Verizon's family data plans inching forward

A screenshot indicates that Big Red could be in the final stages of readying an offer for group data plans.

Verizon is expected to offer shared data plans for families in mid-2012.

Verizon Wireless could be close to introducing its first shared data plans--that is, if a new screen grab passed to PhoneArena proves to be authentic.

Expected to arrive at some point around the middle of the year, Verizon would presumably give customers the option to share a pool of data much in the way that families can share voice minutes today. The screenshot appears to depict a Web-based calculator for users to determine how much data might be right for their needs. Similar calculators currently exist for estimating data needs on individual plans.

Verizon hasn't been shy about its plans to offer consumers such an option, but it has remained rather tight-lipped about the details. We do expect that subscribers will be able to add users to the data bucket for $9.99 per month per line. Whether Verizon will stick with current promotions, or announce new data options for sharing, remains to be seen. It may be a perfect time to reintroduce an unlimited-data plan.

I'm curious if and how shared plans will impact subscribers who own more than one smartphone or data device. Will Verizon let users share their data plan between their Android handset and tablet without going with a tethering add-on? This would be a good way to encourage customers to buy a network-connected tablet rather than a Wi-Fi-only model.

I'm just throwing darts here, but we could see Verizon make some sort of announcement at CTIA in May. Not only does the conference fall in line with the expected debut date, but it could also give Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam something to brag about during his roundtable discussion with the chiefs of rival carriers.