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January 1, 2018

The best unlimited data plan: Verizon vs. T-Mobile vs. AT&T vs. Sprint

by John_A

In February 2017, something miraculous happened: Almost every major carrier in the U.S. 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 limits. 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.

Our pick

T-Mobile One 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 One plan is more than just an unlimited plan. Sure, subscribers get unlimited music and high-definition video streaming and 10GB of tethering data. But they also get benefits that other carriers don’t offer. T-Mobile One customers get texting and data in 140 countries around the globe. Thanks to Binge On, they get the option to stream standard-definition videos without worrying about contributing to their throttle cap. And every Tuesday, subscribers get discounts on fast food, Lyft rides, movie tickets, and more.

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, and a forthcoming expansion this year promises to drastically improve its rural coverage.

For $70 a month, there’s no better unlimited plan out there. Verizon comes close. Its unlimited plan’s pricing ($80 for a single line), terms, and geographic reach the rank of best in class. But T-Mobile’s extras — in addition to its plan price’s included taxes and fees — put it over the finish line.

Throttling cap
Other extras
T-Mobile Tuesdays, free Netflix subscription, international data and calling
22GB; video throttled to 480p/720p/1080p or 10Mbps

23GB; music throttled to 1.5Mbps, gaming throttled to 8Mbps
Free Hulu subscription, plans start at regular pricing in 2019

T-Mobile   Verizon   Sprint   AT&T

In the next few pages, we’ll go over all of the details of each carrier’s Unlimited plan.

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