Some cellular customers on Verizon’s network still enjoy unlimited data on their smartphones like the Apple iPhone, but they won’t be for long.
According to a story from Ars Technica, Verizon is looking to move away from unlimited data plans and intends to force customers to make the transition away from the plans as those customers move to Verizon’s 4G LTE network. As they do that, they’ll have to adopt what’s called a “shared” data plan, in which multiple devices on the same plan draw from the same pooled data allowance. The plus side is that users with multiple devices, like an iPhone and an iPad, can pay once for all the data they use on all their devices; the same goes for families with multiple devices.
Of course, though, that’s not the same as unlimited data. Verizon, like AT&T, has been working to move away from unlimited data plans for quite a while now. AT&T cancelled its plans back in 2010 and only allowed customers who had held unlimited plans at the point when they were ended to keep them. If those users change their plans for any reason, they’ll lose unlimited forever. Verizon went through a similar process in May 2011. Sprint still offers unlimited data plans.
It sounds like, for Verizon customers, upgrading to the much faster 4G network is going to require users leave behind their unlimited data plans. Verizon says a large portion of its 3G base still has unlimited data plans. By the same token, 3G unlimited customers don’t get the added benefits of the shared plans.
Unlimited data is problematic for many cellular carriers because it means people using lesser amounts of data are paying for the people with the bigger appetites. In the tiered data plans AT&T and Verizon use, customers pay a smaller fee and then pay a penalty if they go over their data allowances, while unlimited customers pay only once. For those top-end users on unlimited plans, the draw of data could get pretty extensive, with the cellular carriers finding they had to provide all that data and the network to sustain it, without being able to charge more money to pay those bills.
Apparently, Verizon plans to roll out the changes to its data services in mid-summer, most likely right before the release of Apple’s next iPhone, which is expected to accommodate 4G LTE networks. So if you’re still lucky enough to command an unlimited data plan from Verizon, you might want to enjoy it while it lasts.