Musing on Verizon iPhone voice and data plans

Ronny Kerr · January 10, 2011 · Short URL:

Will Verizon offer unlimited data to one-up AT&T? Is AT&T really the faster network? Does CDMA suck?

Verizon iPhoneTomorrow’s the big day! I know Christmas won’t be here again for another 350 days or so, but with the whole (tech) world seemingly waiting with bated breath for Santa Claus (Verizon) to deliver the best gift ever (an iPhone not tied to AT&T), I can’t help but feel like today’s the eve of some great holiday.

Ever since invitations to a super secret Verizon announcement in New York City leaked this past Friday, along with all-but-certain reports that the news to be revealed was the ever-elusive Verizon iPhone, the Internet has been astir with speculation about details related to the phone.

The big thing everyone wants to know is what kind of data plans Verizon will offer. Since AT&T abandoned unlimited data plans back in June 2010, sources say Verizon might reintroduce the plan to data-hungry customers, a move that would clearly be intended to one-up AT&T. When AT&T got rid of unlimited, however, it had said that that 98 percent of its customers don’t use more than 2 GB of data per month, the allotment for AT&T’s bigger data plan. Whether that remains true today is questionable.

Data plans aside, there’s at least one person who thinks iPhone users won’t be happy with an offering from Verizon:

"The iPhone is built for speed, but that's not what you get with a CDMA phone,” said head of PR and Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications at AT&T Larry Solomon in a statement. “I'm not sure iPhone users are ready for life in the slow lane."

Some pundits responded to the criticism by pointing to AT&T’s well-established unreliability. Faster speeds mean nothing if you can’t actually connect to the network. While studies have indeed found that AT&T has the faster network, other studies say that Verizon is the clear winner in terms of voice quality.

The truth is that no one thing will win over customers. A winning service provider must be able to deliver competitive speeds and reliability for data as well as solid voice quality.

Weirdly enough, Verizon’s CDMA network may not yet be equipped to handle voice and data simultaneously in the same way that AT&T’s GSM network can. If this is the case, then an iPhone user on Verizon wouldn’t be able to, for example, talk to someone on the phone and look up directions on Google Maps at the same time. So much for “smart” phone.

Multiple reports from this past October revealed that Verizon was already working on upgrading CDMA to be able to handle simultaneous voice and data, something that would make sense if they already knew the iPhone was coming along. There’s no telling whether those upgrades are complete, but I’m skeptical. Nevertheless, anecdotal evidence says that Verizon’s network might have already been upgraded, at least in select areas.

We’ll know for certain tomorrow.

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