Verizon Wireless is starting a new rate plan that allows...

Verizon Wireless is starting a new rate plan that allows data sharing among up to 10 devices. (May 30, 2012) Credit: AP

Verizon Wireless, the nation's largest cellphone company, is phasing out nearly all of its existing phone plans and replacing them with pricing schemes that encourage customers to connect their non-phone devices, like tablets and PCs, to the Verizon network.

The revamped plans let families and other subscribers share a monthly data allowance over as many as 10 devices -- the biggest overhaul in the price of wireless service since the cellphone became a mainstream device. The idea is likely to be copied quickly, at least by AT&T Inc., which has already said it is considering introducing shared-data plans soon.

Verizon's move "is the most profound change to pricing the telecom industry has seen in 20 years," said Sanford Bernstein analyst Craig Moffett.

For Verizon, the approach reflects a desire to keep growing now that nearly every American already has a phone.

Verizon's new "Share Everything" plans, announced Tuesday, will become available June 28. They include unlimited phone calls and texts and will start at $90 per month for one smartphone and one gigabyte of data.

If used only with a smartphone, "Share Everything" prices are lower than current plans with unlimited calling and texting, but higher than plans with limited calling and texting.

The plans will push many subscribers toward spending more by including unlimited calling and texting by default. Unlimited calling plans provide peace of mind, but not many people need them, and the average number of minutes used is declining.

The savings will come to subscribers who add more devices to their plans. In such cases, the new pricing system will be cheaper compared with separate data plans for each device. Today, few consumers put tablets on data plans, probably because they dread paying an extra $30 or so per month, on top of their phone bills.

Under "Share Everything," adding a tablet to a plan will cost $10 per month. Adding a USB data stick for a laptop will cost $20.

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