Unlimited data is something often frowned upon among carrier executives. When a carrier offers unlimited data, it generates less profit for the company. By offering unlimited data, they lose potential revenue that they would’ve otherwise gained if the user was on a limited data plan. This is one of the reasons why the two top US carriers – AT&T and Verizon – no longer offer plans with unlimited data. Another reason carriers themselves aren’t a fan of offering unlimited data is due to tower congestion. If you and every one around you begin using a ton of data like today was your last day on earth, then all of you will receive slower data speeds – as any Sprint user would tell you. At this point, unlimited data is not just affecting the pocket of the CEOs, it’s also affecting other customers using the same carrier (tower) as you. When tower congestion becomes a major problem for a carrier, the carrier has to spend a large amount of money in order to add more spectrum and towers to its infrastructure. And as the norm, companies don’t like to spend money unless it’s critically necessary and the results end up in large profit.
Although it appears that unlimited data is not a profitable business model for carriers at this time, there was a time when all four major carriers offered unlimited data. Because of this, there are still users hanging on unlimited data plans on carriers such as AT&T and Verizon, two carriers that haven’t offered unlimited data in years. Since those carriers no longer officially offer unlimited data, there are many downsides for users who chose to remain on the those plans. Currently, if you want to officially have unlimited data, your only option is one of the two inferior carriers: Sprint and T-Mobile. Here’s the state of each carriers and how they’re treating unlimited data and its users…
Verizon on throttling and unlimited data
Unlimited data: Verizon does not offer any plan with unlimited data. If you want to have unlimited data with America’s best network, you will have to go through unofficial ways of obtaining it. To get this plan, you will have to buy a grandfathered unlimited data account from someone who you personally know. If you don’t personally know someone who has a grandfathered Verizon account, your last option is to buy an account online. You can begin your expensive journey on eBay. Verizon grandfathered accounts can also be found on your local Craigslist page.
Throttling: As of June, 2015, Verizon does not throttle its unlimited data users. The carrier announced a few months ago, “Beginning in 2011, to optimize our network, we managed data connection speeds for a small subset of customers – those who are in the top 5% of data users and have 3G devices on unlimited data plans – and only in places and at times when the network was experiencing high demand. We discontinued this practice in June, 2015.
Downsides: Since you’re not on an official account, grandfathered users face many disadvantages that those on official accounts never have to deal with. One of the biggest downside is that you’ll need some tips for coping with paranoia. Any changes you make to your expensive account will result in the loss of the unlimited data plan. So you will have to be extra careful when dealing with your account, this includes dealing with reps – reps will always find an excuse on why you must change your plan. You will also no longer have the option to buy a subsidized cell phone directly from Verizon. Instead you will have to buy it off Best Buy or pay full price from Amazon or other vendor. When upgrading, you’ll have to be careful not to turn on the phone with the shipped SIM card. Better information on how not to lose your Verizon unlimited data can be found on Slickdeals.net.
AT&T on throttling and unlimited data
Unlimited data: Like with Verizon, you will not find any plan with unlimited data on AT&T – the carrier stopped offering unlimited data more than half a decade ago. Since this is a rare plan, you will have to sacrifice your wallet if you really want unlimited data on AT&T’s network. For some reason – probably because there are less grandfathered AT&T accounts – AT&T grandfathered are usually sold for a higher price than Verizon grandfathered accounts. You can find these grandfathered accounts on Ebay, personal friends, or Craigslist.
Throttling: Although the data is unlimited, constant speeds isn’t. Here’s is where a grandfathered AT&T unlimited data is inferior to a grandfathered Verizon account: apart of being cheaper, AT&T throttles while Verizon does not. AT&T states on its site that users who exceed 22GB of data in a billing period will receive reduced data speeds when connected to a congested tower. The punishment for creating wireless network congestion will last until the user’s next billing period.
Downsides: With AT&T you do not have to be as paranoid of losing your unlimited data as with Verizon, but still have to be very careful when dealing with your account. Make sure the reps are aware that you do not want to change your plan under any circumstance. Upgrading is not as bad as on Verizon, you can order your phone from AT&T.com or just go straight to an AT&T corporate store buy it from them whenever you’re eligible for an upgrade.
Sprint on throttling and unlimited data
Unlimited data: If you want to have unlimited data without having to deal with shady people on the corner, then Sprint is one of the choices you have. Sprint offers unlimited data to their customers without going through much hassle. For $70/month you can get unlimited data on Sprint’s network along with unlimited text and talk. Just as easy as that. $70 is just for the plan – you’ll need to buy the phone as well through the options they offer. Sprint offers four options to get a phone: lease; 24 month Easy Pay; typical two-year contract; buy the phone for full price.
Throttling: Until recently, Sprint unlimited plans did not have any type of throttling at all. You could consume hundreds of GB and not get throttled or any warning from them. That’s no longer the case. Sprint now throttle any users that exceed 23GB during a billing cycle, as part of their new Quality of Service (QoS) practice. The user only receives reduced speeds when connected to a constrained network.
Downsides: This plan is officially offered by the carrier, so there’s no downside to it other than the throttling. You can upgrade from any where and don’t have to worry about reps “accidentally” removing your unlimited data plan.
T-Mobile on throttling and unlimited data
Unlimited data: If Sprint is not a carrier you’d appreciate as your cell phone provider, your last option for unlimited data would be T-Mobile. T-Mobile offers unlimited data for its users for the price of $80/month. You can bring your own compatible cell phone or buy one from them. If you bring your own cell phone all you have to do is buy a SIM card from T-Mobile and just pay $80/month for the service. If you decide to buy a phone from them, you’ll have to pay the phone through a 24-month period in addition to the $80 plan.
Throttling: Just like the three previously mentioned carriers, T-Mobile will reduce your speeds on constrained networks if you go over 23GB of data during a billing cycle. As written on t-mobile.com/OpenInternet, “Based on network statistics for the most recent quarter, Unlimited high-speed data customers who use more than 23GB of data during a billing cycle will be de-prioritized for the remainder of the billing cycle in times and at locations where there are competing customer demands for network resources. At the start of the next bill cycle, the customer’s usage status is reset, and this data traffic is no longer de-prioritized.”
Downsides: Not that many. You will not have any disadvantages over regular users on limited data plans. The only problem is that you’ll need to make sure T-Mobile has good coverage where you spend most your time at. This carrier is notorious for having pretty bad coverage on rural areas.
Best carrier for unlimited data
As we can conclude, unlimited data in not completely finished in the US. Although hard to obtain in some cases, you can still get unlimited data on each of the top four carriers. At the end, if you want to go with the true definition of unlimited data, Verizon is the only option if money is not a problem for you. Verizon has best LTE coverage across the USA as proven by independent studies. Of all the mentioned carriers, Verizon is the only carrier that does not throttle their unlimited data users.
But in reality the best thing you can do is check if T-Mobile and Sprint have good coverage around your area. If they do, you can get unlimited data from them. This way you don’t go through all the hassle of getting a deprecated plan from Verizon.