Verizon's tiered data plans hitting October 28, smartphones still getting unlimited option?

We'd told you back in July that Verizon would migrate away from unlimited data and toward a tiered model very quickly; turns out it wasn't quite as quickly as we'd thought, but as Ivan Seidenberg said last month, it's still going down. We've now been tipped that the switchover is expected on October 28, and this is how it all shakes out:

  • Smartphone owners will choose between $15 for 150MB with $0.10 / MB overage, or $29.99 for unlimited access. This stands in contrast to AT&T, which offers another 50MB (for a total of 200MB) at the $15 price level or 2GB for $25 with no unlimited option.

  • As we've already seen with the MiFi-equipped iPad, there'll be $20, $35, and $50 tablet plans for 1GB, 3GB, and 5GB, respectively, all with overage of $10 per gigabyte. There will also be a $80 plan for 10GB with the same overage rate.

  • MiFi, FiveSpot, and integrated netbook / notebook modem owners will choose between $50 / 5GB and $80 / 10GB plans. The MiFi and FiveSpot will also have access to the tablet-centric $35 / 3GB plan as part of a 90-day promo. All of these plans have overage priced at 1GB for $10.

  • Feature phones will need to choose between $1.99 "pay as you go" (though it's not clear what that means -- could be unlimited at $1.99 per day, but we really don't know), $15 for 150MB, or $29.99 for unlimited. The old $9.99 / 25MB option will be killed off.

  • USB modem pricing remains unchanged at $39.99 for 250MB or $59.99 for 5GB. We'd say this means Big Red is strongly discouraging folks from buying these right now.

Notably, this is just 3G data pricing -- the company says it'll announce 4G plans closer to the launch of its 4G network. Existing customers can stay grandfathered on their existing plans if they so choose, just as AT&T's been playing it. Thing is, the fact that Verizon is preserving its unlimited smartphone option is a big deal -- it'll be interesting to see if it twists AT&T's arm hard enough to bring it back. Follow the break for Verizon's full internal Q&A.

[Thanks, Jay]

Update: We're being told that the $1.99 pay as you go option on feature phones is simply the current $1.99 / MB option. Thanks, anonymous tipster!

Q: Why has Verizon Wireless decided to introduce these new 3G data plans?

A: Customers want to get the most from their high-powered devices. The new plans give these customers more customized options for their wireless plans and devices to match their lifestyle needs.

Q: What are the new 3G data plan options?

A: Customers may choose from the following 3G Device Data plans:

3G Feature Phones -- $1.99 pay as you go or $15 monthly access for 150 or 150 MB ($15/150 MB overage) or $29.99 for unlimited monthly access.

3G Smartphones Plans – $15 monthly access for 150 MB ($15/150 MB overage) or $29.99 for unlimited monthly access.

3G Tablet Plans – $20 monthly access for 1 GB ($20/1 GB overage), $35 monthly access for 3 GB ($10/ 1 GB overage); $50 monthly access for 5 GB ($10/1 GB overage) and $80 for 10 GB ($10/1G overage).

3G Netbooks/Notebooks Built-In Plans – $50 monthly access for 5 GB ($10/1 GB overage) or $80 monthly access for 10 GB ($10/1 GB overage).

MiFi 2200 and Five Spot Mobile – $50 monthly access for 5 GB ($10 /1 GB overage), $80 for 10 GB ($10/1G overage) or as part of a 90-day promotion $35 monthly access for 3 GB ($10/1 GB overage).

Q: How do these data plans fit in the overall competitive landscape for wireless?

A: We emphasize that our network is unique and personal to each customer. Each device is designed to meet a wide range of needs for a variety of customers, from the stay-at-home mom to the traveling executive. These new data plans correspond with that emphasis and are another step towards giving customers options that will make it easier than ever to stay connected. With customized data plans, customers can get the most of their wireless investments.

Q: Will the data pricing change for 3G USB modems and PC cards?

A: No. The pricing for 3G USB modems and PC cards will remain the same – $39.99 monthly access for 250 MB ($0.10/MB overage) or $59.99 monthly access for 5 GB ($0.05/MB overage).

Q: Will there be any changes to the Prepaid Mobile Broadband structure?

A: No. Prepaid Mobile Broadband plans for 3G USB Modems, Mobile Hotspots, Netbooks and Notebooks Built-In will remain the same, which include:

$15/Day for 100 MB

$30/Week for 300 MB

$50/Month for 1 GB

$80/Month for 5 GB

Q: Why did Verizon Wireless eliminate the $9.99/month data option for the 3G Multimedia phones?

A: Verizon Wireless is launching a variety of new Feature Phones throughout the rest of the year. These devices will have text, e-mail, and full multimedia capabilities. While we always encourage our customers to choose a data plan that complements their new phones to avoid unexpected data charges, we also wanted to give our customers the option to choose pay as you go pricing.

Q: What happens to existing customers?

A: After careful evaluation of their data usage, existing Verizon Wireless customers can migrate to the new data plans at any time.

Q: What is happening with 4G?

A: Verizon Wireless will commercially launch our 4G LTE network in 38 major metropolitan areas, covering more than 110 million Americans, by the end of the year. In addition, we are launching 4G LTE in more than 60 commercial airports coast to coast – both the airports within the launch areas plus airports in other key cities. In subsequent years, an equally aggressive growth plan will result in full nationwide coverage in 2013. We expect the initial devices to be USB modems for laptop connectivity. We expect to offer LTE consumer handsets in mid-year 2011.

Q: What will your 4G data pricing plan structure look like?

A: We'll offer more information on the data plans for our 4G devices at launch.

Q: Does Verizon Wireless' decision to update the 3G pricing structure coincide with the fact that you're concerned with data volumes on the new 4G network?

A: No. We're focused on offering our current customers using 3G devices with more customized options for accessing the data they need when they need it.