Verizon brings back unlimited data plan

FILE - This June 4, 2014, file photo, shows signage at a Verizon Wireless retail store at Downtown Crossing in Boston. The country’s biggest wireless company has said that its mobile video service, go90, launched in October 2015, will include sponsored content. That means Verizon customers watching the video will be exempt from data caps and Verizon charges advertisers. Spokeswoman Marie McGehee confirmed a Re/code story that said Verizon will start testing sponsored data soon and plans to roll that out further next year. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)

BASKING RIDGE, N.J. (WCMH/AP) – Verizon customers once again have the option to buy an unlimited data plan.

The company is bringing back its data plan that was scrapped about six years ago. The move is in response to several of Verizon’s competitors who have also reintroduced unlimited data plans.

For $80 a month, Verizon customers will also get up to 10 gigabytes of mobile hotspot usage, plus calling and texting to Canada and Mexico. The price goes down slightly for every line you have on the account. (Existing customers can keep their plans.) For a family of four, unlimited costs $180. To compare, Sprint just launched a new promotion for new customers that costs $90 a month for four lines, and T-Mobile, which includes taxes and fees in its total price, is $160. AT&T costs $180 for four but also requires a TV subscription.

“We’ve built our network so we can manage all the activity customers undertake. Everything we’ve done is to provide the best experience on the best network – and we’ve built it for the future, not just for today,” said Ronan Dunne, president of Verizon’s wireless division. “We also fundamentally want you to have more choice. We’re not limiting you to a single plan. If you don’t need unlimited data, we still have 5 GB, S, M, and L Verizon plans that are perfect for you.”

There are a couple of catches. If you are a Verizon customer who gets a corporate discount, you’ll no longer get that discount if you switch to unlimited. And if you are a heavy data user, you may have to wait longer when the network gets congested.

“To ensure a quality experience for all customers, after 22 GB of data usage on a line during any billing cycle we may prioritize usage behind other customers in the event of network congestion,” Verizon said in a release.

AT&T only lets customers sign up for unlimited plans when they also subscribe to DirecTV, which AT&T owns. But its prices are similar to Verizon’s for a family; Verizon is cheaper for an individual.

As recently as January, the company’s CFO said unlimited plans were “not something we feel the need to do” even though rivals had made inroads against Verizon by offering them. It has been trying to push longtime customers off its old unlimited plans, which it killed in 2012, with rate hikes.

The arrival of the iPhone and other smartphones made unlimited plans more of a rarity as carriers switched to bigger data plans with bigger price tags.

But Sprint and T-Mobile recognized in unlimited data an opportunity to snare customers from heavyweights Verizon and AT&T. Because carriers must poach each other’s customers to grow, the competition has intensified.

Verizon is trying to differentiate itself by letting customers watch high-definition video with the unlimited plan, while competitors run streaming video at DVD-level quality.

Of course, like all so-called unlimited plans, Verizon’s is not really unlimited. If customers use more than 22 gigabytes of data in a month, their speeds may be slowed if the network is busy.

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