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Verizon Wireless Unveils Shared-Data Plans

--Verizon Wireless to offer plans to allow devices to share data --Charges flat fee for data and fee per devices on the plan --New plans encourage data usage, further move away from unlimited data Verizon Wireless lifted the curtain on its long-awaited shared-data plans that allow users to put additional devices under one umbrella. The plans will offer unlimited voice and messaging and a block of data for a flat cost, plus a fee for each device that will be drawing on that data. Such plans, which encourage increased data use by making it easier to add devices such as tablets, also increase the carrier's grip on paying for data that was once offered on an unlimited basis. Rival AT&T (T) has also eliminated unlimited data plans and is expected to offer a similar plan that draws from one bucket of data. Sprint Nextel Corp (S) continues to offer unlimited data for people on its network. T-Mobile offers an unlimited plan, but throttles, or slows, users when they cross a certain usage threshold. Sprint has said it will continue to offer unlimited data, while executives at T-Mobile have questioned the usefulness of multiple consumers drawing from one data bucket. Verizon Wireless, a joint venture of Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ) and Vodaphone Plc (VOD), will launch the "Share Everything Plans" on June 28. They will allow users to cover up to 10 devices under one contract. The data plans begin at $50 a month for 1 gigabyte of data and range up to 10 gigabytes for $100 a month. The monthly device fees for smartphones are $40, basic phones are $30, laptops are $20 and tablets are $10. There is no additional charge to turn applicable devices into a Mobile Hotspot. There will be no fee or contract extension for current subscribers to move to the new plans. Verizon Wireless currently offers a 2-gigabyte data plan for $30 monthly, and 5 gigabytes for $50 monthly. Some of Verizon's customers still remain on unlimited data because they never changed their plans. Verizon has said that such customers cannot keep those plans if they want to upgrade their device with a subsidized one. If they choose to pay full retail price for a new phone, usually hundreds of dollars more, then customers can keep their unlimited plan. For example, a 16-gigabyte iPhone 4S from Apple (AAPL) has a retail price of $649. Melodie Warner contributed to this article.

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