While some people were unable to contemplate the possibility that Verizon's all-you-can-eat data plans would be coming to an end, Verizon's CFO Fran Shammo again affirmed the carrier's commitment to move to a tiered system today. When will life start to suck for new or upgrading Verizon customers? This Summer, apparently.
"But David, I already have an unlimited data contract, they have to honor that!" Why yes, they do. Until you want to upgrade to a 4G device, and you have to sign a completely "new" rate plan contract. AT&T is already doing this with the Inspire 4G - if you upgrade from any previous device to the Inspire, AT&T forces you into their limited data plans because your "service" has changed (to "4G").
Personally, I'm expecting these plans to go into effect on the launch day of the DROID BIONIC. [Update: Apparently, if you have an old unlimited data plan on AT&T and go to an AT&T store to upgrade to an Inspire or ATRIX 4G, you can nicely ask your salesperson to keep you on the old unlimited data plan. This does seem to contravene AT&T's official policy on HSPA+ 4G device upgrades, and sounds like a customer retention measure / sales-floor offer, so consider yourself informed.]
Additionally, I wouldn't hold out hope for any "3G only" data plan options for any 4G devices, that's some very wishful thinking. Will upcoming 3G phones (like the DROID X2) still have unlimited data? I'm willing to bet so - either that, or very liberal data caps. Verizon will want to keep its appeal to rural and suburban customers that rely on its extensive 3G coverage.
Why not start this tierification with the HTC Thunderbolt? Verizon wants to remain competitive with AT&T's special treatment of iPhone upgrades, and its competitors' 4G devices that still have unlimited data (T-Mobile, Sprint). It makes sense - early adopters are quite a fickle bunch. But, once Verizon's 4G network becomes the nation's largest (which will presumably be soon), the shoe's going to be on the other foot. [Update: The HTC Thunderbolt will be subject to Verizon's LTE data tiers, though it is unclear whether this will happen at launch, or if customers are agreeing to rate changes down the line.]
It remains unknown just how Verizon will be arranging its data tiers, but expect a combination of data usage and connection speed caps, much like what AT&T has apparently been planning for its own LTE network.