176.00 right now. My husband has phone service only, so $10.00. The rest is for me and my 4g phone and its unlimited data plan. When my contract is up, I’m moving to Sprint.

  2. Tim Woods

    If Verizon truly wanted to increase marketshare, they should keep prices low and increase bandwidth everywhere. The US is not even in the top ten in terms of wireless infrastructure and it’s only going to get worse as time goes on.

    These companies have the money to spend on infrastructure upgrades, why don’t they do it? Personally, I would happily dump my phone, but I need one for my job.

    As someone who used to work for one of the big providers with a HQ somewhere in the mid-west, I know it can be done, so what’s stopping everyone? Don’t tell me it’s because the antennas are ugly or people are worried about radiation. Those both can be easily remedied.

    • Kevin Fitchard

      Hi Tim,

      But Verizon is upgrading. It’s spending billions on a nationwide LTE network. That’s going to add capacity and increase bandwidth everywhere.

      I agree Verizon will have to lower prices. It’s by far the most expensive carrier right now, but I assume it wants to move its customers to more efficient 4G networks first and get people off of unlimited. I know it sucks, but this was bound to happen. Unlimited is just unsustainable.

  3. Dan G

    I’d hate it if my grandfathered VZW unlimited 4G would be switched to limited. Unlimited is a big reason I’m with VZW, so I’ll probably go over to the cheaper T-Mobile plans

  4. hortron

    If vzw lets me trade the unlimited plan on existing 3G iphone for a shared 2 GB plan between the iPhone and something else (a smart phone for me!), they will gain a mobile data customer. I think my wife has used only 2.5 GB of data in the year she’s owned her iphone!

    Finally vzw doing something pro-consumer!

    • Kevin Fitchard

      Hi Hortron,

      Good perspective. There actually will be some benefit to people who have multiple devices. Unlimited might go away, but if you’re not consuming gobs and gobs and data (which most people aren’t) and have more than one device on a plan, this could be a great deal. Instead of 2 people paying $60 for unlimited, they could pay $50 for a shared 5 GB or even less for smaller bucket. It all depends on how Verizon implements the share. If there is a $10 for device fee, it may all come out in the wash.

  5. PTC Bernie

    I’m tired of Verizon changing the ground rules at their whim. They view the customer as nothing more than a revenue stream. You pay through the nose for the device, they mandate that you must take a data plan when there’s free wifi everywhere, then they want you to pay to use the device you already paid through the nose for when you signed up!
    My contract expires in a couple of months and I’m going to a prepaid phone.