Verizon Considers Bundling Data into Family Plans

by Matt Klassen on January 31, 2012

While family voice and text bundles have long been mainstays of the American wireless world the concept of including data in that sort of family plan is relatively new, with many wireless carriers brainstorming ways of how they could offer data savings to families while still making money on one of the most lucrative aspects of the mobile market.

To that end, a report from tech site Engadget speculates that Verizon may be on the verge of offering such a data bundle, allowing families to share data across multiple subscribers on a single account. While there’s no official timeline for when Verizon will likely roll-out this new family data bundle, the company CFO acknowledged that Verizon is looking at ways at implementing a shared data plan, so long as its, “win-win for customers and for us.”

Always suspicious when I hear a large corporation talking about win-win situations regarding one it’s most lucrative profit streams though, I have to wonder just how much value families will get out of a unified data bundle and what plans Verizon may have to use such a bundle to continue to gouge its customers.

The tech site Engadget reported yesterday that it has access to new Verizon employee training material that indicates the arrival of a new version of the company’s data plans, with many speculating that this is indeed the advent of the family data bundle. Of course Engadget has no notion of when Verizon will introduce the new billing options, but its becoming abundantly clear that such a plan is in the works.

As I mentioned, Verizon CFO Fran Shammo said on the company’s earning call last week that the company is looking at various ways on how to create and implement a smartphone family data plan. “We need to make sure it’s a win-win for customers and for us,” he said. “So we will continue to work on that. But it’s important to note that we are a premium priced service in the market. And we will continue with that strategy, and we’ll continue to win.”

Not one known for helping out its customers with an over-abundance of savings, I do have to wonder how Verizon will turn a family data bundle into a win for itself—as I’m sure it truly cares little for helping its customers win anything—and the one aspect that immediately comes to my mind is data overages.

While I’m sure that any sort of family data bundle will look attractive and affordable on the surface, I’d be willing to bet that Verizon will structure them in such a way where the data usage allotment will only be a small increase over that offered to single subscribers, with the hopes of course that multiple users will be almost be forced to go over their data limit and subsequently have to pay hefty overage fees.

My ever-present skepticism aside, there are a few ways such a family bundle will actually help customers. First, for those that are stingy with their data use, there will of course be some savings available (or else it wouldn’t really be a bundle at all) for families with multiple smartphones on the go. Second, such a plan would conceivably allow single users with multiple devices to lump them together on the same data plan as well, saving them money and eliminating the need to sign up for and manage multiple accounts.

But once again, given the fact that wireless carriers are always thinking up ways to make more money off data (and thus not save you anything) my guess would be that any savings, if there really are any at all, won’t be significant, with the true value of the new plan simply being the convenience of a single (and not to mention hefty) bill.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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