In what may go down as the wireless equivalent of the "shot heard round the world," Verizon Wireless -- a joint venture of Verizon Communications (NYSE: VZ) and Vodafone (NYSE: VOD) -- today announced that it is offering a new set of plans that allow unlimited talk, messaging, and wireless data usage for wireless phones. It also revamped its broadband data offerings, offering a lower price for customers making wireless use of laptops and PDAs.

Verizon unveiled an unlimited talk plan for phones, starting at $99.99 per month, which includes roaming and long distance in the base price. Another $20 per month gets you unlimited messaging on a select plan, while paying $139.99 a month gets mobile email, television and navigation services as well. In addition, Verizon's broadband wireless plans are now split into two offerings -- a $39.99 rate gets 50 megabytes of monthly usage, while a $59.99 plan allows five gigabytes of data.

Just as when AT&T (NYSE: T) eliminated roaming and long-distance charges with its groundbreaking One-Rate wireless plans nearly a decade ago, Verizon's new nationwide offerings are expected to force all other carriers to step up with their own unlimited plans. And AT&T didn't waste time stepping up, essentially matching Verizon's new rates with unlimited plans of its own.

Verizon and AT&T aren't the first to venture into the land of unlimited talk, however; Sprint Nextel (NYSE: S) and several smaller carriers have already dipped their toes into unlimited waters or flat-out rely on them for customer acquisition. For instance, Leap Wireless (Nasdaq: LEAP) and virtual operator Helio -- which is a joint venture between Korea's SK Telecom (NYSE: SKM) and EarthLink (Nasdaq: ELNK) -- have long offered such deals. But most were either priced higher, only offered on a regional basis, or included other limitations not seen in Verizon's new offer.

So now that the two largest service providers in the U.S. have offered unlimited talk on a national basis, the wireless industry will move into a new phase. Almost a year ago I wrote, "the question is not whether unlimited plans will be offered on a wide scale, it's when," and "unlimited plans are the next logical step for consumer wireless services." With today's news, that time has come, and I expect all other carriers to respond in kind.

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Fool contributor Dave Mock has been subjected to a few wireless conversations he wishes he hadn't heard. He owns no shares of companies mentioned here. Dave is the author of The Qualcomm Equation. Sprint Nextel is an Inside Value recommendation. SK Telecom is a Global Gains recommendation. The Fool's disclosure policy can optionally be read aloud.