The picture is getting clearer about charges for Verizon Wireless data plans. And it looks as though if you already have an unlimited plan, you’re safe – if you don't mind hanging on to that phone.
A friend posted a link earlier this week to a CNET story about new pricing  on the way from Verizon.
That story was based on remarks by Verizon’s Chief Financial Officer Francis Shammo at a media teleconference earlier this week.
Verizon has now posted two things you might find interesting about this. The first is an edited transcript of Shammo’s remarks, which is a 14-page pdf file here . The pertinent portion of that is in the middle of page 5:
“As you come through an upgrade cycle and you upgrade in the future, you will have to go onto the data share plan. And moving away from, if you will, the unlimited world and moving everybody into a tiered structure data share-type plan.
“So when you think about our 3G base, a lot of our 3G base is unlimited. As they start to migrate into 4G, they will have to come off of unlimited and go into the data share plan. And that is beneficial for us for many reasons, obviously. So as you pick what tier you want to be and we think that there will be some price up in those tiers.”
I was interested in this because my family has four phones with Verizon, and my sons use their smart phones a fair amount. I checked their usage and they’re not hogs, but they are the two heaviest users on my account, for sure. Each had at least one month in the last three when they went well over the 2-gigabyte threshold.
My experience with Verizon, which goes back quite a few years, has always been that existing customers have been grandfathered in on most changes in plans.
After the CNET post made the rounds, Verizon posted a statement on its website  that clarifies things.
“As we have stated publicly, Verizon Wireless has been evaluating its pricing structure for some time. Customers have told us that they want to share data, similar to how they share minutes today. We are working on plans to provide customers with that option and will introduce new plans later this year.
“When the new options are introduced, Unlimited Data will no longer be available to our customers purchasing handsets and signing a new contract. Customers who choose to purchase phones at full retail price and are currently on an unlimited smartphone data plan will be able to keep that plan. The same pricing and policies will apply to all 3G and 4GLTE smartphones.”
What this appears to mean is you will no longer be able to get discounts on phones as incentive for signing or extending a contract, and unlimited data. That constitutes an "if" that you can answer with math: Track your usage and see if it makes more sense to keep an unlimited plan or pay less for a new phone with a data plan.
So if my sons use 3 GB per month apiece, I can calculate the price of that much data over, say, a two-year contract; then all I have to do is compare that with the full price of a phone vs. any discount I might get if I move into a tiered plan.
And you can make that comparison with other wireless companies at the same time, although there are intangibles to take into account in that case: Do you like the company you're with? How do the service areas compare, that sort of thing.
Still, I'll be curious to see the Verizon plans when they come out this summer, because sharing minutes has worked out fine for my family's phones, and maybe sharing data will, too.