I'm sure by now you have heard about the unlimited data plan war going on between mobile providers. The top four U.S. carriers have been battling it out for some time now.
It all began when Verizon started offering unlimited plans to customers again. The communications giant hadn't offered these plans to new customers in over five years.
That move led to the other providers following up with changes to their unlimited offerings. This all sounds great for the consumer since fierce competition typically means great deals.
But are these unlimited data plans right for everyone? The quick answer is no.
That's why you need to know about these 'gotchas' hidden in the details of the fine print.
First, let's compare current prices being offered. Then we'll get into the gotchas.
|Carrier||Price with one smartphone||Price with four smartphones|
1. Hidden pricing gotchas
If you look at the prices we provided in the chart above, they are best case scenarios. Meaning there may be requirements for you to receive the optimal price.
Verizon lists its single line at $80 per month and $180 for four lines. However, to get those prices you have to be signed up for its auto pay and paper-free billing discount. Without the discount, the single line costs $85 and four lines cost $190. Also, those prices are without the taxes and fees that will be added on later.
AT&T actually has two unlimited plans to choose from, the Unlimited Choice and Unlimited Plus. Its Choice plan is listed at $60 for a single line, $115 for two lines and $20 per month for each additional line. Its Plus plan is listed at $90 for a single line, $145 for two lines and $160 for four lines. You do have the chance to save $25 per month if you also sign-up for DirecTV satellite service.
T-Mobile charges $70 for a single line, $100 for two lines and $160 for four lines. The great thing with T-Mobile is these prices include taxes and fees, so there are no surprises when you get your bill.
Sprint is offering the least expensive unlimited plans with a single line priced at $50 per month, two lines at $90 and free for lines three through five. The catch with this offer is that these prices only last through March of 2018. The promotion expires at that time and as of yet, we don't know how much the prices will increase.
2. Mobile hotspot gotcha
If you plan on using your unlimited plan to tether a laptop or another gadget to access the internet you might be disappointed. Some of these unlimited data plans include 10GB per month of high-speed mobile hotspot data. If you go over that amount, your hotspot data speeds will be slowed down for the rest of the current billing cycle.
That's bad news because your gadget might not be able to handle video streaming on the lower speeds. Here is a list of what data speeds will be reduced to for each carrier:
- Verizon - 3G
- AT&T - Max speed of 128Kbps
- T-Mobile - 3G
- Sprint - 2G
3. Data usage gotcha
Even if you subscribe to one of these unlimited data plans, you could see reduced network speeds if you use tons of data. Mobile providers say that since all of its customers share its network, it will slow down data speeds for those who hit a certain usage amount.
Here is the amount of data each provider allows before it will reduce your speed:
- Verizon - 22GB
- AT&T - 22GB
- T-Mobile - 28GB
- Sprint - 23GB
If you're a heavy data user you need to know these limits before moving to an unlimited plan. This could be a deal breaker for some.
Here is a breakdown of Verizon's unlimited plan pricing:
- $80 for unlimited data, talk and text on your smartphone
- $45 per line for four lines with unlimited data, talk and text on your smartphones and tablets
These prices are being described as an introductory offer, so it's possible they will change in the near future. Also, to receive these prices you must be signed up for both paper-free billing and AutoPay.
In direct response to Verizon offering unlimited data plans again, T-Mobile announced that it will be upgrading its T-Mobile ONE unlimited data to include HD streaming and 10GB mobile hotspot tethering with no extra fees!
This fixes two of the biggest complaints against T-Mobile's unlimited ONE data plan. Previously, its ONE plan only allowed standard-def non-HD video streams over mobile unless customers paid an additional $15 fee for the "One Plus" option or $3 for a one-day "HD pass." It also didn't include mobile hotspot tethering.
The new upgrades will have HD video streaming and mobile hotspot tethering (which allows customers to use their smartphones as mobile Wi-Fi routers for internet access for other devices) turned on by default.
Additionally, T-Mobile announced a new promotional deal that discounts ONE plans with two lines down to $100, including taxes and fees.
Sprint is offering what it's calling the best unlimited HD plan ever. Anyone who switches to Sprint will get the nation's lowest price for unlimited data, which includes HD-quality streaming video and 10GB of mobile hotspot per month.
It will only cost $90 per month for four lines, which is 50 percent less than Verizon's new unlimited plan. That's only $22.50 per line and the deal goes through March 31, 2018.
AT&T also made changes to its unlimited data plans. Until recently, if you were an AT&T customer, the only way to have an unlimited data plan was to also be a DirecTV subscriber.
Now, all consumer and business postpaid AT&T wireless customers can sign up for an unlimited plan.
On the new plan, you will be able to make unlimited calls from the U.S. to Canada and Mexico, and send unlimited texts to over 120 countries. Plus, customers can talk, text, and use data in Canada and Mexico with no roaming charges if they add the Roam North America feature at no additional charge.