Verizon could launch unlimited, flat-rate pricing for IoT customers in 2017

Verizon could revive unlimited, flat-rate pricing next year -- but only for its corporate Internet of Things customers. Mark Bartolomeo, vice president IoT Connected Solutions at Verizon, told FierceWireless the carrier could offer the pricing options to its IoT customers starting in 2017 for those that use Verizon's LTE Cat M, Cat 1 or Cat 0 network technology and devices.

Bartolomeo explained that the IoT-focused LTE technology allows Verizon to provide inexpensive, slow-speed connections to utility companies and other large corporate customers. For example, cities will be able to use the technology to install monitoring equipment on manhole covers, and can be alerted only when those manhole covers are tampered with. Bartolomeo explained that customers for such applications don't want to pay per MB or GB but instead want a flat, annual price.

"With those Cat 1, Cat 0, Cat M devices, you are going to start to see fixed pricing for that device and maybe one annual fee," Bartolomeo said. "So these are use cases where you would see them delivered as a single price point solution because they would be communicating at a very minimum level. And that's what's going to drive IoT."

Bartolomeo also noted that such services, and the associated flat-rate pricing, would not cannibalize Verizon's existing IoT connections and customers because the services would only be applicable to devices that are not yet connected today because it's currently too expensive to do so. "The more devices and people on the network, the more value that's being created," Bartolomeo said.

Bartolomeo said that Verizon is supporting LTE Cat 1 devices commercially today, and that Cat M and 0 devices are currently being tested. Indeed, chipmaker Sequans in February announced a teaming with Verizon to accelerate LTE Cat M development. Sequans' Monarch chip is compatible with both Cat M1 and Cat M2 and can support data rates for Cat M1 of 300 Kbps downlink and 375 Kbps uplink and for Cat M2 of 40 Kbps downlink and 55 Kbps uplink.

LTE Cat M, as well as Cat 1 and Cat 0, are designed for narrowband LTE applications such as Internet of Things sensors and wearables. The technology -- which includes both inexpensive LTE modules and cooresponding network connections -- essentially supports slow-speed, low-power transmissions used by tracking and metering applications. The technology is much different than the high-speed LTE connections in carriers' smartphones.

"We're expecting to see Cat M and 0 devices in commercial deployment towards the end of the year and into 2017," Bartolomeo said. "For us it's really a matter of getting devices into the marketplace and working with device manufacturers to get devices certified on the network and properly tested. So we're not seeing hurdles for us to support it, it's more about getting devices into the market place. It's more about use cases."

Verizon discontinued its unlimited data plans for smartphones in 2011, switching to the tiered, metered pricing for data that it continues to offer today.

Related articles:
Sequans backs LTE Cat M with new Monarch chip fueling Verizon partnership
Verizon doubles down on Internet of Things, claims first in Cat 1 LTE
Verizon launches ThingSpace to jumpstart the Internet of Things

Article updated to indicate that Verizon's launch plans remain in the planning stages.

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