We knew it was coming. We've known for a while, in fact. But as summer draws near, reality is starting to set in: unlimited data is coming to an end on Verizon. For real. Here's what you need to know (based on what we know): Verizon's CFO told Reuters at a tech conference that tiered data will be implemented this summer, and that all unlimited data options will be eliminated. There was also a suggestion that family plans may (eventually - not with the launch of tiers) get data pooled in a fashion similar to minutes - eliminating the need for individual data plans.

We don't know how the tiers will be implemented, but expect something at least remotely similar to what AT&T offers (2GB at $25/month, 4GB at $45, $10/GB overage). Will there be an LTE 4G "premium" (ala Sprint)? Hard to say. Verizon has lured customers into buying the carrier's first 4G devices (the Thunderbolt, Charge, and soon, the Revolution) with the offer of unlimited 4G data for a paltry $30 per month. That isn't shabby - especially considering the blazing speeds which Verizon's LTE network is capable of.

But that's all going to change - probably just in the nick of time for the release of the carrier's flagship 4G monster-handset: the Motorola DROID Bionic, which will probably have more advertising fanfare than any phone preceding it.

Considering 4G LTE is supposedly cheaper to operate per byte of data transferred than CDMA or HSPA, Verizon may not differentiate between 3G and 4G data plans in terms of pricing. That would be nice of them. But it remains to be seen just what Verizon will do, as it's hard to argue that Big Red's 4G network is expanding more rapidly than any of the competition.

Verizon customers already pay some of the highest rates in the country for the carrier's unmatched 3G and voice coverage, and the allure of what will (likely) become the largest 4G network in the nation may have Verizon feeling confident enough to charge such a premium.

Still, the news of the T-Mobile / AT&T deal has to be keeping Verizon on its toes - the combined force of those carriers could lead to an even more rapid LTE deployment than we've seen with Verizon so far.

As a reminder, Verizon may force you into a new contract if you decide to upgrade your phone, or your contract expires (no, upgrading does not automatically extend your contract - grandfathering is sheerly a customer retention measure), and with major data plan changes like this, individual customers might be forced to face the music and finally give up their ancient unlimited plans to get their hands on fresh hardware. We'll see in the coming months.

Reuters via BGR