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Tuesday, March 01, 2011, 05:30 pm PT (08:30 pm ET)

Verizon plans to end unlimited data plans by this summer

A Verizon executive hinted Tuesday that the carrier will cease offering unlimited data plans for the iPhone as early as the middle of this summer, while also fueling speculation that Apple will release an updated Verizon iPhone later this year.

Verizon Chief Financial Officer Francis Shammo made the remarks at an investors conference, Reuters reports. According to Shammo, the carrier will probably transition to tiered pricing data plans in the "mid-summer time frame."

Shammo also told investors Tuesday that Verizon had kept the unlimited plan for the iPhone launch because it "didn't want to put up a barrier" to consumers looking to try out the handset.

Rumors emerged in early January that Verizon planned to offer unlimited data to iPhone customers. Rival AT&T began limiting its data plans last year, but quietly began offering some of its iPhone customers unlimited data again in January in an effort to keep them from switching to Verizon.

After a leaked memo revealed that new iPhone 4 customers on Verizon would be offered just a $30 unlimited data plan, Verizon COO Lowell McAdam went on record as saying the unlimited data plan would only be a temporary offer, with tiered pricing coming in "the not too distant future."

The report noted that shares of Verizon fell 2.4 percent Tuesday after Shammo warned that a new iPhone could negatively affect profit margins. "There could be some (margin) lumpiness when you launch the phone," he said. "If there happens to be a new one that comes out, that quarter might not look so good (either)."

According to one analyst, Shammo's remarks serve as evidence that an updated CDMA iPhone would arrive later this year. "I would take that comment as a pretty strong signal there's an iPhone refresh coming to Verizon in the third quarter," said Credit Suisse analyst Jonathan Chaplin.

Last week, Verizon CEO Dan Mead hinted that an LTE-capable iPhone from Apple is in the works. The executive also reassured investors by revealing that the iPhone 4 launch had been the largest in company history, contrary to reports that had suggested a more lackluster launch.