Verizon CEO: After Years Of Trying, Shared Data Plans Could Come In 2012

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Families and businesses can share a bucket of minutes, so why can’t they share a bucket of data? Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam appeared at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference today, and revealed that customers may be able to do just that in the near future.

From Verizon’s end, the shift toward a shared data plan could potentially simplify their data tracking and billing process for family and business plans: instead of having to track each individual user’s data usage against their own monthly allotment and generate a bill, Verizon would be able to track each customer’s usage against a single data bucket. If priced right, rolling out a shared data plan could be what finally gets people to migrate off of their grandfathered unlimited data plans, too.

Let’s not forget that consumers would also love this. Instead of shelling out a minimum of $30/month for each member of the family who wants a shiny new smartphone, family heads would presumably be able to purchase a single bucket of data for everyone to draw from. A shared data plan could also help save families some of their hard-earned money: instead forcing everyone to go for a 2GB plan that may be overkill, smartly-sized data buckets could mean that families could pay for a single data plan that better fits their use case.

In short, it has the potential to be something rare in the wireless space: a win-win situation.

It’s a great idea, and one that consumers (at least the ones I’ve spoken to) have wanted to see for a long time. What CEO McAdam left up in the air is how exactly a shared data plan would work for Verizon customers. It could be as simple as paying a set price for a shared bucket of data (think $70 for 6GB), with each member of the plan being able from access that bucket as needed. That approach would make sense given the company’s work in pushing account-level pricing: the data plan wouldn’t necessarily be tied to a given line, but to the account itself, allowing access for everyone associated with it.

Though McAdam notes that the push toward account level pricing has been a consistent one, families and businesses looking to streamline their bills have a little longer to wait.

“I think in 2012 we will see it,” he said. “We have been working on this for a couple of years. Getting to one bill and getting to account-level pricing is our goal.”