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Verizon Finally Has an Unlimited Data Plan—For 1 Hour

October 14, 2016, 3:58 PM UTC
A woman uses her phone while walking past a Verizon Store in the SoHo neighborhood of New York City.
Photograph by Andrew Burton —Getty Images

While a couple of wireless carriers have re-introduced unlimited monthly data plans, Verizon has a slightly different twist on the concept: an hourly unlimited plan.

Under Verizon’s new PopData program announced this week, customers can use an unlimited amount of high-speed 4G LTE data for 30 minutes for $2 or 60 minutes for $3. The data consumed during the PopData time does not count against a customer’s regular monthly data allowance.

So, for example, a customer with a 3-gigabyte-per-month plan could pay an extra $3 and download a 5-gigabyte high-definition movie to his or her phone using an hour of PopData. The plans might also come in handy if a customer wanted to watch streaming video, like an NFL football game, for a specific period of time.

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Customers can trigger the PopData plan using Verizon’s app on iPhones, iPads, and Android phones. The app may not offer a PopData plan if the customer is in a location where Verizon’s network signal is weak or overcrowded, the company said.

The program is in a beta phase right now, a Verizon spokeswoman said. “The beta launch of PopData gives us an opportunity to learn more about how time-based data options resonate with our customers and how they engage with a digital-only experience through the My Verizon app,” she explained.

Verizon executives have repeatedly said that they do not plan to follow the lead of other carriers and offer a monthly unlimited plan. T-Mobile (TMUS) and Sprint (S) brought back more affordable unlimited monthly data plans—though with some restrictions—in August and AT&T (T) has an unlimited plan that is only available to subscribers of its DirecTV service.

So Verizon (VZ) isn’t marketing the PopData offering as an alternative to other carriers’ unlimited plans. Instead, it has positioned PopData against using public Wi-Fi hotspots as “a faster, more secure connection.”

Competitors were quick to criticize the offering. “When old phone companies start selling you plans that count minutes, you wonder if they are stuck in the 90s, Roger Sole, chief marketing officer at Sprint, says. “Having customers keep track of adding hourly data seems like a lot of work for customers and it could also be extremely expensive.”

T-Mobile CEO John Legere took to Twitter to tweak his rival, as he often does. “$3 per hour?!! If you wanted unlimited data from @verizon, it would cost you $2160/mth. That’s a lot of #popdata,” the CEO wrote amid a series of critical tweets.