Is a new mobile price war about to get underway? If so, Verizon has just fired the first salvo.
On Tuesday, the nation's largest carrier announced it will be restructuring its unlimited data offerings into two new options, "Go Unlimited" and "Beyond Unlimited."
The "Go" plan, roughly $5 per line cheaper than Verizon's current unlimited plan that starts at $80 for one line, will limit video streams to standard definition quality and offer unlimited mobile hotspot data at non-4G LTE speeds (600Kbps, or roughly 3G-equivalent).
The premium "Beyond Unlimited" will be $5 more expensive than the current unlimited plan and allow for HD video streaming (capped at a 720p resolution for phones, 1080p resolution for tablets), calling, texting and data in Mexico and Canada and 15GB of mobile hotspot at 4G LTE speeds. "Beyond" users' data will also take priority over "Go" users at times when Verizon's network is congested.
For a family of four the "Go" plan would mark a savings of $20 per month ($160 per month) compared to the existing unlimited plan, while the "Beyond" option would run an extra $20 per month ($200 per month). Additional lines are available at $40 per line for "Go" or $50 per line for "Beyond."
Both new plans will be available beginning on Wednesday, replacing the current option.
Those with Verizon's current Unlimited plan, which starts at $80 for one line and costs $180 for four lines, will still be able to keep their current plan, plus get an extra 5GB of mobile hotspot data at no additional charge.
Those who don't need unlimited data will still be able to buy Verizon's shared data plans which range from 2GB to 8GB of shared data per month.
A new unlimited war?
When Verizon brought back unlimited data in February it sparked a mini "mobile war" that saw each major carrier refresh their unlimited data offerings in a bid to outdo the other.
New iPhones and the Galaxy Note 8 are expected to launch soon making it a prime time for carriers to try and lock-in customers, as consumers often consider switching carriers when they get a new device.
T-Mobile seems to be in the direct line-of-fire. The nation's third-largest carrier currently charges $160 for unlimited data for four lines for its basic, "T-Mobile One" unlimited plan (with 3G tethering and non-HD video streaming) or $200 for four lines for its premium "T-Mobile One Plus" option (which adds HD video and 10GB of hotspot at 4G LTE speeds).
Both price points match up directly with Verizon's new plans, though it is worth noting that T-Mobile's pricing includes the assorted taxes and fees (a few extra dollars per line, per month that varies based on where you live). Verizon's plans do not.
AT&T's cheaper unlimited plan, called "Unlimited Choice," caps data speeds to 3Mbps and does not include mobile hotspot and streams videos in standard definition. At $60 for one line AT&T's option is more affordable than Verizon, though at $155 per month it loses the edge when looking for four lines.
For four lines AT&T's premium "Unlimited Plus" plan still remains a better option than Verizon's "Beyond," offering HD video streaming, 10GB of mobile hotspot and bundled HBO access for $185 per month, though at $85 Verizon is $5 cheaper for one line.
Sprint's unlimited plan is comparable in price to Verizon for existing customers, at $160 for four lines, and includes HD video streaming and 10GB of mobile hotspot. It still offers the cheapest option among the four major carriers when it comes to new customer pricing, charging $100 per month for up to five lines until September 30, 2018.
(AT&T and Sprint's respective plans do not include taxes and fees).
Follow Eli Blumenthal on Twitter @eliblumenthal
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