Verizon Steps Up Unlimited Data Buffet

In the battle to bring users the most bang for their buck, Verizon Wireless has today unveiled two more all-you-can-eat plans for smartphones.

The carrier, taking on rivals such as AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S), is adding unlimited mobile email and browsing plans for small business users and everyday consumers respectively. Most major U.S. carriers now offer unlimited voice calls as a monthly option and some also have unlimited data plans too.

For $30 a month, Verizon subscribers will be able to surf until they go cross-eyed and send emails from their phones until their fingers ache with the service provider's consumer-focused plan. The plan will work with the Verizon SMT5800, the Verizon Wireless XV6800, and the Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) Q9m. The operator already has a similar offering for the BlackBerry and promises to offer the plan for more smartphone models soon.

The hosted VZEmail service, meanwhile, is aimed at the small business owner that wants the "storage, capacity, and speed" of an enterprise system, without the expense, Verizon spokeswoman Brenda Raney says. The plan starts at $8 a month for a basic email setup.

The big three operators are pushing aggressively into unlimited talk for $99 a month plan. Sprint's "Simply Everything" plan, however, tries to outdo its larger rival's offerings with a $99 monthly contract that adds unlimited data to the mix. AT&T has a bolt-on unlimited data plan for $35 a month for phone and offers an all-you-can-eat plan with the Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) iPhone.

One-size-fits-all price plans are not the last word on data for some figures in the industry, however. Speaking with Unstrung at the CTIA Show in Vegas recently, Verizon wireless CTO Tony Melone explained why the operator has simultaneously embraced unlimited calling for voice, while moving away from the endless coffee cup approach for high-end, laptop toutin' data subscribers.

"There is a limit to how much people can talk in a given month, yet the industry took 25 years to sort of get to an unlimited voice," Melone says. "With data, where's virtually no limit on... consumption; the industry went right out of the gate with unlimited, which is kind of backwards in my opinion."

These formerly unlimited PC card plans now cost $40 a month for 500 MB of data downloads and $60 for 5GB.

Meanwhile, Leap Wireless International Inc. (Nasdaq: LEAP)'s Greg Lund's Unstrung interview at the show suggested that the only way for major carriers' flat-rate plans to go is down, since Leap -- and others -- already offer unlimited voice plans at around half of the cost of the big operator's services.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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