In 2017, something miraculous happened: Almost every major carrier in the United States announced revamped, tweaked, or entirely new unlimited data plans. Verizon, the nation’s largest in terms of total subscribers, brought back uncapped data for the first time in more than five years. T-Mobile and Sprint, both of which offered unlimited data before Verizon’s announcement, removed throttling schemes from their respective plans. And AT&T, the nation’s second-largest carrier, made unlimited data available to customers who don’t pay for DirecTV or U-verse.
But just because all four major carriers now offer “unlimited” data doesn’t mean that the plans are equal. Beyond subtle (and not-so-subtle) variations in pricing, there’s fine print to consider. Some plans slow the download speeds of subscribers who exceed a data limit. Others impose caps on certain forms of traffic. And still others omit basic benefits like tethering.
We’ve broken down each of the major four carriers’ best unlimited data plans to see which offers the most bang for your buck. But before we dive in, consider this: Maybe an unlimited data plan isn’t ideal for you? We’ve also got guides to the best individual plans and the best family plans. Hoping to save a buck? We’ve got a guide to finding the best cheap phone plan, too.
T-Mobile Magenta Unlimited Plan
It’s tough to choose a winner among four imperfect unlimited data plans, but one stands above the rest. We think that T-Mobile offers the best value for your money.
Why we chose it
T-Mobile’s Magenta plan is more than just an unlimited plan. For $70, subscribers get unlimited music, standard-definition video streaming, and 10GB of tethering data. But that’s not all — they also get benefits other carriers don’t offer. T-Mobile Magenta customers also get texting and data in 140 countries, and every Tuesday, subscribers get discounts on fast food, Lyft rides, movie tickets, and more.
If you want even more, T-Mobile also offers Magenta Plus, which offers unlimited HD video streaming and an additional 10GB of hotspot data.
And that’s to say nothing of T-Mobile’s excellent network. OpenSignal’s latest rankings put it among the top in terms of speed, 4G availability, and 4G latency.
For $70 a month, there’s no better unlimited plan out there, even if Verizon comes close. Its unlimited plan’s pricing ($80 for a single line), terms, and geographic area reach the rank of best in class. But T-Mobile’s extras — in addition to its plan price with included taxes and fees — put it over the finish line ahead of Big Red.
|Carrier||Price||Throttling cap||Tethering||Other extras|
|T-Mobile||$70-$180||50GB||10GB||T-Mobile Tuesdays, free Netflix subscription, international data and calling|
|Verizon||$75-$240||22GB; video throttled to 480p/720p/1080p or 10Mbps||15GB|
|Sprint||$60-$240||50GB; music throttled to 1.5Mbps, gaming throttled to 8Mbps||15GB||Free Amazon Prime, Hulu, Tidal subscriptions|
|AT&T||$70-$190||22GB||n/a||Over 30 live TV channels with Watch TV service|
In the next few sections, we’ll go over all of the details of each carrier’s unlimited plan.
Each unlimited plan in detail
Verizon’s Unlimited Data Plan
Verizon offers five unlimited data plans: Start Unlimited, Play More Unlimited, Do More Unlimited, Get More Unlimited, and Just Kids. They’re slightly different.
Verizon’s Unlimited plans begin with Start Unlimited. For $70 a month, users get unlimited data, standard definition video streaming, 6 months of Apple Music, and one free year of Disney+ (a feature included on all the plans). There is one major caveat to Start Unlimited. While there is no specific cap before throttling, Start Unlimited is always deprioritized during congestion. That may not be a big deal if you live in the country, but if you live in a major city, you could experience frequent slowdowns.
Play More and Do More Unlimited are both $80 but come with different features. Play More has Apple Music included and allows 720p video streaming, while Do More only offers 6 free months and 480p streaming. However, Do More has a 50GB data cap before throttling while Play More has a 25GB cap. If you are a music lover and chronic video binger, Play More may be the better value for you, but most people will likely lean toward Do More.
Get More Unlimited has a 75GB cap, 720p video streaming, and Apple Music included for $90. Both Do More and Get More include 500GB of Verizon Cloud Storage and 50% off tablet or jetpack plans.
Just Kids is a basic plan. For $50, children get 5GB of 4G data, 480p video streaming, and special security options for parents. Just Kids requires at least one standard unlimited plan before qualifying.
To compete with T-Mobile Tuesdays, Verizon has also introduced Verizon Up, a monthly rewards program that includes discounts and gift cards for tech, restaurants, and other services.
|People||Start Unlimited||Play More Unlimited||Do More Unlimited||Get More Unlimited|
- Coverage on one of the country’s most reliable networks
- Unlimited mobile hotspot data
- Calls and texts to and from Canada and Mexico
It’s worth noting that Verizon’s network is one of the country’s most reliable. Independent surveys by RootMetrics and others are largely in agreement: As far as coverage in rural areas is concerned, Big Red is tough to beat.
- Plans are less universal with offerings
- Video streams capped at 480p at 720p depending on your device and plan, no 1080p option
T-Mobile Magenta Plan
T-Mobile’s unlimited plan pricing is extremely competitive. One line is just $70 a month, two lines are $120 a month, three lines are $140, and each additional line thereafter is an extra $20. A four-line plan is $160, for example, and a five-line plan is $180.
While that used to be the carrier’s only unlimited plan, T-Mobile recently added another option called T-Mobile Essentials. While it doesn’t come with as many perks as T-Mobile Magenta, it does cost less. The first line comes out to $60 and $30 for the second. Any line after that is $15 — with the addition of AutoPay. You’ll get unlimited talk, text, and data in the U.S. along with unlimited 3G mobile hotspot data. As for the downsides, video streams up to 480p and internet speeds are throttled if you go over 50GB of data per month.
T-Mobile offers discounted pricing for seniors. One Unlimited 55+ starts at $60 or $50 for the first line and $10 for the second line (after a $5 per line discount with auto bill pay enabled) and includes all of the benefits of T-Mobile’s One Plan. The only caveat? Subscribers are limited to a maximum of two voice lines per plan.
T-Mobile is neck-and-neck with Sprint for the cheapest base plan rates around, but the fact that T-Mobile includes taxes and fees in its plan pricing can make a big difference depending on where you live.
T-Mobile’s plan, like Verizon’s, includes a $5-per-month discount for subscribers who enable bill autopay.
|People||T-Mobile Magenta||T-Mobile Magenta Plus||T-Mobile Essentials|
- Coverage on one of the country’s fastest networks
- 10GB of mobile hotspot data
- Speeds for One Plan customers won’t throttle until 50GB
- T-Mobile Tuesday gifts and discounts for One Plan customers
- Texting and 3G data in 140 countries
- Free Netflix subscription for One Plan customers
T-Mobile’s Magenta unlimited plan limits the resolution of streaming videos to standard definition (480p) — it charges an extra $15 a month for high-definition (1080p) streaming on its premium Magenta Plus plan.
T-Mobile, like Verizon, gives unlimited data customers an allotment of mobile hotspot data. And like Verizon, it throttles subscribers who exceed that limit to 3G speeds for the remainder of their bill cycle. It also includes scores of benefits that Verizon’s unlimited plan doesn’t. T-Mobile subscribers get free gifts every Tuesday, plus free texting and data “up to 3G speeds” in 140 countries.
T-Mobile Magenta unlimited customers with two or more lines on their account will also receive a free Netflix subscription.
T-Mobile’s recent merger with Sprint will have a tremendous impact on their coverage over the next few years, and the company aims to reach 99% of people with 5G in the next six years.
- Video capped at 480p
- Controversial Binge On program
- Speeds throttled after 50GB 4G LTE
At one point, Sprint only offered one unlimited plan, but the carrier expanded its lineup. Sprint, like Verizon and T-Mobile, offers a $5-a-month discount for subscribers who enable bill autopay — which is included in the following prices. Now, they are offering solid discounts on all their unlimited plans through July 2021.
There’s now Unlimited Basic, which is the least feature-heavy and the least expensive plan of all four major carriers and comes in at $60 for one line and $100 for two through five. In addition to unlimited talk, text, and data in the U.S., it also comes with unlimited talk and text in Mexico and Canada along with a Hulu subscription. As for the downsides, it reduces hotspot capabilities to 500 megabytes, video streaming is reduced to standard definition, music streaming is limited to 1.5Mbps, and gaming streams up to 2Mbps.
The second unlimited plan that comes along with more features is Unlimited Plus. One line will cost you $70, and two lines will cost $120. It’s similar to Unlimited Basic, except you get unlimited talk and text in Mexico and Canada along with 10GB of 4G LTE. As for other perks, you’ll get 50GB of mobile hotspot data, a Tidal subscription, Hulu subscription, and streaming in full HD. Downsides include music streaming is limited to 1.5Mbps and gaming streams up to 2Mbps.
The third one Sprint has to offer is a little more expensive — but it comes with a lot of perks. Known as Unlimited Premium, the new plan comes with Amazon Prime, Tidal, Hulu, and Lookout Premium Plus, which provides mobile security.
Sprint also offers discounted prices for seniors, age 55+ and over –it’s $50 for the first line and $20 a month for the second line. The carrier also offers an Unlimited Military plan for veterans — one line costs $60 and the second line is $20. Every line after that is $10 each.
|People||Unlimited Basic||Unlimited Plus||Unlimited Premium|
- Unlimited talk, text, and data in the United States
- Unlimited talk and text in Mexico and Canada, 4G LTE data
- Global roaming in more than 185 destinations
- Video streaming is reduced
- Music throttled to 1.5Mbps
- Gaming throttled to 8Mbps
Sprint’s plans may be “unlimited,” but they come with more restrictions than comparable plans from Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T.
Certain traffic is treated differently. Music streaming, for example, which Sprint previously capped at a download rate of 500Kbps, now tops out at 1.5Mbps. That’s enough for Spotify’s 320Kbps “extreme quality,” but dangerously close to Tidal’s lossless requirement of 1.4Mbps (ironic, considering Sprint recently bought a 33% stake in Tidal). Multiplayer games, meanwhile, are limited to 8Mbps, up from 2Mbps under the old unlimited plan terms.
Just like Verizon and T-Mobile, Sprint institutes throttling when subscribers reach a certain limit. According to the fine print, traffic on the Now Network begins to slow down after around 23GB in a month.
In terms of network performance and reliability, Sprint has a long way to go. A report from OpenSignal in August 2016 found that the carrier’s customers had a 4G LTE signal about 82% of the time, and that speeds averaged slowest among the four major carriers. Since then, Sprint has seen some improvement — its 4G availability saw the biggest increase among all four carriers in OpenSignal’s latest report, rising two full percentage points.
AT&T made headlines when it announced it would widen the availability of its unlimited data plan, previously exclusive to customers of its DirecTV and U-Verse television packages, to new and existing customers. The carrier originally had two unlimited data plan options: Unlimited Plus and Unlimited Choice. They changed, following its merger with Time Warner, to AT&T Unlimited Starter, AT&T Unlimited Extra, and AT&T Unlimited Elite.
Unlimited Starter begins at $65 dollars for one line, $120 for two, $135 for three, and just $140 for four lines. The Starter plan includes unlimited data, talk and text, and standard definition video streaming. Like Verizon’s basic plan, there is no data cap, but the plan will be deprioritized during congestion.
Unlimited Extra will cost you $75 for one line and $130 for two. The Elite package will cost $85 for one line and $150 for two, but you will receive free access to HBO Max. Extra has a 50GB cap on 4G, while Extra offers 100GB of premium data. Elite also bumps video streaming from standard to high definition.
The Unlimited &More Premium plan also comes with a few more perks, including the ability to stream entertainment in 1080p while streaming on 4G LTE and a 15GB personal hotspot.
For those who enable bill autopay, AT&T offers a discount of $5 per month for a single line and a $10 per month discount for subscribers who have multiple lines.
|People||Unlimited Starter||Unlimited Extra||Unlimited Elite|
- Unlimited texts to 120 countries
- Unlimited calls in Mexico and Canada, along with free roaming
- HBO Max adds value for Elite plan
AT&T’s unlimited data plans are relatively basic. After you use your 10GB of tethering data, your tethering speeds will be reduced to 128kbps (mostly unusable).
- Plans are getting pricier, while competition is getting cheaper
- Fewer benefits than some of the competition
Article Tags: data · Plans · Unlimited