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Carriers should bundle plans for smartphones, tablets, more

As more people own more mobile devices, carriers should look to multidevice plans to win consumer loyalty.


I know nobody who enjoys extracting a triple-digit Comcast bill from a ripped-open envelope (or from an e-mail) come bill time, but for me, the bundled home Internet, cable, and phone service does at least reduce my monthly bill-paying hassle.

Wouldn't it be great if carriers offered increasingly tech-savvy and gadget-happy consumers a similarly bundled plan for a cell phone or smartphone, plus a tablet and a mobile hot spot?

I believe this is a model we'll increasingly see, for three reasons.

First, there's already a precedent for this kind of volume pricing for home services like Verizon's FiOS for digital TV, phone, and high-speed Internet. Expanding the "triple-play" philosophy from the home to the handheld isn't a technological issue, of course; it's a matter of corporate pricing.

Cricket Wireless is rolling out similar-yet-different all-inclusive plans with its Muve Music service. All-you-can-eat music downloads, ringtones, and streaming tunes join unlimited voice, texting, and e-mail for a single monthly fee--this is a carrier first in music offerings.

Second, if the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) taught us anything this year, it's that 2011 is the year of the sophisticated tablet. The Motorola Xoom and BlackBerry PlayBook are slated for release in the coming months, and we can expect a savvier iPad 2 from Apple later this year. Even TV-makers like Vizio are getting into the tablet game.

My point is that the number of people with multiple devices will grow, giving carriers an opportunity to ease the pain point of paying an already-stacked cell phone bill (voice plus data) with extra charges for a tablet, mobile hot spot, and maybe both. The same can be said for family plans with multiple cell phones and tablets per data-consuming household. Carriers will be able to compete based on bundled deals and offer sign-on incentives for choosing their service over another's.

Third, CES showed a proliferation of connected devices getting even smarter; for instance, Internet TVs and smart appliances like refrigerators and washing machines. It isn't such a stretch of the imagination to see carriers list prices for a superbundled service combining home entertainment, Internet, Wi-Fi, and mobile services.

This vision may not come to pass tomorrow, and I'm not suggesting that everyone will want, need, or benefit from uber-bundling. Yet as far as evolution goes in paying for our connected world, an umbrella service is almost an inevitability.