Verizon: Talk Is Cheap, Data Is Mandatory for Most

Verizon (s vz) today finally unveiled new pricing plans that reduce the cost of voice while keeping a customer’s overall bill about the same, thanks to making data plans mandatory on many popular phones. The carrier also said it plans to reduce the number of devices it carries to 50 from more than 80 today, and to further reduce that number as time goes on. The goal of these pricing changes is to get more people hooked on data in advance of Verizon rolling out its next-generation Long Term Evolution (LTE) network.

Beginning Jan. 18, Verizon customers will be able to get an unlimited nationwide voice plan for $69.99. Unlimited voice, texts, pictures and video messages will cost $89.99, and prepaid versions of those plans will cost $5 more a month. When it comes to data, Verizon has divided its handsets into three categories (see slide): smartphones, multimedia phones and feature phones. Smartphones have needed a data plan for a while, and now Verizon is requiring a data plan at $9.99 for 25 MB (40 cents a MB) for its multimedia phones, as we previously reported.

Verizon has simplified its pricing to six single line plans and eight family plans from a total of 40 plans, which should make comparisons among them all a little bit easier. Lowell McAdam, president and CEO of Verizon Wireless, said the company will also allow tethering with its smartphones, and would make an announcement related to that capability sometime in the future. He stressed that Verizon’s efforts with pricing were to get more people to use data. Such data use won’t harm the company’s network, he said. It will also bring in more revenue and keep the average revenue per user at the carrier on the rise.

For those seeing a chance for savings, you actually need to call Big Red or go online to change your current plans. And no word at all on what pricing for LTE plans will look like, or what the deal is with Verizon’s CEO’s love of bundled plans while its CTO touts usage-based plans.

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