Verizon CEO Says Tiered Data Plans Likely in Four to Six Months

Verizon to End Unlimited Data Plans
Verizon to End Unlimited Data Plans

A tiered data plan is in the works for Verizon Communications customers, potentially doing away with the all-you-can-download unlimited service plans that new customers currently enjoy. Speaking at an investor conference Thursday, Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg said the nation's largest carrier may introduce its tiered data plan in the next four to six months, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

That tiered approach would sync up nicely with Verizon's (VZ) plans to introduce new services and products as part of its long-touted 4G network launch, which will begin rolling out by the end of this year in over two dozen cities. Currently, Verizon charges $29.99 a month for its unlimited data plan. But like rival AT&T (T), Verizon is trying to find ways to snag profits out of the small percentage of customers who are data hogs, sitting at the trough and sucking up tons of bandwidth from the carrier's network.

In June, AT&T took away its unlimited data plan option for new customers, saying they would either have to pay $15 a month for 200 megabytes of data, or $25 for 2 gigabytes. Previously, new customers could sign up for an unlimited data plan for $29.99 a month.

Verizon's tiered data plan will be different from AT&T's, Seidenberg reportedly said, but no details were offered.

No Good News on End of iPhone Exclusivity

While the timing of the shift to a tiered data plan and the roll-out of the 4G network coincide with previous reports speculating that Apple (AAPL) would offer its iPhone on the Verizon network come the new year, Seidenberg's comments at the investor conference damped those hopes.

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According to an Associated Press report, Seidenberg said: "I think 4G will accelerate the process, and any other decisions Apple makes would be fine with us ... hopefully, at some point Apple will get with the program."

Although Verizon's 4G network will begin making its way into cities across the U.S. by the end of this year, it won't have nationwide coverage until 2012. The new network will begin by offering only data, with 4G phones expected to be available next year, the AP report notes.

Designing a phone to work on the 4G network is expected to be a cumbersome process, because the technology to make calls over a 4G network hasn't been standardized yet. That leaves handset makers relying on a combo approach of giving the 4G phones the capability of using 3G technology to make calls, AP reported.

Should the day come when Apple ends its exclusive AT&T relationship and hooks up with Verizon, AT&T may see nearly a quarter of its iPhone customers bolt, according to a recent survey. Roughly 23% of AT&T's iPhone users said they would switch to Verizon when their contracts are up, with 3% saying they were willing to bite the bullet on an early-termination fee.

For Seidenberg, landing an Apple deal next year would be particular sweet. The CEO confirmed at the conference he's planning to retire sometime before the end of 2011, according to AP.