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AT&T may not be the only U.S. mobile carrier to move towards caps on data usage. Verizon, the nation’s largest carrier, is considering eliminating its unlimited data plans as well, according to Bloomberg.
Verizon jumped into the high-end smartphone market last fall with the release of the Motorola Droid, an Android-powered superphone, which the carrier backed with a $100 million marketing campaign. It followed up that device with the Droid Incredible last month.
Verizon smartphone customers, much like iPhone users, generally use between 600 to 800 megabytes a month, according to the company’s CFO John Killian. With its 4G cellular network on the way — which will offer speeds ten times faster than 3G — Verizon expects “explosions in data traffic” on the horizon. Killian also sees smartphone users eventually making up between 70 to 80 percent of Verizon’s customers, up from 17 percent today.
Given the impending rise of data-hungry users, a flate-rate unlimited data plan seems unsustainable. AT&T recently moved from a $30/mo. unlimited data plan to two new limited plans — a $15/mo. option that offers a paltry 200 megabytes of data, and a $25/mo. plan with 2 gigabytes of data. Sprint caps its “unlimited” data plan at 5 gigabytes (Evo 4G users pay an extra $10 a month for truly unlimited data). T-Mobile has a 5-gigabyte bandwidth cap with no overage charges — instead it throttles bandwidth for users that go over.
Will Sprint and T-Mobile use data pricing to lure smartphone users away from the big guys—or will they fall in line and put caps on data usage, charging for overages? Both carriers support far fewer customers than AT&T and Verizon, and will likely be forced to revisit their data plans if they see a huge boost in subscribers. But in the short term, an influx of new users would be a good problem to have.
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