Unlimited plans: Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T and Sprint, compared – CNET

Comparing Verizon’s unlimited plan — and the catch

Unlimited has its limitations. Here’s a quick breakdown of the unlimited data plans offered by major US mobile carriers.

by Bridget Carey

Verizon made headlines recently when it announced a new unlimited data plan — a coveted option for those who don’t want to worry about overage fees. But how does Verizon’s plan compare to Sprint, AT&T and T-Mobile’s unlimited options?

Data limits and throttling

The big four carriers offer unlimited plans with unlimited talk, texting and data. That comes with a catch though — when you hit the data limit, your data speeds are slowed down or your data needs are sent to the back of the line. These are the data limits for each carrier:

  • AT&T: 22GB
  • Sprint: 23GB
  • T-Mobile: 28GB
  • Verizon: 22GB

Cost for single line

Obviously, one of the reasons unlimited plans exist are to offer lots of data at a reasonable price — reasonable enough to beat overage charges. Here’s what a single line of unlimited data on each carrier costs:

  • AT&T: $100/month (in addition to the required DirectTV/U-verse service so total cost is $150/month)
  • Sprint: $55/month (with a $5/month AutoPay discount)
  • T-Mobile One: $70/month (with a $5/month AutoPay discount)
  • Verizon: $80/month (with a $5/month AutoPay discount)

A couple notes on theses plans:

  • The plans for AT&T, Sprint and Verizon do not include taxes, surcharges or additional fees
  • At the time of this writing, Sprint has a promotion where its unlimited data plan is only $50/month through March 31, 2018.

Cost for additional lines

If you need additional lines of unlimited data, each of the big four have a range of prices:

  • AT&T: $100/month first line, $40/month for each additional line
  • Sprint: $55/month first line, $40/month for a 2nd line, $30/month for lines 3-5
  • T-Mobile: $100/month for first two lines, or $47/month each for three lines, or $40 each for four lines
  • Verizon: $80/month first line, $45/month for each additional line

Sprint’s current promotion offers a 2nd line for $40/month and lines 3-5 for $0/month — this reverts back to regular pricing after March 31, 2018.

Each carrier has different rules around streaming hd video.

Josh Miller/CNET

HD video versus SD video

Verizon and T-Mobile both offer HD video streaming included in their plans — T-Mobile changed this in reaction to Verizon’s announcement of its unlimited plan. AT&T does something similar, but defaults video streaming to standard definition (480p instead of 1080p). AT&T let’s you disable this at no cost.

The baseline unlimited plan from Sprint only lets you stream standard definition video (think DVD quality). Though, Sprint offers a premium unlimited plan for $75/month that lets you stream HD video.

Below is the cost of an unlimited plan with HD video streaming for a single line:

  • AT&T – $100/month ($150/month with required DirectTV/U-verse service)
  • Sprint Premium – $75/month
  • T-Mobile – $70/month
  • Verizon – $80/month

Mobile hotspot data

If you use your phone as a mobile hotspot, keep in mind each carrier has its own limits on just how much data can be used for that — this is one of the biggest differentiators between unlimited plans.

  • Verizon – 10GB/month of mobile hotspot data
  • T-Mobile – 10GB/month of mobile hotspot data
  • Sprint – 5GB/month of mobile hotspot data on either of Sprint’s unlimited plans
  • AT&T Unlimited – mobile hotspot only available when connected with a smart car

The final word

It is truly wonderful to have options from all four major US carriers for unlimited data plans. This comparison of costs and features is just part of the picture though. Keep in mind other costs: cost of phone, extended warranties, taxes, surcharges and activation fees — the last three T-Mobile have factored into its pricing. It’s also worth considering the network coverage and quality of that coverage, too.

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