Unlimited No More: Verizon Joins AT&T in Tiered Mobile Data Plans

The nation's largest wireless carrier has finally revealed a change that many believed was inevitable: It will switch from its unlimited data plan for smartphones and other mobile devices to a tiered set of data plans similar to that offered by its biggest rival, AT&T Wireless.

In an internal letter to employees, Verizon says that the change is an "evolution" of the previous scheme. The new plan is effective July 7, according to the company.

"Our legacy data pricing structure was designed to address a somewhat different customer-need profile than what we are seeing and can expect in the future," the letter reads. "Data usage has more than doubled over the last three years ... Soon, Verizon Wireless will move from our existing pricing format to a structure designed to allow customers to choose the right data solution that best aligns with their needs."

That structure will be familiar to AT&T customers. It involves a tiered pricing schedule where 2GB of wireless data will cost $30 per month; that amount previously garnered unlimited data. Verizon Wireless is also offering 5GB ($50 per month) and 10GB ($80 per month) tiers.

As with other carriers, tethering will bring an additional monthly charge. (Tethering allows the smartphone or device to be used as a wireless modem.) Data plans with tethering are also available in tiers, with 4GB ($50 per month), 7GB ($70 per month), and 12GB ($100 per month) offerings. Additional data usage will cost $10 per 1GB, and separate tablet plans will cost $20 per month for 1GB of data and $30 per month for 2GB of data, respectively.

As with a similar change at AT&T last year, existing customers will be able to keep their unlimited plan at current pricing going forward, and that offer will persist through any future upgrades or renewals. It's unclear how long that clause will be in effect, however.

Naturally, there's been a lot of outrage at the changes, but the reality is that very few wireless customers ever exceed the low-end 2GB tier. This change allows Verizon to charge its data hogs for the bandwidth they actually consume, while most consumers won't actually be affected.

And, as Verizon notes, this pricing applies to both 3G and the newer and faster 4G LTE networks. So, "users will gain the benefit of the fastest and most advanced 4G LTE network in the United States, all for the same usage-based value. More speed. More functionality. Same value."

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