HTC Thunderbolt: Verizon Launching First 4G Phone w/ Unlimited Data

Verizon will be offering unlimited data with the HTC Thunderbolt, the first 4G LTE phone on its network, for $29.99 per month. Verizon insiders have indicated that new tier plans would replace the carrier’s unlimited data plans with the introduction of 4G LTE phones, but those plans are being put on hold…for now.

The HTC Thunderbolt is the first 4G LTE phone Verizon is supporting and it will go on sale Thursday. Verizon’s been selling 4G LTE modems for a few months, but has held off on introducing 4G LTE phones and tablets until now.

Here’s a quick walkthrough of the Verizon Thunderbolt by HTC at CES 2011.

Verizon charges $29.99 per month for unlimited usage of its 3G network on other phones, including the iPhone 4. By offering the same price on its first 4G device, Verizon will help avoid confusion and keep an objective over a price premium out of the mix as consumers weigh their options.

Verizon’s 4G LTE network is faster than many home and business connections, prompting some to consider cutting the cord to their DSL or cable providers. But Verizon’s long-term 4G wireless hotspot prices are still unknown. The carrier is offering complimentary wireless hotspot access on the HTC Thunderbolt through May 15, but hasn’t stated what Thunderbolt owners will have to pay to use the feature after that date. Verizon currently charges $20 per month for 2GB of hotspot bandwidth per month on its 3G smart phones.

As it stands, Verizon’s 4G LTE pricing is a much better value than AT&T’s data plans, which are capped. For those in areas with strong Verizon coverage it’ll be a no-brainer to opt for Verizon versions of popular smartphone if speed is important to you. In areas where AT&T’s service is flaky, such as in San Francisco, you’ll be able to make clearer calls. In our experience, Verizon’s 4G LTE network is significantly faster than Sprint’s 4G service, which means you’ll actually be able to take advantage of the Thunderbolt’s unlimited data plan.

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AT&T, Verizon’s top rival, currently offers three data plans for 3G and 4G plans. For $15 per month AT&T smartphone subscribers get a paltry 250MB per month. Bumping up to $25 per month allows for 2GB of data per month. Those who want to use their AT&T smartphones, including the Atrix and iPhone 4, as mobile hotspots have to pony up $45 per month and are allowed 4GB per month. Exceeding those limits will trigger hefty overage charges starting at $15 for each 200MB of overage on the 250MB and the 2GB plans. Extra GBs only cost $10 on the 4GB plan.

Here is an example of a speed test between a Verizon 4G LTE modem and a Sprint Overdrive at a Dell event. We were inside a popular hotel on the Embarcadero in San Francisco. It’s experiences like these with Verizon’s 4G LTE network that encouraged me to pre-order the Thunderbolt from Best Buy.

Reliability for any device being used as a mobile hotspot is the most important factor. Staying online is much more important than raw speed, but speedy downloads and uploads are music to my ears considering I work with large files on the go. A fair pricing plan is icing on the cake and something I hope Verizon keeps around as it continues to roll out 4G LTE.

I don’t think Verizon will keep this unlimited 4G LTE plan around forever, so you may as well jump on board before it’s too late. Verizon’s 4G LTE network covers just over a third of the U.S. population and hopes to cover all of its customers by the end of 2013.

You can read more about the Verizon Thunderbolt by HTC’s specs and features here.

  

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