Verizon is launching an 'unlimited' data plan for the first time in 5 years

Verizon on Sunday said that it will launch an unlimited LTE data plan, titled Verizon Unlimited, on February 13. The plan will start at $80 per month for an individual line, or $45 per line for a group of four on smartphones or tablets.

The move marks the first time in more than five years that Verizon, the nation’s largest carrier in terms of total subscribers, will have an unlimited offering. The carrier had recently started forcing heavy users who’ve stayed on those old plans to move to new offerings.

Executives at the company have downplayed the need for unlimited plans on numerous occasions in recent months, too, though the carrier started allowing customers to pay for unlimited usage in 30- and 60-minute increments last fall.

The new plan comes on the heels of other aggressive pushes into unlimited data from rival carriers, most notably T-Mobile, which in August replaced all of its existing mobile plans in favour of one unlimited offering, entitled T-Mobile One.

T-Mobile’s plan has faced criticism, however, for downgrading all video streams to a less-than-HD resolution unless subscribers pay for a $15 add-on. It also does not allow subscribers to access LTE speeds when using their phones as a mobile hotspot by default.

Verizon appears to be directly going after those complaints. The carrier says its unlimited plan will allow users to stream video at an “HD” resolution, and that it will include up to 10GB of LTE mobile hotspot data before cutting that down to 3G speeds. The carrier did not specify whether or not it will allow videos to stream above a 720p resolution, the minimum threshold for high-definition video, however.

Verizon says the plan will also provide unlimited calling and texting to Canada and Mexico, along with 500 MB per day of LTE data in those countries. A $10 per day pass will allow for that same allotment of data outside of North America.

Verizon says it will keep other tiered data plans available alongside the new unlimited plan, including a 5GB per month offering, as well as the “S,” “M,” and “L” plans. Currently, those plans start at $35 per month for 2GB of LTE data.

The $80 per month starting point makes Verizon’s unlimited plan costlier than T-Mobile One, which starts at $70 per month for a single line, and Sprint’s unlimited data plan, which normally costs $60 per month. But it is less expensive than AT&T’s unlimited offering, which starts at $100 per month and only comes bundled with a subscription to the carrier’s DirecTV or U-Verse services.

John legere t mobileDavid Becker/Getty ImagesT-Mobile US CEO John Legere speaks at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show.

Verizon is still generally seen as having the fastest and most widely available network of the bunch, though a recent study from mobile analyst firm OpenSignal found that T-Mobile has largely caught up when it comes to fastest average speeds.

In any case, Verizon’s new plan comes with the same caveat as every other unlimited offering: It’s not technically unlimited. Verizon says that any line that uses more than 22GB of mobile data in a given month may see their data “prioritised” behind other customers in times of network congestion. T-Mobile, Sprint, and AT&T all warn of similar limits, too.

Still, that allotment should be enough for most people, and would seem to give Verizon a plan it can sell to hungrier users in an increasingly data-heavy time. The carrier describes the new offering as an “introductory” plan, so expect more details to emerge soon.

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