Verizon Wireless will no longer be allowing customers on a grandfathered unlimited data plan to upgrade to a 4G LTE smartphone without changing plans when the carrier launches its tiered data share plans in mid-summer. Executive Vice President and CFO Fran Shammo announced the news during an investors conference this morning. "LTE is our anchor point for data share, so as you come through an upgrade cycle and you upgrade in the future, you will have to go onto the data share plan, moving away from the unlimited world," he said. "So when you think about our 3G base — a lot of our 3G base is unlimited — as they start to migrate into 4G, they will have to come off of unlimited and go into the data share plan, and that's beneficial for us for many reasons, obviously."
Unlimited data is a concept that has been heading towards extinction for some time now, and Verizon's decision to no longer honor the plans with LTE-capable devices will only expedite the process. AT&T continues to honor grandfathered unlimited plans for 4G upgrades, and Sprint remains the lone major carrier that still allows new customers to sign up for the privilege. Verizon had already been making a clear distinction between LTE and its legacy 3G network, offering data-doubling promotions exclusively to those shopping for an 4G-capable handset.
As you'd expect, Shammo touts the upcoming offerings as a better option for consumers and businesses alike. "If I can add as many devices as I want and share that data plan, that's a lot more efficient from a family share perspective, from a small business perspective," he said. "There is a large ramp of devices out there that, especially when you think about families, they're not connecting those devices because the incremental costs in the model we have today. And I think going forward, we're going to make it easier for folks to connect devices."
The full conference can be streamed at the source below, and Shammo reveals the impending death of unlimited data for LTE customers at around the 10:30 mark.
Update: Verizon provided some further clarification on the planned shift in policy to The New York Times. Customers that have an unlimited data plan can maintain the service by paying full retail price for future devices — essentially forfeiting the savings that usually come with an upgrade. The carrier's full statement:
– Customers will not be automatically moved to new shared data plans. If a 3G or 4G smartphone customer is on an unlimited plan now and they do not want to change their plan, they will not have to do so.
– When we introduce our new shared data plans, Unlimited Data will no longer be available to customers when purchasing handsets at discounted pricing.
– Customers who purchase phones at full retail price and are on an unlimited smartphone data plan will be able to keep that plan.
– The same pricing and policies will be applied to all 3G and 4G LTE smartphones.