Time to compare: Unlimited plans from T-Mobile, Sprint, Verizon, and AT&T

Jos

Posts: 3,073   +97

Six months ago T-Mobile made an unprecedented move by announcing it was killing all data plans in favor of a single offering, T-Mobile One, with unlimited high speed data plus unlimited talk and text for $70 for a single line. While it was one of its boldest “Un-carrier” announcements yet, as it is often the case, the devil was in the details. The new plan included unlimited standard definition video streaming only and limited tethering to 2G speeds — HD videos were an extra $25 per month and 4G high speed tethering $15.

Some of these initial restrictions didn’t go over well with users and just 10 days later T-Mobile bumped tethering to 3G speeds (512kbps), added a $3 one-day HD pass, and included both unlimited HD video streaming and high speed tethering for $25 per month instead of breaking them in two separate add-ons.

Fast forward to this week and we’ve seen one of the busiest weeks in recent memory as far as competition in the wireless industry is concerned. Verizon, five years after originally doing away with unlimited plans, seemingly caved to the pressure and announced an unlimited plan of its own that one-upped T-Mobile by including HD video streaming and 10GB of tethering without the need for add-ons.

T-Mobile responded almost immediately by dropping its HD video add-ons and matching the included 10GB for tethering. Sprint followed suit modifying its unlimited plan and lastly AT&T also announced an unlimited data plan that doesn’t require a subscription to AT&T’s cable or satellite TV service.

Now that all four major U.S. wireless carriers have played their cards here’s a quick rundown of how the new unlimited plans stack up.

  Verizon T-Mobile AT&T Sprint
1 line $80 $70 $100 $50
2 lines $140 $100 $140 $90
3 lines $160 $140 $180 $90
4 lines $180 $160 $180 $90
Taxes & fees included No Yes No No
4G threshold 22GB 28GB 22GB 23GB
Tethering 10GB per line, then 3G 10GB per line, then 3G Not included 10GB per line, then 2G
Video quality No throttling No throttling if you switch off Binge On No throttling Up to 1080p

There are a few caveats worth mentioning starting with the fact that all this all these unlimited plans actually have a soft limit on 4G data usage, and your speeds may be slowed after crossing that threshold in a given month. You won’t be throttled down to 2G speeds outright, but each carrier reserves the right to "de-prioritize" your traffic behind other customers during times of network congestion.

It’s also worth mentioning that all of the prices listed here, except for AT&T, are with auto-pay billing switch on — otherwise, lines are from $5 to $10 more expensive depending on the carrier. Sprint is significantly cheaper for 3 or 4 lines but that’s because the carrier is running a promotion in which the third and fourth line are completely free until March 31, 2018, at which time you'll have to pay $30 for each.

For international travelers, T-Mobile, Verizon and AT&T offer unlimited calling and texting to and from Mexico and Canada, as well as unlimited high speed data in those countries, except for Verizon which caps usage at 500MB per day. T-Mobile and Sprint also offer unlimited data roaming in over 140 countries at 2G speeds, with high speed passes available, while Verizon and AT&T only offer $10/day data passes.

Lastly, but most importantly, this is only meant to give you a quick snapshot of the current unlimited data landscape after a busy week of announcements. It’s nice to have more options for people that demand more 4G LTE data but you’ll also need to consider things like network coverage and the quality of that coverage, as well as prices when factoring in a subsidized device and all applicable fees.

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toooooot

Posts: 1,206   +553
Verizon still has the best coverage. Tmobile is still the cheapest of big three.
I am glad to see that verizon now is forced to adjust their data prices. I still remember paying for internet while being verizon customer, that was expensive...Definitely, I don't miss that. Now they are bringing unlim. back, slow internet instead of charging for data used over cap is included too I hear. It is good to have this competition.
 

psycros

Posts: 3,089   +3,148
Interesting..last night the AT&T deal didn't include ANY tethering. Oh well, their still dead last in value - that's one thing you can *always* count on.
 

Uncle Al

Posts: 6,936   +5,220
Now, when they learn to do this WITHOUT a contract .... that will be worthy of my attention .....
 

Jos

Posts: 3,073   +97
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Interesting..last night the AT&T deal didn't include ANY tethering. Oh well, their still dead last in value - that's one thing you can *always* count on.
My bad, I had tethering mixed up between AT&T and T-Mobile's columns. AT&T offers no tethering while T-Mobile matched Verizon's 10GB.
 

p51d007

Posts: 2,367   +1,626
:)) very expensive in US. In Romania, unlimited national + 3000 minutes international + 10 GB Internet 4G + 40 GB internet 3G, 5 euro/month.
Not unexpected. Yeah, the carriers in the USA, are raking in the dough, but, considering the LAND AREA of the continental USA would easily fit all the nations of Europe, and then some, it takes a while to build out the coverage for the entire nation.
 
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dgoodchild

Posts: 13   +1
Another metric for the comparison: How long before each provider hassles / bullys / harasses users into abandoning their unlimited plan.
 

ddferrari

Posts: 439   +198
TechSpot Elite
Has no one here heard of Boost Mobile?

I pay $30/mo for unlimited talk and texts and the first 4GB of data is high speed before they throttle it. Been paying this price for three years- it's no promotion. Their phone selection? Well my Galaxy S7 is working just fine.

I'm on wifi at home (and you should be too) and get wifi when out and about almost everywhere, so I've never even approached the 4GB data cap. Besides, the 4G Enhanced LTE that I'll have to "settle for" if I ever do exceed the data cap is nothing to sneeze at.
 

Camikazi

Posts: 981   +339
Has no one here heard of Boost Mobile?

I pay $30/mo for unlimited talk and texts and the first 4GB of data is high speed before they throttle it. Been paying this price for three years- it's no promotion. Their phone selection? Well my Galaxy S7 is working just fine.

I'm on wifi at home (and you should be too) and get wifi when out and about almost everywhere, so I've never even approached the 4GB data cap. Besides, the 4G Enhanced LTE that I'll have to "settle for" if I ever do exceed the data cap is nothing to sneeze at.
Boost is an MVNO, they piggyback off of the network of these big four companies, not exactly the same thing. Yes, MVNOs charge less overall but the problem with them is if there is a clogging of the network you get priority below every customer of the network owner. So in a busy area your speed can drop very low, but for someone who doesn't use their phone every second of the day they are usually the best deal.
 

ddferrari

Posts: 439   +198
TechSpot Elite
Boost is an MVNO, they piggyback off of the network of these big four companies, not exactly the same thing. Yes, MVNOs charge less overall but the problem with them is if there is a clogging of the network you get priority below every customer of the network owner. So in a busy area your speed can drop very low, but for someone who doesn't use their phone every second of the day they are usually the best deal.
Perhaps that's the case but I've never experienced a problem- such as a drop-off in speed- in 3 years. Can't remember the last time I had a call dropped either- and I'm in the middle of a major metropolitan area... so I'm laughing all the way to the bank. I believe a lot of people think the MVNOs offer lower overall speeds, but that's not true from my experiences. I've used friend's phones who are on the Big Three carriers and there was no difference whatsoever in download speeds or call quality. The $40-$60 a month I save over their plans (which they are also locked into for 2 years) makes me more than willing to take the "risk".
 

Camikazi

Posts: 981   +339
Perhaps that's the case but I've never experienced a problem- such as a drop-off in speed- in 3 years. Can't remember the last time I had a call dropped either- and I'm in the middle of a major metropolitan area... so I'm laughing all the way to the bank. I believe a lot of people think the MVNOs offer lower overall speeds, but that's not true from my experiences. I've used friend's phones who are on the Big Three carriers and there was no difference whatsoever in download speeds or call quality. The $40-$60 a month I save over their plans (which they are also locked into for 2 years) makes me more than willing to take the "risk".
They actually did use lower speeds long ago (among other cut corners), that is why they were cheaper but that went away some time ago. Now, they are pretty much just cheaper versions of the big 4 with a smaller inventory of phones to buy.
 

mctommy

Posts: 337   +76
:)) very expensive in US. In Romania, unlimited national + 3000 minutes international + 10 GB Internet 4G + 40 GB internet 3G, 5 euro/month.
Not unexpected. Yeah, the carriers in the USA, are raking in the dough, but, considering the LAND AREA of the continental USA would easily fit all the nations of Europe, and then some, it takes a while to build out the coverage for the entire nation.
Finally someone who has common sense!!! Everyone keeps on yapping about how expensive the US cell service is but they are also the same one wanting coverage in rural BFE...

I would love to offer service to only densely populated areas a la regional carriers of the past, the cost for that network would be a drop in the bucket. Modernization... done in a few months.
 
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yRaz

Posts: 3,285   +2,681
I recently switched to mobile from AT&T, couldn't be happier. I go through data like crazy because I use my phone for work. With overages and the plan I had, I was paying $200+ a month with AT&T FOR ONE LINE!!!!! At first I was worried that I would have problems with coverage because T-Mobile, but that wasn't the case. I haven't noticed much difference at all in coverage. Similar dead spots, similar service. Speed isn't much a concern of mine so I don't know if T-Mobile is slower or faster that AT&T in my area. But the fact of the matter is that it doesn't matter when I'm going from $200+ to $70/m. That's a car payment....
 
Has no one here heard of Boost Mobile?

I pay $30/mo for unlimited talk and texts and the first 4GB of data is high speed before they throttle it. Been paying this price for three years- it's no promotion. Their phone selection? Well my Galaxy S7 is working just fine.

I'm on wifi at home (and you should be too) and get wifi when out and about almost everywhere, so I've never even approached the 4GB data cap. Besides, the 4G Enhanced LTE that I'll have to "settle for" if I ever do exceed the data cap is nothing to sneeze at.
Boost is an MVNO, they piggyback off of the network of these big four companies, not exactly the same thing. Yes, MVNOs charge less overall but the problem with them is if there is a clogging of the network you get priority below every customer of the network owner. So in a busy area your speed can drop very low, but for someone who doesn't use their phone every second of the day they are usually the best deal.
I use Project FI with access to Sprint, T mobile and US Cellular. So far no throttling. And I can manually switch Networks with the FiSwitch app. Unlimited would be nice but I would pay more. I get $10 bucks per GB internationally.
 

HiDDeNMisT

Posts: 220   +14
Im on a plan with 4 lines and I pay close to $100.00 per line, thats for the plan, the phone, and the insurance for each phone. Which is not bad because each owner of each phone pays for there line. So I pay 100 bucks for my phone every month. We did it to get a brake on the prices for the phones. I cant wait till I can upgrade (going from andriod to apple, im a computer tech and I dont know to use a apple phone. I have never had one before and I need to lean how to use it for my profession) So I can get a new phone and leave that plan and get the $50 buck plan.

Just have to make sure that it is not a promotional price. They like to do that and up the price like 100 bucks after a few months to a year. Bastards
 

Docus

Posts: 25   +12
For international travelers, Project Fi is the way to go. No surprises -- same rate per GB overseas.