Monday, February 13, 2017

Verizon is bringing unlimited data plans back (Kinda but not really)

Verizon just made a rather surprising weekend announcement: unlimited data plans are coming back. The carrier says that beginning tomorrow, it will offer what it's calling Verizon Unlimited. The plan will cost $80 for an individual line or $45 for each line on a four-line family plan. (Paperless billing and AutoPay must be enabled for those prices.) Customers will get full LTE speeds until they reach 22GB of usage, after which they’ll be subject to reduced data speeds and de-prioritization.

Hotspot tethering — up to 10GB at LTE speeds — is included, are as calls and texts to Mexico and Canada. Verizon Unlimited also allows for 500MB-per-day roaming in those countries. The carrier isn't completely moving away from “bucketed” data plans and will continue offering 5 GB, S, M, and L options to subscribers who don't use large sums of data each month.

Verizon is already pitching its unlimited plan as superior to T-Mobile's, noting that it includes “HD” video as opposed to the 480p/DVD-quality video that T-Mobile One customers get by default. Verizon claims it has been working “tirelessly but quietly” to deliver a new unlimited plan designed for “power users” and meant to eliminate concerns about exceeding data caps.

We’ll need to wait until tomorrow for the full specifics and any annoying fine print attached to Verizon Unlimited, but today’s announcement marks a pretty significant change for the mobile industry. The massive popularity of smartphones gradually pushed all the major US carriers away from unlimited data plans, and now they’re coming back into favor — but almost always with asterisks. T-Mobile reduces video quality unless customers utilize an “HD day pass” and Sprint extends that oversight to music stream quality and even gaming speeds.

Verizon stopped offering unlimited data to new customers way back in 2011, though a subset of existing subscribers (myself included) have held onto their grandfathered plans in the years since.

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