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Unlimited data options grow limited

Verizon announces the end of unlimited data plans for existing customers when they renew. What's a hungry smartphone user to do?

By MSN Money Partner May 17, 2012 12:04PM

This post comes from Kelli B. Grant at partner site SmartMoney.

 

The all-you-can-eat era of smartphone data plans is nearing the end.

 

Verizon said Wednesday that customers still on its $30-a-month unlimited plan -- which was already discontinued for new users -- may be forced to switch to new usage-based billing when they next renew their contract. "You will have to go onto the data share plan," CFO Fran Shammo told attendees at the J.P. Morgan Technology Media and Telecom conference. (Post continues below.)

The new pricing and other details have yet to be announced, although the plans will likely allow customers to share data allotments between multiple devices. A Verizon spokesman declined to provide further details.

 

Image: Businesswoman on cellphone (© Corbis)AT&T and Verizon both eliminated unlimited plans for new customers last year. Existing customers have so far been allowed to keep the perk, even after their contracts expired. Experts say that's changing fast as carriers look to data plan revenue to build up their networks.

 

"I don't think there's any way at this point to keep any unlimited plan for very long," says technology consultant Alex Goldfayn, author of "Evangelist Marketing." Adds Todd Day, an industry analyst for Frost & Sullivan: "All of the carriers will go toward tiered data pricing."

 

Options for unlimited data now

Verizon customers may have ways to keep their unlimited plan a little longer. Right now, just 20 of the carrier's 53 new and pre-owned smartphones are 4G ready, which could mean customers who hang on to their current handset or upgrade to another 3G phone won't need a new data plan just yet.

 

Consumers also have a few lingering opportunities to chase unlimited plans. Sprint and T-Mobile both offer them, although T-Mobile says it will slow data speeds for the remaining of a billing cycle after users consume 2GB. "They're still looking to catch up and gain customers," Day says, and so may keep their unlimited data plans around as a draw for a few more years.

 

Some prepaid brands also promise unlimited data. But before switching, it may be worth gauging the signal quality for that carrier in your area. Consumers who need a fast connection may find it more beneficial to scale back their data usage than to switch carriers, he says.

It may also be worth waiting to hear more details of the data-share plans Verizon and AT&T have in the works -- for many consumers, they could prove to be better deals than unlimited plans, Goldfayn says.

 

It's likely to be less expensive to buy one plan for both an iPad and an iPhone, for example, than to pay for separate plans for each, he says. Ditto for families with several smartphones. Of course, sharing plans could lure more people to buy expensive smartphones and tablets that use cellular networks as well as WiFi, he says.

 

More from SmartMoney and MSN Money:

43Comments
May 17, 2012 2:12PM
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Dear Verizon Wireless,

 

Your CEO is the dumbest human being on the planet. I hereby throw my name in the running for his job. I will happily work for much less money than your current boss, and probably offend a lot less of your customers. Let's just recap the last few months at Verizon HQ, shall we??

 

December, 2011 - Verizon announces it will charge $2 for people to pay their bill online. Customers who don't want to write a check now have to pay for the privilege of getting their bill paid sooner, by saving Verizon money.

 

December, 2011 - Amid growing backlash and customer anger, Verizon realizes that $2 fee was stupid.

 

Last Week - Verizon announces (or MSN finds out after this has been in the works for awhile, without Verizon telling anyone??) that customers will now pay $30 to sign a new contract, and remain loyal, longstanding VZW customers.

 

Today - Verizon announces that longstanding VZW customers who have had unlimited data plans are no longer going to be allowed to keep said plans.

 

Today - Verizon Wireless finally beats out Bank of America for sole possession of the title, "Worst Company On The Planet." Awards ceremony to follow...

May 17, 2012 4:08PM
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The area that I live in doesn't even have 4g yet but that didnt stop me from buying verizons first 4g phone with the hopes that 4g was not far behind.  Fast forward a year later, still no 4g and now you want to take my unlimited data AND charge me 30 bucks to renew my contract I really don't see the purpose of continuing our relationship......I want a divorce!
May 17, 2012 4:22PM
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I want to go back to the old days of beepers and having quarters in my pocket to use the pay phone to call someone back.  A lot cheaper than the $100+/month for my "smart"phone.
May 17, 2012 3:47PM
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att and verizon  on the road to lose customer
May 17, 2012 10:34PM
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I have been a loyal Verizon customer for a very long time 10yrs +...I have 5 lines...1 regular line, 1 unlimited text, 2 unlimited data (smart phones), and 1 unlimited computer data...and if this change occurs I see absolutely NO reason to continue with them. The unlimited plans that I was "grandfathered" into were the ONLY reasons I stayed this long. My bill is over $250 a month and I cannot see paying ANYTHING above that for the service and lack of service I already have. I am so sick an tired of all the GREED that comes from these big companies getting the public dependent on a service and then milking then dry to use it. HOW MUCH MONEY CAN ONE COMPANY NEED ????

Can't one of these companies do the right thing and say "enough is enough, we have a good system, lets just keep it like it is"..???? NO, they try and try to figure out a way to get every last pennie you might find on the floor. Well, I am here to tell you, if this happens, I WILL DIVORCE YOU VERIZON !

May 17, 2012 3:45PM
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I have had Sprint for years & I use the sh&t out of my unlimited data plan...
May 17, 2012 5:11PM
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Why is cell phone service not getting LESS expensive? Everyone has cell phones today. These companies are all rolling in our dough. I knew we should have switched to Sprint this last time!
May 17, 2012 7:43PM
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Hello Sprint! Now is the best time to make a move and get with a better carrier. Voting with your feet is the only thing they listen to anymore.

 

Maybe Verizion's CEO should call the Netflix CEO, provided the phone still works over there, and see how this type of changes went over.

May 17, 2012 3:31PM
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Check me out online, I made a "Dump Verizon Wireless" page on facebook. The more people that join, the better. Let's show Verizon just how mad we are!!
May 17, 2012 7:00PM
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i've been with verizon since the beginning, i have 2 smartphones(wife & me)pay alot....loyal customer all this time,BUT THIS WILL MAKE ME LOOK ELSE WHERE...can't you file a lawsuit for breaking a contract....some body already fought and won a case against ATT for throttleing their data service...CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT IN THE WORKS
May 17, 2012 6:53PM
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So, I have put up with Verizon for the past several years, using a network extender which used MY internet connection to make and receive calls at my house because their coverage in my area is just not good enough...I have been told for 3 years now to sit tight because they would have better coverage "soon." I have also stayed loyal even though the company I work for gets a discount from Sprint.

 

And this is the thanks I get.

 

Bye bye Verizon!

May 18, 2012 4:40AM
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K, another long time verizon customer(since 2000), six lines total, 4 phone, 3 of those with unlimited data plans for smartphones, 2000 shared minutes, unlimited text on all, a new 4G tablet with data plan and a mifi!!!!!!! So i pay about $320 a month to have that luxury!!! Its not like thats cheap or not alot of money for me! I work out of town and smartphones allow me to facetime/skype my daughters as much and as often as i want! My line uses aroud 9 gigs a month on average!! I am with everyone else on this one! I see sprint in my near future!!!!!!! Sorry verizon but you are losing a valued customer that has had your back and sent tons of people your way, but this the end!!!!  
May 18, 2012 12:39AM
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With the mergers going in the industry we are seeing collusion in pricing due to lack of competition in the industry.
May 17, 2012 8:45PM
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Verizon is remembering how to turn to subscribers into cash, reporting consolidated revenues up 4.6 percent year-over-year to $28 billion and earnings of $1.7 billion -- boosting earnings-per-share by 15 percent. By comparison, revenues were $27 billion in FIRST QUARTER 2011 and a mere $18 billion LAST qUARTER which resulted in a $2 billion net loss. Big Red's performance is now as strong as ever, with subscriber numbers up five percent to 93 million, and with 47 percent of those customers using insanely profitable devices called smartphones. On the TV and broadband side side, its FiOS unit now tops five million internet customers, and added a net total of 180,000 video subscribers. And that new $30 UPGRADE FEE hasn't even kicked in yet.

 

WHEN IS ENOUGH TRUELY ENOUGH?  THEY WOULD SUCK US ALL DRY IF THEY COULD!

GREED IS DESTROYING OUR WORLD AND OUR VALUES! AND ANY SIGN OF HUMANITY TOWARDS OUR FELLOW MAN.........

 

May 17, 2012 3:12PM
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Less for more; the new free market in action.  We'll either throttle your speeds to oblivion, or charge insane amounts of overage fees when you go over a data cap that most people will reach in less then half a month.

I mean, seriously.  What economic incentive is their for any of the carriers to upgrade their networks?  There is none.  And since basic market economics dictate you NEVER compete on price [you compete on *features*], it makes sense that everyone is going to follow ATT's example of tiered pricing, to avoid a price war.

Can't wait for landline ISP's to follow the same model, and for some hacker to gain a few million via some security hole that went unpatched due to not wanting to waste the bandwidth...
May 17, 2012 6:39PM
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I've used sprint for the past 12+ years and the quality is excellent and way cheaper then the others. 

I used to work for att and as an employee could get 50% off of 2 lines and Sprint was still cheaper for me to have a family plan with 3 lines with unlimited data/text!  Why anyone uses AT&T or Verizon baffles me, guess it is all the marketing att and verizon does compared to sprint.
May 18, 2012 9:40AM
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Yeah, just another reason for me to drop Verizon after this contract is up.  Straight Talk from the Evil Empire will mean a slight downgrade in my smartphone, but a savings of around $900 a year.  I don't really *need* a smart phone for business, so the slight downgrade to a lesser smart phone won't hurt me.  
May 17, 2012 7:58PM
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I use straight talk and pay 45 amonth for unlimited plan.  Phones works great.  The only problem I might see some people having is that the phones are not the most up to date phones, but for my use its awesome.
May 18, 2012 4:40AM
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K, another long time verizon customer(since 2000), six lines total, 4 phone, 3 of those with unlimited data plans for smartphones, 2000 shared minutes, unlimited text on all, a new 4G tablet with data plan and a mifi!!!!!!! So i pay about $320 a month to have that luxury!!! Its not like thats cheap or not alot of money for me! I work out of town and smartphones allow me to facetime/skype my daughters as much and as often as i want! My line uses aroud 9 gigs a month on average!! I am with everyone else on this one! I see sprint in my near future!!!!!!! Sorry verizon but you are losing a valued customer that has had your back and sent tons of people your way, but this the end!!!!  
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