Verizon have started work on heading towards making shared / family data plans available to consumers and small-business owners who buy wireless-broadband service in their markets in the USA. They would appeal to people who run multiple devices that benefit from wireless-broadband service, such as the typical user who runs a smartphone and a tablet like an iPad. They will typically have a larger data allowance which is shared amongst the multiple devices in a similar way that voice-call minutes or text-message units are shared amongst mobile phones that are part of a family plan.
This may be offered as an alternative to tethering a laptop or tablet to a smartphone and may place their business model centred around the “tethering premiums” in jeopardy. But this can still lead to the goal of increased revenue per customer by them offering larger data allowances for the shared plans, especially as most of us buy data allowances in a way to provide some sort of “buffer” for usage peaks. But, for these plans to work well, they need to support sufficiently large allowances and allow a user to connect a maximum of between five to ten devices to the service; or 15-20 for a family / household plan. This can cater for different usage patterns including newer device classes such as cameras or vehicle infotainment systems with integrated wireless-broadband modems; as well as families that are very “switched-on” when it comes to technology.
The same “shared data plan” can be implemented by fixed-broadband Internet providers that implement data allowances in their business models like most of the ISPs serving the Australian market. Here, they could cater for users who maintain two or more Internet services like a service set up at their holiday house, city apartment or business premises as well as the service that is used at their main home. The service providers could then allow for a larger data allowance to be used between the locations with minimal allowance wastage due to underused locations. In some ways, it could allow those service providers who sell fixed and mobile Internet service, like most telcos to run service plans with larger aggregate data allowances that cover fixed and mobile use.
Any telecommunications carrier or Internet service provider who runs or intends to run a data-allowance model should then keep an eye on Verizon’s shared-data-plan model and assess whether to run it with their current business model. Similarly, the carriers could examine ways of taking this further with “virtual LANs” that exist across the devices on the same plan and consistent security / “clean-feed” parental-control parameters across all devices associated with an account.