Ina Fried

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Verizon CFO: Arrival of Shared Data Plans This Summer Is a Game Changer

Despite the convenience of having a tablet with a built-in cellular connection, most customers so far have opted to stick with Wi-Fi. One of the big reasons has been that, for the most part, such devices have required smartphone customers to sign up for another data plan.

The industry’s answer to that — shared data plans that spread a pool of gigabytes across devices — has been promised for a while now. Though France Telecom and a few others have tried them outside the U.S., the domestic carriers have taken their time in readying such plans.

Now, however, Verizon Wireless says it is nearly ready with a “family data plan” and will launch the first ones in midsummer.

“We think we have something that is very different, very innovative, something that really hasn’t been tried before in the industry and you will see that this midsummer,” Verizon Communications CFO Fran Shammo said, speaking Wednesday at a J.P. Morgan investor conference.

AT&T has also said it is working on a plan, but has yet to detail timing. T-Mobile and Sprint have said their energy is focused more around per-device unlimited plans.

Shammo said that the move to shared data plans should help the carrier persuade more tablet buyers to go cellular.

“I think as we go into data share plans and get folks to be able to share that data across all of their devices, I think you’re going to see the industry start to pick up a lot of that activation that hasn’t been there before,” Shammo said.

However, the shift to 4G and shared data plans could be bad news for those clinging on to unlimited data plans.

“So when you think about our 3G base, a lot of our 3G base is unlimited,” Shammo said. “As they start to migrate into 4G, they will have to come off of unlimited and go into the data share plan. And that is beneficial for us for many reasons, obviously.”

Just how agressive Verizon will be in pushing customers versus waiting for them to upgrade is unclear.

A Verizon Wireless spokesperson declined to elaborate on Shammo’s comments.

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