How long before Verizon follows AT&T’s example, and implements data caps for smartphone users? AT&T’s new tiered pricing for data went into effect today, doing away with the unlimited data plan for new users. Customers currently on that plan can stay with it, or switch to a less expensive plan, if they choose. iPhone users will have to switch if they want to tether their devices, as that feature will finally become available when OS 4 comes out this summer. AT&T was just the first major carrier to make the jump into tiered pricing, which has been talked about for ages. Who’s next? Logic would say Verizon, the number one carrier. But with AT&T being the first one to blink, Verizon also finds itself in an interesting position, and rather than simply following suit, can use their competitor’s change to their advantage.
It stands to reason that Verizon would opt for a tiered data pricing structure when they launch their 4G network later this year. Faster 4G speeds will allow for more data to be downloaded more quickly than on the current 3G network. This might encourage customers to start streaming more video and music, and will most likely bring more customers to Verizon. To keep the network from getting congested, tiered pricing would make sense, and the transition to 4G would be the ideal time to do it.
On the other hand, Verizon is already the number one carrier in the country, and has a more extensive network than AT&T. Granted, it’s still a 3G network, and it will take some time before the 4G network matches the size of the current one. But rather than playing the usual game of monkey see, monkey do, Verizon could use AT&T’s move, and the ire that followed it, to come out looking like the good guy by continuing to offer their unlimited data plans. Not only would they keep their customers, they’d probably lure some away from AT&T.
Even if they did this, they may not be able to do it forever. But if they could hold out until the end of the year, just until their 4G network is up and running, it could be quite a coup in terms of customer turnover and loyalty.
All that said, I expect to see an announcement very soon from Verizon, as well as Sprint and T-Mobile, about their own switches to tiered pricing for data.