Verizon Wireless expects to offer family data plans “sometime in 2012,” says Verizon Communications CEO Lowell McAdam. The long-awaited move should have roughly the same impact on mobile broadband adoption as family plans for voice and texting have had on mobile adoption, namely drive mobile broadband usage and accounts very high, over a relatively short period. Family data plans coming
Family plans for voice and data were a major factor in driving widespread adoption of mobile devices in entire households and family data plans are fully expected to spur adoption of smartphones and data plan usage.
A study by Strategy Analytics suggests that 60 percent of smartphone owners want a single, shared data plan to connect multiple devices like tablets, smartphones and laptops. About 50 percent of smartphone owners are interested in connecting multiple devices through tethering to their smart phone and 40 percent have an interest in a standalone 3G portable WiFi router (like the MiFi from Novatel Wireless (News - Alert)) to connect all their devices. Consumers want family data plans
Executives at AT&T (News - Alert) and Sprint also have been talking about the changes for years and it appears the plans finally will be offered. Though it appears specific policies are not yet fully worked out, the plans will encourage purchases of smart phones and data usage across a range of devices on a single account. Policies not set yet
"I think in 2012 we will see it," McAdam said. UBS webcast
At the moment, not that many service providers offer family data plans, and most plans are not the robust plans we typically see in the U.S. market for texting and voice.
Since the spring of 2011, Orange has been offering two devices per data plan, bundling 600 minutes, unlimited texts, unlimited BTZone WiFi access, and 2 GBytes of shared data across for iPad and iPhone users, for example, with a cost of £99 a month for 16 GByte plans, according to Infonetics Research (News - Alert).
Typical U.S. family plans might allow as many as five devices to share texting and voice buckets. The number of devices presumably would be greater, to include tablets and tethering, for example, once the major U.S. carriers start to introduce the new plans.
Vodafone Ireland offers shared mobile broadband for business users with a 5GB limit, shared across however many users is required, for a fee of €7.50 per connection per month, with each additional increment of 5GB being another €10.
Optus (News - Alert) offers a plan connecting five users each on a 4 GByte shared plan, with 20 GBytes of data pooled between those five users each month.
Infonetics forecasts for penetration of family data plans likely will be revised upwards once the U.S. service providers start to introduce the new plans. As family voice plans made feasible use of mobiles by children and teenagers, so family data plans will expand mobile data usage from a couple of devices, or a few devices in a household to allowing every device to be a smartphone, plus encouraging users to buy network-capable tablets and e-readers.
To the extent that mobile service providers wish to encourage network use by tablet devices, the family plans will be the key enabler of more-rapid adoption.
Gary Kim (News - Alert) is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of Gary’s articles, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Rich Steeves