Networking

FAQ: Verizon's New Share Everything Plans

There are a lot of details in Verizon's new Share Everything data, voice and text sharing plans, some of which are mentioned in footnotes on Verizon's Web site ( pdf format).

Here, we attempt to explain it for you.

What's new? In simple terms, Verizon will launch on June 28 Share Everything Plans that share unlimited voice and texting across all the devices on a customer's account. Data will also be shared for up to 10 of those devices, including smartphones and tablets.

Why is Verizon doing this? Customers have asked Verizon and other carriers to combine data charges across many devices. They want to be able to buy a tablet in addition to a smartphone, for example, without incurring two monthly service costs. Verizon says its new approach simplifies billing with its Share Everything Plans, although that is debatable, according to analysts who've seen the new plan.

How much will this cost? Verizon will charge a monthly line access charge per device, ranging from $10 for a tablet to $40 for a smartphone. Basic cell phones will be $30 a month, while Wi-Fi access devices, netbooks and notebooks will be $20 a month.

On top of that, data service will be charged at a rate starting at $50 for 1 GB per month, which can be shared across 10 devices. The rates go up as follows: 2GB for $60; 4 GB for $70; 6 GB for $80; 8 GB for $90 and 10 GB for $100. That's an average of $15 for 1 GB of data service.

What if I need more than 10 GB of data per month? This is one place where reading the footnotes helps. Verizon has said it will add 2 GB for $10 a month over the first 10 GB. To receive that premium, customers must log in to My Verizon at verizonwireless.com.

What about corporate users? Verizon has indicated that most corporate email access will cost $15 more per month, per device, than for access to Web-based email accounts. However, a spokeswoman said Exchange ActiveSync and Lotus Notes Traveler email access will now be free, a spokeswoman said. Meanwhile, server-based corporate email, such as BlackBerry Enterprise Server and Good for Enterprise, "or a similar secure connection" will cost $15 more per month, per device.

Anything else? Not everything about the new plans seems to be explained on Verizon's Web site. For example, existing and new customers can qualify for the Share Everything plans with no penalty for switching from an existing plan. New customers who buy phones and devices at a discounted price will still be required to sign up for a two-year agreement. However, customers can also purchase a device at full price without a contract, a spokeswoman said.

Are there any bonuses to these plans? Depending on what you consider a bonus, the new Share Everything Plans include mobile hotspot service on all the devices at no added charge.

What does this mean for my net service costs each month? It's hard to say what an average user would pay for all services across a variety of devices, but Verizon has given some clues. Verizon says that the average customer uses 1 GB to 2 GB per month. In an example, Verizon said two smartphones at $40 each under the plan would be $80 for line access. Adding in one basic phone for $30 a month for line access, plus 4 GB per month of shared data for $70 (which allows unlimited talk and text), the total would be $180 for monthly access.

Is Verizon's move likely to affect what AT&T does with data sharing? Some analysts said AT&T will take some time to evaluate the effect of these plans on Verizon's customer base and revenues. There's no question that customers want to share data across devices, and Sprint already offers the service with certain voice plans.

Can I sign up my co-workers, friends and family for sharing this data and unlimited voice and text? Verizon clearly says the shared devices must be registered on one account. A spokeswoman said that if a small business wants to have all of its workers on a shared plan, they would need to be on one account. Transferring workers or friends from other existing contracts would be subject to penalties for breaking a contract, the spokeswoman confirmed. If many co-workers have separate contracts, it might not make sense to pay the penalties to break the contracts to get the benefits of sharing, as many work groups have said they hope to do.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

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