Verizon Wireless is buckling under the weight of Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL ) iconic iPhone.
Verizon (NYSE: VZ ) CFO Fran Shammo -- speaking yesterday at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference -- warned that the gravy days of unlimited data plans are coming to an end.
"Why did we do the unlimited $30 plan on the iPhone," Shammo asked rhetorically. "Well, the reason we did that was we didn't really want to put up a barrier to anybody who wanted to come over and experience the Verizon Wireless network."
Well, the barrier's coming back up. Verizon Wireless -- a joint venture between Verizon and Vodafone (Nasdaq: VOD ) -- plans to revert back to offering only tiered data plans. The shift should happen "in the mid-summer timeframe" according to Shammo.
It's not a surprise, but I was hoping it would go the other way. Instead of AT&T (NYSE: T ) pulling Verizon Wireless into tiered plans that discourage smartphone usage in the wild, I was hoping that Verizon's success and the lack of iPhone exclusivity would force AT&T to come back to its unlimited data deals for new accounts.
After all, it's not as if frustrated smartphone owners have been raving about AT&T's network since the tollbooths went up. It's not as if AT&T was losing money overall in serving up unlimited data.
I have rarely come close to tiered caps while using AT&T, but I've stuck to being grandfathered in to the unlimited plan because I love the value proposition of a good smorgasbord. I hate feeling as if the clock is ticking whenever I'm checking email or streaming Pandora on AT&T's 3G network.
It's not a coincidence that Verizon is eyeing a rate plan change during the summer. The fifth generation of Apple's iPhone will likely hit the market come June. AT&T did the same thing last year.
Once again, Apple's vision is obstructed. A world of smartphones and unlimited apps will once again be held in check when Wi-Fi hotspots aren't around.
I know it's not just Apple and Verizon shutting down the buffet line. Sprint Nextel's (NYSE: S ) Virgin Mobile USA turned heads when it began selling Novatel Wireless' (Nasdsaq: NVTL) MiFi portable hotspots with unlimited data for $40 a month last summer. It nixed the plan a couple of months ago.
This may not seem like a big deal now, but it will be when consumer broadband providers install ticking time bombs into routers. It can happen. It's already happening on the extreme end of the data hogging.
Welcome to the dark side, Verizon. Obi Wan is oh be gone -- and he was our only hope.
Are unlimited data plans history or will they make a fashionable comeback? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.