Rumor: Switch to Verizon iPhone, get unlimited data

by Phil Hornshaw

Just one day out from the big Verizon (VZ) announcement widely believed to be bringing the iPhone to a new carrier, and rumors are flying like bullets. The latest, greatest and most wished to be true: that Verizon will offer an unlimited data plan for the iPhone.

Well, the report from the Wall Street Journal is that unlimited data will be offered, because that’s what Verizon offers now -- so the rumor we’re getting right now is not so much that Verizon is planning to provide a bigger data plan than AT&T (T) does, just that Verizon’s not planning to not offer it.

AT&T used to offer unlimited data for the iPhone, but shut that program down to new customers last year. If you had the unlimited plan before the change, you were able to be grandfathered in and keep unlimited data so long as you wanted to pay for it. Make a change to your plan, however -- like downgrading your data allowance to lower your bill -- and the unlimited option was lost forever. Now AT&T offers a tiered data plan, with 2GB being the high end for $25 a month.

Verizon currently offers unlimited data at $29.99 a month, but as for other plans and pricing, we’re still in the dark.

Amid talk about data and network allowances, we’ve heard a couple of other rumors: namely, that at least one guy over at AT&T, public relations boss Larry Solomon, doesn’t think Verizon’s network can handle the iPhone. Here’s the quote from Business Insider:

"The iPhone is built for speed, but that's not what you get with a CDMA phone. I'm not sure iPhone users are ready for life in the slow lane."

In fact, the “slow lane” is what AT&T has been struggling to avoid becoming for about as long as it has carried the iPhone -- hence the ratcheted-down, tiered data plan offering. Verizon offering unlimited data to a huge mess of new iPhone customers, it stands to reason, could have a similar problem.

But there’s a rumor for that. WSJ followed up the news with another anonymous source “familiar with the matter” that Verizon is confident its network can handle the iPhone. (Although if it wasn’t, would we hear about it?)

For Verizon’s part, however, its network is handling a whole lot of data. The company offers a lot of smart phones running Google’s (GOOG) Android operating system, plus laptops using its cellular Internet modems, and those MiFi Mobile Internet hotspots. While the iPhone would throw a whole bunch of new people onto the network, Verizon is certainly no stranger to a lot of data traffic. Oh, and there’s also that whole 4G LTE thing they’ve been talking about (incessantly).

Just how well the Verizon network stands up to the onslaught of the iPhone if that happens tomorrow remains to be seen, obviously, and a big question is going to be support for that 4G network. The more reliable talk seems to go in the direction of expecting the Verizon iPhone 4 that may get announced tomorrow to be a regular 3G network phone, with both AT&T and Verizon getting a 4G LTE version in the iPhone 5, which WSJ pegs as being on the way this summer. That would give both companies time to get their ducks into neat little rows, so to speak, before Apple (AAPL) lets the iPhone run loose on a new and somewhat untested network.

The Verizon press event that may or may not include the iPhone takes place tomorrow at 11 a.m. EST in New York. We’ll be here with a rundown (we didn’t, uh... get an invitation) shortly thereafter with all the information (or lack thereof) we can get our eyes on.