Verizon Wireless is dropping virtually all of its traditional phone plans and experimenting with new data-sharing schemes that could set the stage for a massive overhaul of how wireless data is dispersed and paid for.
The No. 1 U.S. mobile carrier, which is jointly owned by Verizon Communications (VZ) and Vodafone (VOD), said the plan allows customers to share data usage, including text, voice minutes and picture messaging, among up to 10 phones and other devices like tablets and laptops.
The changes, which take effect on June 28, enable customers to loop together their devices, as well as those of their family or friends, into one bucket of data to be pooled and shared.
While texting and voice minutes are unlimited under these plans, customers will have to keep a close eye on their data consumption. If subscribers go over their monthly allotment, they will be charged an additional $15 per gigabyte.
The new “Share Everything Plans” represent the biggest revamp in the pricing of wireless in years and a virtual end of unlimited data plans. Given Verizon’s leadership position, the scheme will likely be copied by rivals in the space. AT&T (T), the nation’s No. 2 carrier, has already expressed interest.
“Customers asked, and today Verizon Wireless delivered an industry first," Verizon Wireless’ chief marketing officer, Tami Erwin, said in a statement. "Share Everything Plans are the new standard for wireless service.”
Customers will pay a flat monthly fee for the selected devices on their accounts on these plans and then anywhere from $50 to $100 for data allowances ranging from a gigabyte to 10 gigabytes.
The cheapest plan, which would be just one smartphone and 1GB of data, would cost $90. Additional smartphones are $40 and tablets tack on another $10.
Verizon said customers are free to keep their existing plans, but those people will be forced to pay the full price for a new smartphone. For example, the iPhone 4S that costs $200 with the renewal for a new two-year contract will cost $650 under the old plans.