June 12, 2012

Verizon Updates Plans To Share Data Among Family

Enid Burns for redOrbit.com

When Verizon Wireless discontinued its unlimited data plan over a year ago, the underlying question from customers was, "If I can share minutes, why can't I share data between multiple phones and devices?" Verizon just unveiled a new set of plans that lets customers share data on up to 10 devices under a tiered data plan.

Verizon Wireless will begin offering Share Everything Plans on June 28. Under the plan, subscribers will get unlimited voice minutes, unlimited text, video and picture messaging, and a single data allowance for up to 10 Verizon Wireless devices such as smartphones, tablets, Jetpacks, notebooks and netbooks. Data plans range from 1GB per month for $50 to 10 GB per month for $100 shared across all connected devices.

In addition to the monthly data fee, each device also has a monthly fee associated with the monthly subscription rate. Smartphones cost a monthly $40; basic or feature phones run $30 a month, a Jetpack USB modem, notebook or netbook costs $20 per month and a tablet comes with a monthly subscription rate of $10. Adding a tablet for $10 per month can be done on a month-by-month basis, which doesn't require a long-term contract.

"Customers asked, and today Verizon Wireless delivered an industry first," said Tami Erwin, vice president and chief marketing officer for Verizon Wireless, in a corporate statement. "Share Everything Plans are the new standard for wireless service. They are simple; customers no longer have to think about their voice and message plans, because both are unlimited. Share Everything Plans are convenient; customers purchase one data plan and they share it with up to 10 mobile devices. And, they are worry-free; customers can connect their 3G or 4G devices wherever and whenever they want."

While customers currently have to pay extra for Mobile Hotspot service, USA Today states that Verizon Wireless is including the service, which allows customers to tether a laptop to a smartphone to gain the handset's connectivity, as part of the plan. This is a move toward more data usage, as the Mobile Hotspot service equals data consumption.

USA Today also noted that unlimited data customers, who are currently grandfathered in to unlimited data from before Verizon Wireless introduced its tiered data plans, will have to choose the Share Everything plan or a tiered pricing plan when they renew contracts.

"Customers liked the unlimited data," says Tech Industry Analyst Jeff Kagan. "Sprint and C Spire Wireless are the ones that kept unlimited data while AT&T and Verizon moved away from it."

Verizon Wireless wasn't the first to discontinue its unlimited data plans, but it is the first U.S. carrier to offer shared data between multiple devices on the same account. Industry experts expect other carriers to follow Verizon's lead and come up with similar shared data plans. Verizon is going after revenue and realizes that data is the last hope for money-generating services.

"In this world Verizon is trying to figure out the direction the industry is headed," says Kagan. "What they see is that they can't give away unlimited data. They are introducing this plan, which may be popular. It could be a number of devices among yourself or your friends and family."

The end of the month will be telling for Verizon Wireless, and the wireless industry, as to whether consumers accept the new data package or jump to other carriers when it's time to renew contracts.