As the first 4G Verizon phone approaches, we are all still wondering how Big Red is going to charge for access to their new LTE network. We know they will be scrapping their tiered 3G data in the near future, but we still have no idea what we will have to give to peruse the Internet on our smartphones using LTE. Given that they are arguably one of the most expensive carriers in the US, should they be charging even more for LTE access?
Yes, there should be some sort of fee in effect; networks don't build or pay for themselves. But Verizon should also be reasonable about it. $30 for unlimited data is already fairly expensive, especially considering prices on other networks. A $5 or $10 fee wouldn't be terrible, but charging $15 per device for 4G access is simply too much. They could also drop the 3G data price and have 3G/4G data at $30. Either way, if they're not smart about it, people may begin shopping around for comparable 4G coverage for a better price.
When Sprint first introduced their WiMAX network, they were charging a mandatory $10 Premium Data fee for every customer using a 4G-capable phone. Customers responded negatively until they realized that they were still paying less for both 3G and 4G than most users on other networks were paying for just 3G. Now that Clearwire is in a bit of a financial strain and Sprint is feeling their wallets grow thin, they have decided to charge the Premium Data fee to everyone with a smartphone. Much like T-Mobile, their 4G is now bundled into a generic data fee.
How will Verizon approach LTE though? My guess is we will see an additional charge – probably packaged neatly into another “data plan.” An unlimited 3G and 4G bundled package for $35-45 will be required for 4G phones and 3G-only phones will remain on the $30 data plan. Then again, they haven't charged extra for LTE broadband cards, so it's plausible they carry that on to LTE-capable phones. Regardless, people will still buy 4G phones and eat the extra fee, just to stop the salivating.
One of the biggest complaints about Sprint charging for WiMAX was that most people were paying $10 more per month without even having access to WiMAX. Over time, Verizon's network will undoubtedly be expanded and most people will be covered by the end of 2013. But until a city has been upgraded to LTE, customers there and in surrounding areas should not be charged extra. Once a city has LTE, users there should have the option to add the fee right away or wait until they upgrade (barring they charge a fee, of couse).
Do you think Verizon should charge extra for 4G access? Keep in mind, free is not always better. If they charge a reasonable amount, they will be better fit to expand the network and provide better 4G coverage nationwide. How much more are you willing to shell out for LTE on top of what you're already paying? An arm? A leg? Your firstborn?