Verizon Share Everything Data Plans Gain Critics, Supporters

Verizon Wireless' Share Everything plans are stirring controversy. While the plans could offer savings to families and groups, one editorial questions whether these plans set a dangerous precedent.

Verizon Wireless' Share Everything plans will not become an official offer until June 28, but some consumers are already upset€”just as Verizon expected.

"We knew the unlimited news would be perceived negatively, so we weren't surprised," Steve Mesnick, Verizon's head of marketing, told Computerworld, according to a June 14 article.

Mesnick added, "We're allowing the existing customer base to have a choice. ... we're not forcing anyone to move to new plans."

The Verizon plans are partially motivated by the growing trends of increased data use and tablet ownership. According to June data from Comscore, one in four smartphone owners now uses tablets, and those tablet users are nearly three times more likely to watch video than smartphone users.

The new Share Everything Plans have two components: a user, or users, choose how much data they'd like access to each month (options start at 1GB for $50 and exceed 10GB for $100) and then which devices to attach. Smartphones are $40 each a month, tablets are $10, basic phones are $30 and data-only devices, such as Jetpacks and USB dongles, are $20 each a month. Unlimited texting and voice minutes are included, and all devices can access Mobile Hotspot options. An account can accommodate up to 10 mobile devices, each with a straw in the same data bucket.

To some, the pricing seems a far cry from adding $30 a month for data access. But for families or small businesses, or even individuals with multiple devices, Verizon says the plans will offer savings, as well as peace of mind.

Eddie Hold, a vice president at analysis firm NPD Group, says a family of three, each with a smartphone and collectively not needing more than 6GB of data a month, can save at least $20 a month.

"The pricing of data, at first blush, appears expensive. ... However, one must remember that the data is now shared, which provides more value, and must also be considered in the greater scheme of the voice and messaging components," Hold wrote in a June 12 blog post.

While Mesnick insists the plans are optional, Verizon Communication CFO Fran Shammo, speaking at a JP Morgan conference May 16, told the audience, according to official transcripts, that much of Verizon's base is on 3G unlimited plans, but as they upgrade to 4G, "they will have to come off of unlimited and go into a data-share plan."

With people connecting more devices, such as Apple iPads, to data networks, said Shammo, "It really won't be important anymore what the revenue per customer is. It is going to be revenue per account."

The Los Angeles Times, in a June 14 editorial, noted that regulators need to consider what could happen, should the industry follow Verizon's lead. AT&T has already suggested it will.

"For now, at least, consumers who don't like Verizon's new plans can choose from among several alternatives," said the editorial. (Sprint's marketing team would be smart, during these contentious days, to loudly remind the country that it's the only top-four carrier to offer an unlimited data plan, and for $80 a month. Though analysts say that, too, will eventually come to an end.)

"Meanwhile," the editorial continued, "the onus is on Washington to make the airwaves available for a vigorously competitive wireless broadband market so that consumers, not carriers, control the pace of the mobile revolution."

NPD's Hold said that if AT&T wants to offer similar plans, it will need to act, if not just speak up, soon.

"The reaction should be judged in a matter of days, not weeks, and if the carrier is truly prepared, we'll see a response before the weekend," wrote Hold.