Want 4G and unlimited data on Verizon? Better upgrade now

Verizon says upgrading to LTE will soon mean leaving behind the data buffet that some longtime subscribers have held onto. But there may still be time to act and upgrade strategically.

Yesterday, Verizon's CFO told a conference of investors that Big Red will be moving this summer to finish the job of shutting down its all-you-can-eat data buffet . Last year Verizon stopped offering an unlimited data option with new contracts, but those who already had them were grandfathered in.

When I first heard the news yesterday, I was led to wonder out loud (and later translate into bits) what it all meant for my own grandfathered 3G data plan, which I've recently upgraded to 4G.

In his remarks yesterday, Verizon CFO Fran Shammo explained that the carrier will be launching a new "data share" program this summer, allowing customers to connect multiple devices to one data package with a shared pool of megabytes. That's good news for light data users, households, and small businesses who don't want to have to pay a monthly fee for multiple devices. Shammo said that as existing users with old unlimited data plans upgrade to 4G devices, they'll be migrated onto data share plans.

So where does that leave folks like me who already have 4G devices and are still clinging to that old grandfathered unlimited data plan? No one seems 100 percent sure, but if Verizon's past actions are any indication, I'll be able to hang on to unlimited data so long as I'm happy with my new Droid Razr (or some unlocked 4G CDMA phone I might slip my SIM into in the future). Ina Fried of All Things D also had the same speculation this morning:

My understanding is that there are Verizon customers on 10-year-old rate plans and, so long as they are happy with their phone, no one will force them to change plans.

What's contributing to the uncertainty is some of the phrasing of Shammo's statements yesterday, particularly the moment when he said flat out: "Everyone will be on data share."

Perhaps I'm over-parsing here, but it would seem to me Shammo must be aware that some folks on plans from past eras will always hang on to them until they are forced off. That leaves me to think that such an absolute declaration amounts to a Freudian slip of Verizon's plans to push all its customers off a wireless data cliff at some point with a parachute marked "data share" -- either pull the cord, or you're done.

This squishy statement yesterday from Verizon certainly isn't helping to clear up the matter, except to indicate that there may still be time to act and upgrade strategically:

As we have stated publicly, Verizon Wireless has been evaluating its data pricing structure for some time. Customers have told us that they want to share data, similar to how they share minutes today. We are working on plans to provide customers with that option later this year.

We will share specific details of the plans and any related policy changes well in advance of their introduction, so customers will have time to evaluate their choices and make the best decisions for their wireless service. It is our goal and commitment to continue to provide customers with the same high value service they have come to expect from Verizon Wireless.

These days it seems your current data plan is about as likely to stick around as a new network sitcom, but if you're on an unlimited data plan on Verizon right now and you have any interest in trying out their 4G LTE network (which you should), it looks like now is the time to upgrade... but I'd still stay away from steep cliffs.

 

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