A Verizon exec has announced that the company plans to do away with its unlimited data plans for grandfathered customers in favor of new tiered "data share" plans, effectively killing off the final unlimited plans at the nation's largest mobile carrier.
As first reported by FierceWireless, Verizon CFO Fran Shammo told a crowd at J.P. Morgan's Technology, Media and Telecom conference in Boston that eventually the company would force all of its current unlimited users over to data sharing, a new kind of "family" plan which launches on Verizon in the summer and allows members of a family to share a set amount of data across all of their devices. In other words, rather than paying for data by the device, a family could purchase, say, 100GB of data per month that everyone on the plan would be able to share. So if Mom uses 80GB of data, and Dad uses 2GB of data, and Little Jimmy uses 16GB of data, it doesn't matter -- you're just paying for that 100GB of data across all of your devices (smartphones, tablets, netbooks, smart refrigerators, whatever).
Though Verizon ended unlimited data for new customers in July 2011, America's largest wireless carrier allowed its old customers to keep their unlimited plans so long as they stuck with the company. That's ending: "Everyone will be on data share," FierceWireless has quoted Shammo as saying.
You can listen to Shammo's comments here; the part about unlimited plans ending begins around the 10 minute mark.
A Verizon spokesperson declined to expand when asked to confirm Shammo's statement regarding the axing of unlimited plans. "We don’t have anything to add to our CFO’s comments," the rep said in an email to HuffPost.
As PhoneArena points out, this is good news for small businesses and families (depending on how expensive the new data share plans are). It's also potentially good news for smartphone owners who also have 4G tablets, who would no longer have to buy a separate data plan for their tabs. All of this depends on the pricing of these data share plans, however, which Verizon has yet to outline.
Though Verizon would not comment on exactly when those grandfathered unlimited data plans will disappear, the move has seemed inevitable for some time now. Verizon has been cutting down on heavy users of unlimited data, throttling the speeds of the top five percent of unlimited data users. A Verizon spokesperson declined to comment on when those unlimited plans will disappear.
Shammo did give a hint in his speech, indicating that when grandfathered customers upgrade from 3G phones (like the iPhone) to 4G LTE phones (like any Android phone, or perhaps the next-generation iPhone), they could be forced to abandon their unlimited plans for a data share plan.
That would mean that only Sprint and AT&T offered unlimited data plans: Sprint to new customers, and AT&T to those subscribers grandfathered in. AT&T, like Verizon, killed off unlimited data for new customers in 2011.
The big question that remains is when the end of unlimited data at Verizon for grandfathered customers will take effect. We'll update you when we get official word from the carrier.