The lucky Verizon customers clinging to a grandfather clause that allows them unlimited data for $30 a month might have to let go. Even though Verizon ended unlimited data plans for new customers in July 2011, they allowed old customers to keep their plans as long as they remained loyal to the company. But all this changed last week.
Speaking at the recent J.P. Morgan 40th Annual Technology, Media and Telecom Conference in Boston, CFO Fran Shammo said grandfathered customers who migrate off of 3G phones to 4G Long-Term Evolution LTE phones will have to give up their unlimited plans and purchase a data-share plan. This transition is expected to take place mid-summer.
However, the move to 4G is not mandatory. In a recent New York Times article, Shammo further clarified the proposed changes: Only customers that choose to upgrade to subsidized handsets will lose their grandfathered unlimited plans. Customers that choose not to upgrade or agree to purchase devices at unsubsidized prices can keep their unlimited data plans.
This may not come as a surprise to everyone. Unlimited data has been on the brink of extinction for some time now. Last year, Verizon thwarted heavy users on unlimited data plans, slowing the connection speeds (known as "throttling") of the top five percent of unlimited data users.
Verizon defends its latest decision by stressing what a positive effect it will have upon families. Eventually Verizon will implement mega-data plans, which means families can share bulk data based on the number of devices they own. These changes may prove beneficial to families, but it's hard to determine what impact this will have on individual line owners.
Then again, unhappy customers don't have many competitors to turn to. In a similar move, AT&T killed off unlimited data for new customers earlier this year. The provider also significantly slowed connection speeds for the top 5 percent of data users on unlimited plans. Sprint is the only major carrier still offering unlimited data plans to new subscribers. Until Verizon reveals the cost of the new plans, concerned customers will have to remain on hold. In the meantime, users can weigh their options by consulting our report on the Best Reviewed Cell Phone Plans.