Verizon to launch family data plan by mid-year

Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) expects to offer data plans that can be shared among multiple devices  by the middle of the year, according to Verizon Communications CFO Fran Shammo, who gave the most detailed explanation yet of how Verizon envisions the plans working.

Shammo said that Verizon has been studying the issue for about a year and that it "is very important to us and it's also very important to our customers." He did not go into any specific pricing details and said it is "a very complex equation because we have to make sure that it's good for Verizon and it's also good for our customer."

"Now it's also important to realize that the day we launch this account billing, everybody won't be migrating to the account billing day one," he said at an investor conference Monday, according to a transcript provided by Verizon. "This is going to be a long-term migration into where we want to get data plan sharing, but this will be more of a 4G play for us and I think it will be critical for us. And you'll see something launched--even Lowell alluded to it--you'll see something launched mid-year this year from us."

Verizon Communications CEO Lowell McAdam said in December that Verizon would launch family data plans with single account billing sometime this year, but did not indicate a more specific timeframe than that. Executives from AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) and Sprint Nextel (NYSE:S) have hinted at such plans as well.

Shammo said that the plans make sense as more and more devices and appliances in homes are connected wirelessly to LTE networks. "So when you think about connecting the devices to the network, it's more than just a smartphone and a tablet," he said. "It's more around everything that happens in our daily lives. So when you talk about data sharing, you talk about having the ability to connect more devices without having to in essence pay more for a bundle."

In a wide-ranging interview at the Deutsche Bank Media and Telecommunications Conference Monday, Shammo touched on adoption on the company's LTE network, LTE pricing, Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone and other topics. Shammo said that around 5 percent of Verizon's customer base is using the company's LTE network, which now covers around 200 million POPs. Verizon has publicly stated that it activated 5.4 million LTE devices in 2011. Verizon launched LTE service in December 2010.

Shammo also said that the promotion to double customers' data allotments when they sign up for a contract with an LTE smartphone will continue for another two months.  "It is very critical for us and we're playing a very delicate balancing act here that I don't want to spend any more money on my 3G network," he said, alluding to Verizon's strategy to migrate as many customers as possible to LTE.

For more:
- see this Verizon transcript
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)

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