Unlimited Data Plans Are Back, but Are They Worth It? (Twitter Weighs In)

Speedtest app running on iPhone 7 Plus
credit: Jason Cipriani/Techwalla

Need more data from your cell phone plan? You might have noticed that T-Mobile and Sprint have spent the past year arguing over who has the best unlimited data plan.

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During that time, Verizon and AT&T customers were left out of the fun. Heck, both carriers essentially forced customers off of older unlimited data plans. Just look at how AT&T repeatedly raised the price of its grandfathered unlimited plan as a means to see just how evil carriers can be.

Twitter weighs in

Then, out of nowhere, Verizon announced it was bringing its unlimited data plan back. Or as one Twitter user put it:

As with all things Verizon, its new data plan isn't cheap. Big Red advertises it as only $45 per line, but that's only if you have four lines (bringing the total to $180 per month).

Still, Verizon customers rejoiced:

Well, not everyone:

Naturally, T-Mobile's outspoken CEO John Legere found issues with Verizon's newfound respect for unlimited data users.

He even went on a bit of a tweet storm, pointing out why T-Mobile's plan is still better and matched Verizon's offering of HD video streaming and 10GB of mobile hotspot service starting at $70 per month for a single line of service.

Later in the week, Sprint decided it would join in on the fun:

Sprint's new plan pricing isn't permanent, but it's ridiculously cheap: $22.50 per line, per month, for a family of four until March 31, 2018.

AT&T goes unlimited! Sort of!

That left only AT&T without any sort of unlimited data plan that accommodated all customers. Before Verizon kicked off the mad scramble of carriers trying to outdo one another, AT&T's only unlimited plan required you to also subscribe to DirecTV for an additional $50/month. See what I mean? Evil.

Later in the week, AT&T finally came to its senses and announced it, too, would offer an unlimited data plan to all users.

Unfortunately, it's horribly priced and lacks the same features—mobile hotspot, HD video streaming for example—that Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon now offer. AT&T's unlimited plan starts at a heart-stopping $100 and goes up $40 for each user thereafter. It maxes out at $180 for four lines, with a $40 bill credit each month.

Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure didn't hesitate to share the Internet's harsh feelings towards the plan:

Needless to say, it was an interesting week for wireless carriers and their customers. Unlimited data plans are back, and with any luck, will be around (and continue to drop in price) as carriers continue to compete with each other.

Just how unlimited are these plans?

Actually, let's take a second to talk about just how "unlimited" these plans truly aren't. While advertising materials and commercials will tout unlimited data, the fact of the matter is the plans do have a limit. Depending on the carrier, after a user reaches between 22 GB to 28 GB of data in any given billing period, the carrier can "throttle" the speed of the user's connection--essentially dialing you back to an unusably slow connection

Each carrier plays innocent in the fine print, asserting that the throttling is done to ensure network performance for those using less data. But remember, carriers are not your friend.

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