The McAdam's Family Plan

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As the nominal CEO of a family of four mobile phone users, I have been hesitant about upgrading our dumb phones (which I have been perfectly happy with) to models with a bit more gray matter. But my wife, the real head of the family, has been dying to trade in her serviceable but frumpy clamshell phone to something smarter. That means, of course, I will have to cave on this issue.

But there is a tangible reason for my aversion: the fear of what four data plans (actually, five, including our iPad) would cost.

Is help really coming?
So I was relieved to hear that Verizon (NYS: VZ) CEO Lowell McAdam, speaking before the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference, announced that next year his company would begin to offer family data plans.

"I think in 2012 we will see it. We have been working on this for a couple of years. Getting to one bill and getting to account-level pricing is our goal," McAdam said.

But other carriers have teased us before:

AT&T (NYS: T) Mobility President and CEO Ralph De La Vega had also suggested that shared data plans would be coming. Speaking before the D9 conference last June, De La Vega said that as people carry more devices, "you may want a shared plan. We're working on one. ... It'll be soon. I can't comment on [when] but it will be soon."

And Sprint Nextel (NYS: S) smartphone subscribers went through the excitement of anticipating a shared data plan last summer when an insider memo was leaked that said Sprint would have a shared 4G/3G data plan ready by June 12. Well, where is it?

It's been done before
No U.S. mobile carrier yet offers such a plan, but France Telecom's (NYS: FTE) Orange unit began letting Austrian iPad users share their data allotment with a smartphone. The company also began offering other shared plans in France, the U.K., and Spain.

If data plans do come that would allow all the mobile devices in a single account to share their data rations -- the way that voice minutes can be pooled in a family plan -- it would go a long way toward alleviating my own data-usage angst. I'm sure I'm not the only one.

It would also be the perfect way for the wireless carriers to make up for the way they took unlimited data plans off the table. I know, Sprint advertises unlimited data plans, but seriously, how long can it keep that loss leader up, especially with its 4G LTE network somewhere over the horizon?

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At the time this article was published Fool contributorDan Radovskyowns shares of AT&T.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of France Telecom. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.

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