Verizon considers family data-sharing plans

One mega-data plan could cover smartphones and tablets

Verizon Wireless has warned for months that it will stop offering unlimited data plans sometime this summer. Now the carrier is considering offering shared data plans for families with more than one smartphone or tablet.

Verizon CFO Fran Shammo this week mentioned the new family data-sharing concept at the Reuters Global Technology Summit, but he didn't lay out definite plans, according to a Verizon spokesman.

According to a Reuters report, Shammo said: "We had individual minutes for individual users. Then we eventually got to what we call family share where everyone in the family shares the same minutes. I think it's safe to assume that at some point you are going to have mega-plans [for data] and people are going to share that mega-plan based on the number of devices within their family. That's just a logical progression."

Asked for more details on the family data-sharing concept, a Verizon spokesman said, "Fran said we'd consider those things, but he sure didn't lay out a road map."

Data sharing is already used by large corporations that pool monthly data allocations from wireless carriers, giving heavy data users in the workforce more megabytes when other workers are on vacation or just aren't using data service very heavily.

Shammo told an investors' conference March 1 that Verizon will set caps on data usage, probably in midsummer; other Verizon executives have made similar comments. AT&T stopped offering unlimited data plans last year amid growing concern over data hogs who can cut into the network bandwidth available to average users.

Verizon began offering a $30-per-month unlimited data plan to iPhone 4 users when Apple's new smartphone first appeared Feb. 10, and it has offered those same terms to users of its new LTE smartphones, the HTC ThunderBolt and the Droid Charge.

However, at the March conference, Shammo said that offering $30-per-month unlimited data plans was "never a long-term strategy."

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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