Data Plan Comparison: Unlimited Options From T-Mobile, Verizon, AT&T and Sprint

T-Mobile, Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint, the four major carriers in the United States, all offer unlimited data plan options as of last week, allowing customers to forget about traditional data caps.

With so many options now available for unlimited data, we thought we’d do an in-depth video comparing the plans offered by the four companies to figure out the best value based on price and coverage.

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Unsurprisingly, Sprint offers the lowest prices, but many people choose not to use Sprint because its LTE coverage is poorer than other carriers. Eliminating Sprint, T-Mobile offers the next best deal, while Verizon comes in third, and AT&T comes in at a distant fourth.

For a single individual, Sprint charges $50 for new customers (for a limited time — it goes up to $60 next year). T-Mobile charges $70, Verizon charges $80, and AT&T charges $100, making it the most expensive unlimited plan of the four carriers for an individual user.

Prices even out a bit more with an increasing number of lines. At four lines, Sprint is charging $90 (new customers only — and it’s $160 next year), T-Mobile charges $160, and Verizon and AT&T both charge $180. Not all plans are equal though, especially in AT&T’s case.

While Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile all offer high-definition video streaming by default, AT&T limits video streaming to 480p unless customers specifically opt out. Sprint, Verizon, and T-Mobile all also offer 10GB of tethering data per line for connecting your Mac or iPad to your phone, but AT&T offers no mobile hotspot functionality with its unlimited plan.

T-Mobile offers the same video streaming and hotspot option that Verizon and Sprint do, but its prices are better than Verizon and aren’t much more than Sprint, while offering a better network. T-Mobile is also the only network that offers fee-free data plans, so the price listed — $70 — is what you pay. T-Mobile doesn’t charge activation fees, but other carriers do, which is something to take into account.

All networks will “deprioritize” (aka slow down) data after a certain amount of data is used per month. T-Mobile’s limit is 28GB, while AT&T’s is 22GB, Verizon’s is 22GB, and Sprint’s is 23GB. When these caps are hit, data speeds are slowed down.

On paper, T-Mobile seems to offer the best value for the price, but it’s always worth taking a look at coverage maps and getting the opinion of other cellular users in your area before choosing a provider. There are also other benefits to look into, such as coverage abroad — another area where T-Mobile leads the pack.

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Sprint and T-Mobile Merger Back on the Table as SoftBank Agrees to Cede Control of Sprint

Sprint parent company SoftBank is prepared to sell Sprint to T-Mobile parent company Deutsche Telekom, reviving a potential merger between the two companies, reports Reuters.

According to unnamed sources that spoke to the site, SoftBank is reportedly frustrated with Sprint’s growth in the United States and is ready to surrender control of the company and take a minority stake in T-Mobile.

Back in 2013, before T-Mobile soared in popularity, the situation was reversed. Sprint was prepared to purchase T-Mobile in a deal said to be worth more than $20 billion, but Sprint abandoned its plans in 2014 amid regulatory scrutiny, deciding that it would be too difficult to win approval from regulators.



At the time, U.S. antitrust officials reportedly told Sprint that having four national carriers in the United States was important to maintaining a competitive market. AT&T also once attempted to purchase T-Mobile, but that deal fell through too after being blocked by the Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Justice.

Given T-Mobile’s recent success, Deutsche Telekom is no longer interested in selling the company, leaving SoftBank to pursue another merger strategy.

Sprint and T-Mobile will likely face the same regulatory scrutiny if a potential purchase deal is reached between the two.

Investors have said a merger between T-Mobile and Sprint, ranked third and fourth respectively, would still face antitrust challenges, but made strategic sense as the industry moves to fifth-generation wireless technology. Carriers will need to spend billions of dollars to upgrade to 5G networks that promise to be 10 times to 100 times faster than current speeds.

While SoftBank is still open to discussing other options, it is now willing to surrender control of Sprint and retain a minority stake in a merger with T-Mobile, the sources said. They asked not to be identified because the deliberations are confidential.

The two companies have not yet started to discuss a deal because of strict anti-collusion rules that are in place during an ongoing spectrum auction. The auction, which is being overseen by the FCC, ends on March 30, and negotiations are expected to begin at that time.

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Sprint Offering Unlimited Data on Five Smartphones for $90 Per Month for a Limited Time

Sprint today introduced a limited time promotion that offers new customers—existing customers do not qualify—unlimited talk, text, and data for $50 per month for the first line, $40 per month for the second line, and no additional cost for up to three additional lines. A family of five, for example, would pay $90 per month as a base cost—but there’s lots of fine print and caveats to consider.



First, the plan itself is only good through March 31, 2018, at which point Sprint’s former pricing goes back into effect: $60 per month for the first line, $40 per month for the second line, and $30 per month for each additional line—a family of five would pay $190 per month. Fortunately, you can cancel before then without paying any fees beyond the remaining balance of any financed smartphone.

Additionally, Sprint’s pricing is not inclusive of taxes and surcharges, which can cost anywhere from $5 to over $25 extra per month based on our math. These fees typically include a $2.50 administrative charge, 40 cent regulatory charge, state and local taxes, and other regional surcharges if applicable. T-Mobile recently revamped its pricing to include taxes and fees, but AT&T and Verizon do not.

On top of the taxes and surcharges is a $30 activation fee per line, amounting to a one-time charge of $150 for five lines. T-Mobile does not charge activation fees, while AT&T and Verizon charge $25 and $30 per line respectively.

The rest of the fine print is similar to T-Mobile: video streams at up to 480p+ resolution, music streams at up to 500 Kbps, and games stream at up to 2 Mbps. Data de-prioritization applies during times of congestion, and customers that exceed 23GB of data in a billing cycle may be throttled until the next billing cycle. The prices also require electronic billing with AutoPay enabled.

Sprint’s pricing is competitive, at least until the promotion expires next year, as seen in the chart below.

T-Mobile’s unlimited ONE plan costs $70 per month for the first line, $50 per month for the second line, and $20 per month for each additional line, with taxes and fees included. For comparison, a family of five would pay double—$180—per month. AT&T is even more expensive, since a DirecTV NOW or U-verse subscription is required for unlimited data. Verizon does not offer unlimited data plans.



Sprint said new customers have limited time to sign up to receive the discounted pricing. While five lines are advertised, purchasing one to four lines is allowed—and it doesn’t matter if it’s family members or friends as long as each person falls under one bill. 5GB of high-speed Mobile Hotspot tethering, VPN, and P2P data is included per month. Tablets can be added for an extra $20 per month per line.

Keep in mind that Sprint ranked last in download speeds and so-called network “availability” among fellow “Big Four” competitors AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile in OpenSignal’s latest “State of Mobile Networks” report.

Tag: Sprint

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Sprint Buys 33% of Jay Z’s Streaming Music Service Tidal, Plans Exclusives for Customers

Sprint today announced that it has acquired a 33 percent stake in Jay Z’s music streaming service Tidal, which the carrier said will soon give its customers “unlimited access to exclusive artist content not available anywhere else.” Under the deal, artists partnering with Tidal will create music only available to new and existing Sprint customers.

As part of the deal, Sprint’s chief executive officer Marcelo Claure will also join Tidal’s board of directors. The carrier mentioned that Tidal will continue to function as normal, and Jay Z will remain in charge of the streaming service’s artists and music content. In a statement, Jay Z said that Sprint understands and shares Tidal’s goal of creating a dynamic and revolutionary addition to the streaming music service industry.

tidal-sprint

“Sprint shares our view of revolutionizing the creative industry to allow artists to connect directly with their fans and reach their fullest, shared potential,” said JAY Z. “Marcelo understood our goal right away and together we are excited to bring Sprint’s 45 million customers an unmatched entertainment experience.”

Artists under Tidal will gain access to a dedicated marketing fund provided by Sprint, which the carrier says “will allow artists the flexibility to create and share their work with and for their fans.” Further information about the Sprint/Tidal partnership will be coming soon.

Apple was thought to be interested in acquiring Tidal last summer in an effort to further boost Apple Music, but the company eventually denied those reports with Apple Music executive Jimmy Iovine saying “we’re not looking to acquire any streaming services.” Apple Music and Tidal have been competitors since their launch, each promoting exclusive artist deals with a rivalry that Kanye West said is negatively affecting the music industry as a whole.

Tags: Sprint, Tidal

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