More of this, please: Verizon turning 3G network into pre-paid realm

$60 for 500 MB of no-contract 3G data, with a decent phone? That's actually not bad.

Image credit: flickr/MIKI Yoshihito (´・ω・)

Verizon is all-in in pushing customers toward its expanding 4G (technically LTE) network—its customers that can afford faster phones and faster data plans, anyways. As it moves customers up from 3G to its roughly 10-times-faster LTE network, Verizon is offering two new 3G-only pre-paid plans. As noticed and blogged by GigaOM, for $60 and no contract, a customer gets a month of unlimited talk and texting, along with 500 MB of data. $70 brings the data amount up to 2 GB.

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Is this a ploy by Verizon to squeeze more revenue out of pre-existing infrastructure? You bet. Are the phones promoted along with these pre-paid plans great? No, they are not. But Verizon is charging non-subsidized prices for their phones, so they might be open to customers bringing their own Verizon-compatible devices into these plans. And as customers upgrade from 3G to LTE, there are going to be a number of 3G-focused phones hitting the second-hand and recycling markets very soon. Now we just need to be able to find the right phones.

To my mind, it’s a big opportunity. Right now, people who want to enter the smartphone market at low cost, or get by with just enough of a phone to handle email, some apps, and some light browsing, have a few not-so-great options:

  • Pick up the free-with-contract phone from their carrier, which will almost always be a slow, cheap-feeling, under-tested smartphone.

  • Get a feature phone, which is limiting in both screen size and modern adaptability.

  • Buy a good phone at a non-subsidized price (usually starting at $400), figure out which smaller pre-paid carrier can work with it, and price-compare.

The offerings for those who don’t need lots of speedy bandwidth are, as I see it, rough. But 3G is actually good enough for email, for casual browsing, for Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest, and whatever other apps someone might like. Most people, too, use far less data than they think they do, and can easily live inside 500 MB of data usage, especially at 3G speeds.

Here’s the too-long-can’t-read version of this column: I think no-contract, $60, 3G-powered plans are an entirely sensible and usable thing, especially if the coming glut of used but decent Android and iOS 3G phones can make their way smoothly into non-bleeding-edge hands. 3G seems like the first chance the smartphone market has had in some time to create a new tier of customers, and I hope they do it the smart way.

Read more of Kevin Purdy's Mobilize! blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Kevin on Twitter at @kevinpurdy. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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