Earlier this year, unlimited mobile data plans made a big comeback, as the top four U.S. carriers duked it out with revamped pricing structures. This year's carrier one-upmanship and battle for supremacy meant one thing at its onset - more features and better prices for us consumers.
But as the adage goes "some good things never last."
Verizon, the carrier that actually started the current unlimited data plan wars, has announced that it has split its unlimited data plan into three tiers:
- starts at $75 a month for one line
- 2 lines at $65 each/month
- 3 lines at $50 each/month
- 4 lines at $45 each/month
- starts at $85 a month for one line
- 2 lines at $80 each/month
- 3 lines at $60 each/month
- 4 lines at $50 each/month
Business Unlimited (various plan options)
All these plans will go into effect today, August 23.
So what changed? Many things. And the changes are not just for Verizon unlimited data subscribers, there's this one big change that will affect all Verizon subscribers.
Go Unlimited Plan Gotchas
First off, the Go Unlimited plan will cap all mobile video streams to 480p definition. Yep, no HD or as Verizon describes it, video streams will be in "DVD quality" only. This standard definition video cap will affect all streaming and online video services - Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, Amazon Video, etc.
Even though data rates are in proper 4G LTE, if the network is congested, Verizon may also throttle the speeds of Go Unlimited plan at any time. You don't even have to exceed a certain data threshold for the throttling to occur.
You will still get unlimited talk and text and hotspot tethering but hotspot speeds are capped at a paltry 600 Kbps.
Beyond Unlimited Gotchas
The Beyond Unlimited plan will still get you 4G LTE speeds, but similar to the prior Verizon unlimited data plan, throttling will occur after you exceed 22GB of data on a billing cycle.
Phone video streams will be capped at 720p, slightly better than Go Unlimited's standard definition, but still won't pass as full HD. To get 1080p video streams, you'll need to view a video on a tablet.
Unlimited talk and text are still standard with free calling, texting and data in Mexico and Canada.
Unlimited hotspot tethering will be at LTE speeds for up to 15GB of data. Note: if a laptop is tethered to your smartphone, video quality will be capped at 1080p.
Business Unlimited Gotchas
The Business Unlimited plan has various pricing structures but video streams are also capped at standard DVD-quality definition and LTE speeds for hotspot tethering will be capped at 10GB (can be upgraded to 15GB on a two-year contract.)
Business Unlimited also has a higher data threshold at 25GB before speeds are reduced.
Differences with the prior Verizon Unlimited plan
The single Verizon Unlimited plan that was unveiled in August was considered one of the best plans around since it offered so much at $80 and it was dead simple - one plan for everyone.
First, there were no video streaming resolution caps whatsoever.
Hotspot tethering slows down to non-LTE speeds after 10GB of data but that's still better than the Go Unlimited's glacier slow 600 Kbps hotspot tethering. Data limit before throttling occurs is at 22GB.
As you can see, even though Go Unlimited is $5 cheaper than the old plan, if you want better than SD video streaming quality, decent hotspot data rates, and full LTE speeds at all times, then this plan will disappoint you.
Beyond Unlimited is actually closer to what the old unlimited plan offered but the starting price is $5 more expensive at $85.
Verizon stated that customers who have the prior unlimited plans will get to retain them for now and as a bonus, existing unlimited plan customers' LTE speed hotspot tethering cap will be increased from 10GB to 15GB with no extra charges.
But there's one big change for ALL Verizon subscribers
As I mentioned earlier, there's this one big change that will affect ALL Verizon subscribers.
Soon, all video streaming quality on Verizon's network will be capped at 720p for phones and 1080p for tablets.
This means no one on Verizon's network can go beyond 1080p and even if you tether your 4K laptop to your hotspot, your video data rates will be capped at 10Mbps.
Verizon believes that there is "no visible difference in quality on a smartphone or tablet when video is shown at higher resolutions" and imposing these limits will ensure that "all customers have a great experience" on its network.
To be fair, the other major carriers are also already throttling video to improve their networks. AT&T has options to cap video at 480p while T-Mobile requires the more expensive Plus plan for HD video streams to be enabled. Sprint allows full HD video streaming but it enforces stricter music and streaming rules than the other networks.
What do you think? Are these new unlimited plans worth it? Drop us a comment!