Verizon's Unlimited Plan vs T-Mobile, Sprint and AT&T: Good Value?
Editors' Note: This article was originally posted at 10:28 a.m. ET, but we've updated it to reflect T-Mobile's changes to its unlimited data plan.
After years of attempting to dump every single one of its subscribers from its old unlimited plan, Verizon is introducing a new one. Starting today, (Feb. 13), Verizon customers can use the Verizon Unlimited plan, which costs $80 per month for a single line or $45 per line for four lines ($180) on a family plan.
Verizon's move already has caused a shake-up in the wireless world. A few hours after Verizon officially announced its unlimited offering, T-Mobile made changes to its T-Mobile One Unlimited plan, adding hotspot data and the ability to stream videos in HD. Both features mirror parts of Verizon's new unlimited plan.
The best part about Verizon's unlimited plan is that HD video is standard. Credit: Getty Images
With Verizon joining the ranks of carriers offering unlimited plans, here's how the different options compare.
|Carrier||Price (For 1 line)||Family Price (For 4 Lines)||Features||Who's It Good For|
|T-Mobile||720p video streaming, 10GB of Hotspot data||Customers who want a simple bill and T-Mobile's regular freebies|
|Verizon||720p video streaming, 10GB of Hotspot data||Customers who appreciate Verizon's network performance and reach|
|Sprint||480p video streaming, 5GB of Hotspot data, music streaming capped at 500kbps||Customers who want the lowest price, regardless of network quality|
|AT&T||Requires DirecTV or U-verse subscription||Customers who get their TV service through AT&T|
Verizon vs T-Mobile
Comparatively, T-Mobile's unlimited plan, "T-Mobile One," is cheaper at $70 per line, and it adds discounts as you bring on extra lines. A second line of data at T-Mobile costs $50, while the carrier charges $20 for each line after that. That includes taxes and surcharges — we don't know yet how Verizon will handle those, those Verizon's $20 monthly access fee appears to be baked into the $80-per-month cost of a single-line unlimited plan. If nothing else, T-Mobile's bills will definitely be easier to understand.
Shortly after Verizon unveiled its unlimited data plan, T-Mobile said it would offer two lines of unlimited data for $100 — a $20 savings off its normal monthly rate. That's a limited time offer, the carrier says, though it's available to new and existing customers.
T-Mobile says it throttles your speeds after you use 28GB per month; Verizon throttling kicks in after 22GB. (It's worth noting that carriers only reserve the right to throttle you if you pass those limits; throttling generally applies when you've gone over that specified amount of data and there's congestion on a carrier's network.) T-Mobile also moved to blunt one of the advantages of Verizon's plan, which lets users stream video at 720p. Previously, T-Mobile capped video streams at 480p for unlimited data subscribers unless they paid an extra $15 month for T-Mobile One Plus; now it will allow HD streaming for all unlimited data customers. T-Mobile's also giving T-Mobile One subscribers 10GB of hotspot data, again matching Verizon's plan.
Verizon vs Sprint
Sprint's unlimited plan is even cheaper: $60 per month for one line or $100 for two lines; a current promotion cuts the price of the first line to $50 a month for the next year, and Sprint is also waiving its $30 per line fees if you add a third, fourth or fifth line. That means a family of four pays $90 a month for unlimited data, at least through March 31, 2018, when those fees kick back in.
There are other catches, including 480p video and capped speeds for gaming (2Mbps) and music (500kbps). Ordinary web browsing has no cap, and you get unlimited talk and text. An extra $20 eliminates the speed restrictions and brings the price more in line with Verizon. Sprint caps its unlimited plan at 23GB, after which users may be throttled.
Verizon vs AT&T
Verizon seems like an especially good deal compared to AT&T's unlimited plan, which only offers unlimited data to its DirecTV streaming or U-verse television services. AT&T's unlimited plan costs $100 for one line with additional lines costing $40 a pop. Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint are obviously better deals, as they don't require the additional payment for the TV service.
Like Verizon, AT&T offers roaming in Canada and Mexico and has the same 22GB throttling cap. But it doesn't allow you to use your phone as a hotspot unless it's connected to a smart car, which is decidedly less useful.
Verizon's plan is a surprisingly decent value, particularly if you use your phone as a hotspot. Big Red's 10GB of 4G tethering is solid, and "HD" video streaming, whether its 720 or 1080p, is still better than the 480p offered by Sprint — something that T-Mobile likely noticed when it rushed out to add HD streaming to its unlimited plan.
What we still don't know are what the surcharges will look like on Verizon unlimited, and that's where T-Mobile's One starts to look more attractive with taxes and surcharges included.
T-Mobile offered our favorite unlimited plan before Verizon's new deal, and the Uncarrier's willingness to throw in HD streaming under pressure from Verizon keeps it a step ahead of Big Red.