Do Tablet Data Plans Hinder Adoption?

Are tablets that are tied to cellular networks and service plans less appealing than Wi-Fi only versions? Some people seem to think so. Although carriers such as AT&T and Verizon Wireless would like to use tablets such as Apple's iPad and the Motorola Xoom as key revenue makers, the high price of these tablets combined with additional fees and service plans seem to be pushing many customers to opt for Wi-Fi only versions of the tablets.

Nvidia Chief Executive Jen-Hsun Huang seems to think price could be a key factor as well. Huang told the Reuters Global Technology Summit, "The tablet's more natural point of sale is retail….The question is whether carriers will find a reason to bundle tablets with other services and create a subsidy model that is really appealing."

Huang might be on to something—could changes be coming to tablet service plans? It's possible. In fact, Verizon Wireless has said it would eventually make changes to tablet service plans, though the carrier would not provide a timeline. Overseas, Orange is said to be considering a shared data plan between smartphones and tablets. Anne Bouverot, head of mobile services for Orange, explained at the summit in Paris, "Shared bundles may be an answer for these customers who don't know how much they will use on the go."

Verizon Wireless is said to be considering shared family data plans which could be more appealing, particularly for users who have tablets and smartphones. "I think it's safe to assume that at some point you are going to have mega-plans (for data) and people are going to share that mega-plan based on the number of devices within their family," Fran Shammo, Verizon's chief financial officer, said at the summit in New York. Although Shammo seemed open to the idea, no timeframe for this progression was given.

Another option would be to offer "sessions" of data, whereby a user purchases a day, week, or month pass. Still, some carriers seem to think that because tablets are not tied to a long-term service contract that the current model works well.

We'd love to hear your thoughts. What type of service plan do you prefer for a tablet?