Verizon Wireless(s vz)(s vod) customers can expect data plans that allow for multiple devices on a single account in 2012. On Wednesday morning, Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam confirmed this family plan approach at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference
Hints of shared mobile broadband plans have surfaced throughout the past year, but McAdam’s remarks, reported by Fierce Wireless, are the most tangible confirmation yet. Rumors suggest AT&T(s t) has also been considering similar plans, but the operator has yet to confirm such initiatives and is now focused on rolling out its own LTE network to compete with the one Verizon launched a year ago.
Shared data plans are something I called for back in June for a few reasons. It simply doesn’t make sense for carriers to have relationships — in the form of plans — with devices. Instead, these relationships should be with customers. Requiring multiple plans for a well-connected family of four makes for a terrible billing experience; especially when all bits are generally equal in terms of data. Put another way: We’ve had shared buckets of voice minutes for families. Why not for data too?
Then there’s the usage aspect among family members. This summer, I looked back at one of our accounts and saw a wide variance our individual data usage. Note: Our usage is far higher today, but this chart still illustrates the point.
Each of us has a smartphone, but some of us use the data plan more than others. Yet, the smallest data plans aren’t quite enough for any of us, so collectively we’re now paying for 8 GB of monthly data even though as a family, our current actual collective usage is less than half that. Clearly, we’re oversubscribed, but there’s not much we can do about it.
More devices are gaining connectivity, and people — both individuals and families — are adding more of these devices to their array of gadgets: e-readers, tablets, smartphones, USB data sticks and personal hotspots, to name a few. As unlimited plans have disappeared and consumers buy buckets of data, why can’t that allotment be used across devices?
When the device-to-person ratio was more of a one-to-one relationship, a data plan for each device wasn’t out of the ordinary. But as we enter the age of using multiple connected devices, the time for shared data plans is here, if not already overdue.
This pricing approach will become more important as the younger generation adopts smartphones and other connected gadgets. Heck, if I can get a family plan, I’d consider giving my kids an extra bandwidth allotment in lieu of a cash allowance for chores. We’ll need software to help meter these plans at the individual level, but I’m ready and waiting to dine on one mobile broadband “family meal.”