In a matter of just a few days, we’ve gone from two major US carriers offering unlimited data plans to all four. After the past few years, it seems very strange to say this, but unlimited data is back. This time around, though, these plans come with a lot of caveats, and it can be hard to keep things straight between AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint. So, if you’re in the market for a new carrier and these unlimited plans have piqued your interest, which one should you go with? Hopefully this guide helps clear some things up.
Sprint and AT&T
Right off the bat, Sprint and AT&T are going to be out for most people. Though Sprint’s network is getting better and there are pockets of the US where it’s just as good as the other carriers, Sprint still significantly lags behind the other three in most places. If you happen to live in an area of the country where Sprint’s network is good, then it might be worth a look, but for a lot of people that simply won’t be the case.
AT&T, on the other hand, offers the most expensive unlimited data plan of the bunch. At $100 for a single line, you’re paying a good $20 or $30 more per month for unlimited data, and the kicker is that you actually get less than you do with Verizon and T-Mobile. With AT&T’s plan, you can’t tether or use your phone as a mobile hotspot, so with these concessions and the increased price, AT&T’s unlimited data plan earns the distinction of being the worst of the four and isn’t really worth your consideration.
Verizon and T-Mobile
So, that leaves us with Verizon and T-Mobile. At $80 a month for a single line, Verizon’s unlimited data plan is $10 more expensive than T-Mobile’s. Verizon remains the more expensive choice as we add more lines – for instance, two lines will cost you $140 at Verizon, while they only cost $100 at T-Mobile. By the time we work our way up to five lines, you’re paying $200 a month on Verizon and $180 a month on T-Mobile.
Keep in mind that T-Mobile includes taxes and fees in its quotes, so it could end up being even cheaper to go for T-Mobile. Both carriers offer 10GB of mobile hotspot at 4G LTE speeds, after which you’ll be throttled to 3G. That isn’t exactly ideal, but when held up against AT&T’s strange decision to not allow tethering or mobile hotspot at all, it looks a lot better.
One area where Verizon beats T-Mobile in this competition is in video streaming. On Verizon’s unlimited plan, you’re able to stream HD video by default. With T-Mobile, you’ll have to manually enable HD video streaming each month, otherwise you’ll be limited to 480p streams.
Both carriers also reserve the right to throttle your speeds once you reach a certain threshold as well. On Verizon, that threshold is 22GB, while T-Mobile’s is 28GB. Keep in mind that hitting this limit doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be throttled, but it becomes much more likely during times of high network congestion.
So, on paper, T-Mobile definitely seems to be the one to go with. It’s worth noting, however that Verizon has the better network in general, which may be worth the extra cash if you live in an area where T-Mobile’s network isn’t quite up to snuff yet. T-Mobile has certainly been bolstering the strength and coverage area of its network in recent years, though, so there’s at least a decent chance that you live in an area where T-Mobile can hold its own against Verizon.
If you do, then T-Mobile is the clear choice. For everyone else, Verizon is the network you’ll want to go with, because if you live in an area where T-Mobile’s network isn’t that great, the same is likely true for Sprint. Be sure to head down to the comments section and let us know which carrier you’re going with!