From everywhere I've read, it sounds plain that Verizon will be switching to a (most likely more expensive) tiered data plan some time this summer. There are many sources for this, but the most obvious was the following comment made by Verizon CFO Fran Shammo earlier this month, while discussing the $30 unlimited plan for iPhones:
"Everyone knows that isn't long-term," he added. "We will move to tiered pricing in the mid-summer time frame."
Assuming this is true, it makes the current offer of $30 unlimited LTE with a new contract and Thunderbolt very very appealing. If i were to go ahead and sign up for that, which of the following situations would I be in?
1. $30 unlimited LTE until Verizon launches new tiered plans this summer, then I'll be forced to pay more or exit my contract without an ETF
2. $30 unlimited LTE for as long as I use my Thunderbolt. As soon as I want to get a new phone, on contract or off, I'll be forced to switch to a tiered plan.
3. $30 unlimited LTE until I sign a new contract. That is, I could then purchase LTE phones off-contract (full retail), and Verizon will let me activate them without switching to a tiered plan. Theoretically I could do this forever.
I know there's a lot of speculation involved here, but anyone have any idea? If (3) is the case, it makes significant financial sense to get a Thunderbolt, rather than waiting for the more capable Bionic/Revolution which won't be out until the summer.
Honestly, any answer that anyone gives you is pure speculation. I agree that it could play out as mdram suggests, but keep in mind that Verizon allowed people to stay grandfathered in on the 3G modem side of things (my boss has been able to keep his unlimited 3G plan despite upgrading to modems after the unlimited option was taken away), so there is precedent. We'll just have to wait until mid-summer to see where the chips fall.
I know that's not terribly helpful, and it can be paralyzing to consider changing hardware, changing software and changing pricing structures when you chose to upgrade you phone, but just try to keep in mind that no matter what you get, you're stuck with it for 20 months (unless you decide to pay full retail). If you feel that the $50/mo for a 5GB LTE plan (which is the lowest they have on their 4G modems at the moment) is less cost effective over the next 20 months (duh) than going for the Thunderbolt or any of the other phones that will be released in time to take advantage of the unlimited LTE data plan, then I wouldn't sweat it and I'd just get the new phone and be happy with the 'discount' for however long the benevolent Verizon so kindly allows me to receive it.
How could anyone possibly know the answer to this?
Nobody (except Verizon) can know for sure. I was basically just asking for opinions. Verizon has changed its data pricing many times in the past, so as enyalius mentioned, there is some precedent to base those opinions off of. I'm still on the fence about getting the Thuderbolt, so I figured I'd see what other people thought.
If you look at their past policies you can make an educated guess that you can use unlimited data on 4g for the 29.99 until you upgrade that device.