Verizon just announced new unlimited plans, with some good news -- and some bad news

  • Verizon has three new unlimited plans that will replace its single unlimited plan introduced in February.
  • The basic version of the new plan is cheaper, but comes with more restrictions in data speeds and video streaming resolution.
  • Customers with grandfathered unlimited plans will be affected, and might as well switch over to the new plans.

Verizon announced three new “unlimited” data plans on Tuesday, which will go into effect on Wednesday, according to CNET.

The good news is that the most basic version, called “Go Unlimited” costs $US5 per-month less than the original and soon-to-be-extinct $US80-per-month single unlimited plan. That means customers that sign up for Verizon’s Go Unlimited plan will get unlimited data for $US5 less each month.

The bad news is that Verizon will be able to throttle your speeds whenever it wants, which translates to when the network is congested in your location. With the original unlimited plan, your speeds would only be throttled if you went over the 22GB limit.

There’s more bad news if you like to use your unlimited plan to watch videos: Video streaming quality for the new Go Unlimited plan will be limited to “DVD” quality, which translates to 480p. For reference, the current unlimited data plan allows you to stream in “HD” quality, which translates as 720p. If you don’t care so much about video resolution, Verizon’s new video resolution limits won’t really matter, and you’ll win by paying $US5 less with the Go Unlimited plan.

Verizon claims “there is no visible difference in quality on a smartphone or tablet when video is shown at higher resolutions.” That means Verizon thinks you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between a 480p and 720p video on your smartphone.

I just tested Verizon’s claim on a YouTube video playing on my iPhone 6s Plus (which has a 1080p screen), and I can attest that there is a slight noticeable difference between 480p and 720p, with 480p being slightly less sharp. With that said, the difference wasn’t overwhelming.

If Verizon customers want to keep their video streaming at the 720p HD resolution, like the current $US80 per-month plan they have now, they will have to step up to Verizon’s new “Beyond Unlimited” plan, which costs $US85 per month. That’s $US5 more per month than the original unlimited plan. Customers would essentially be paying more for the same plan.

Here’s a breakdown of the new plans and what video resolution they will support, according to The Verge:

  • Go Unlimited: $US75/month, 480p video streaming resolution on smartphones, 720p resolution on tablets.
  • Beyond Unlimited: $US85/month, 720p video streaming resolution on smartphones, 1080p resolution on tablets.
  • Business Unlimited: Varying price, 480p video streaming resolution on smartphones, 720p resolution on tablets.

What if you’re already on an older Verizon Unlimited plan?

Unfortunately, Verizon customers with older unlimited plans, even the $US80 per month plan that was announced earlier in February this year, will be affected by the new speed throttling and video-resolution limitations. So, with that in mind, you should switch over to the new Go Unlimited plan if you’re paying more than $US75 per month for an older Verizon unlimited data plan.

And if you’re on an older Verizon unlimited data plan and you want to keep streaming videos at 720p, you’ll have to sign up to Verizon’s $US85 per-month Beyond Unlimited plan.

Other carriers do the same

Both AT&T and T-Mobile offer similar basic unlimited data plans with similar limitations, where you have to pay more for an elevated unlimited plan to get faster speeds and higher video resolution streaming.

  • The basic unlimited data plans from AT&T also have speed throttling — a maximum of a slow 3 megabits-per-second at all times — and video resolution limits of 480p.
  • T-Mobile’s basic unlimited data plan also limits video resolution to 480p. However, T-Mobile doesn’t throttle data speeds unless you go over its 32GB limit and its network in your location is congested.
  • Sprint offers full HD 1080p video streaming with its unlimited data plan, but its speeds are limited for certain applications, like music streaming.

Verizon’s new unlimited plans, as well as the restrictive “unlimited” plans from other carriers, reflect a tightening grip on consumers, as the companies are making it increasingly more expensive to do things they used to in the past. It’s unclear whether the restrictions are based on making more profit, or whether they’re based on the the carriers’ limitations in their LTE networks.

It will be interesting to see how the upcoming 5G network will affect pricing, as 5G is said to have much higher bandwidth than the current 4G LTE, and carriers shouldn’t have the existing network congestion problems they currently experience. In other words, carriers technically shouldn’t have any reason to throttle speeds or video resolution once 5G is rolled out.

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