Verizon says it plans to launch multi-device shared data plans by midsummer. The long-anticipated offer would allow subscribers with multiple devices to pay a single monthly fee to get data access for more than one gadget. The move could be a big win for people who connect, for example, an iPad and an iPhone to the carrier's data network or some other tablet-smartphone combination.

"We believe that [the shared data] plan, the way we have it designed, will enable our customers to easily connect other devices to that plan," Executive Vice president and Chief Financial Officer Fran Shammo said during Verizon's earnings call PDF on Thursday.

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Manage Your Cap

Shared data plans could be an important way for mobile subscribers to reduce costs since most major U.S. mobile carriers now favor monthly bandwidth caps instead of unlimited data plans. AT&T offered unlimited data for the iPhone beginning in 2007, but switched gears in June 2010 after years of criticism for poor service linked to iPhone users hogging bandwidth. Verizon temporarily offered unlimited data to iPhone users in early 2011, changing to tiered data plans by July in the same year. Sprint is currently the only major U.S. carry to offer an unlimited data option to its smartphone customers.

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Shared data plans may also require users to closely manage their data usage to avoid incurring excessive overage charges by exceeding monthly bandwidth caps. Overage charges could be especially problematic as more new devices come with high-definition screens and are designed to run on next-generation 4G networks.

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