Verizon on Thursday is ending its unlimited wireless data plans, joining rivals AT&T and T-Mobile in rolling out tiered data plans to curb data-hungry customers and address network congestion.
After July 7, Verizon subscribers will no longer be able to buy contracts with unlimited plans. The Basking Ridge, N.J.-based carrier said customers who already have unlimited contracts will be able to keep them, but new subscribers must sign up for tiered plans, meaning they will pay a set cost for a certain level of data use.
Verizon’s current unlimited data plans start at $30 a month for 2-gigabytes of data. Each additional gigabyte will cost $10 a month for users that go over their allotted plan. Although Verizon won’t have any more unlimited plans, it will also offer plans with higher data usage.
Carriers previously offered unlimited plans to attract more customers. However, as more people use sophisticated smartphones to stream videos, play games and browse the Internet, providers are having to deal with surging network congestion and increasing demand for data.
And the usage is uneven. Verizon reports 95 percent of its customers use 2-gigabytes or less a month, meaning a tiered service may not affect their bills. Heavier users, however, will pay more as their usage climbs.
The change from unlimited to tiered service may potentially confuse some users. While customers generally understand bills about calling minutes, data usage bills vary depending on how people use a device.
Customers who use their cell phones to upload videos to Facebook or to watch movies may be stunned when they receive much larger bills than expected and may look for alternatives.
Only Sprint still offers unlimited data plans, but its coverage is not as extensive as those offered by the other rivals. Some prepaid carriers also offer unlimited plans without a contract. Virgin Mobile, for example, offers plans with unlimited data, but limits talk time as a trade-off.
Verizon customers with unlimited data should enjoy it while they can, because when their contract is up, they should prepare for additional bills.