Sunday, January 9, 2011

Verizon will have iPhones available by the end of January

Verizon Wireless will offer unlimited data plans when it starts selling the iPhone, a person familiar with the matter said, providing a key means of distinguishing its service from rival AT&T Inc.

New buyers of the Apple Inc. phone on AT&T's network have to choose between one of two data plans, each of which caps the amount that can be used. AT&T did away with its unlimited plan for new subscribers last summer, hoping to gain a measure of control over heavy users and to put itself in a better position to turn rising data use into revenue growth.

Still, many subscribers dislike the idea of data caps, according to a survey last year by analysts at Sanford Bernstein. That's in part because megabits aren't as intuitive as minutes. AT&T says its two-gigabit plan would allow subscribers to stream 200 hours of YouTube video a month.

AT&T didn't immediately comment. The carrier allowed existing iPhone subscribers to keep their unlimited plans when it made the switch last year.

It wasn't clear how long Verizon would offer unlimited plans. Its executives have said repeatedly that the industry needs to move to some form of tiered pricing as data use rises, but for the moment the carrier is sticking with its current data plans.

Verizon feels the large investments it has made in its wireless networks over the past few years and investments planned for this year have given it the ability to handle iPhone-type loads.

AT&T has acknowledged it was caught by surprise by iPhone users' heavy data consumption. The demand weighed on AT&T's network and caused problems like dropped calls, hurting the carrier's reputation.

Verizon's confidence could be tested this year. Analysts think the carrier, which has 93 million subscribers, could sell as many as 12 million iPhones in the first year.


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