In 2012, Verizon wants to offer a single data plan for every device you own, according to the company's CEO, Lowell McAdam.
"I think in 2012 we will see it," McAdam said at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference, according to All Things Digital. "We've been working on this for a couple of years, frankly."
Every major wireless carrier in the United States currently charges per connected device. So, if you own a smartphone, two tablets, and a mobile hotspot, you might end up paying $100+ per month, regardless of how much data you consume. I don't know any consumers who think this is a good idea, and according to IDG analyst Bob O'Donnell, sales of 3G tablets have been "very slow" because of the "per device" approach.
Even McAdam admits that the current approach isn't ideal. "Customers don't want--and neither do we by the way--an individual account for each one of those devices," he said. "It drives them crazy and it would raise our costs a lot. Getting to one bill and having account-level pricing is the right way to go."
AT&T Mobility CEO Ralph De La Vega has also said his company wants to offer shared data plans, but the carrier hasn't committed to a time frame.
The question is how much wireless carriers will charge to connect additional devices to their networks. They may not charge anything, with the hope that customers will buy more expensive data plans as they connect more devices, but that seems optimistic. I'm guessing we'll see at best a one-time activation fee or at worst a recurring monthly flat fee for each connected device.
Shared data would also pave the way for family data plans, in which one family buys a bucket of data for everyone to share. Verizon executives have talked about offering family data plans, but haven't given a time frame on that, either.