It appears competition might actually be working in the US cellphone market as, following Verizon bringing back â€œunlimitedâ€ data, all four major networks have upped their game. As always, however, unlimited still comes with restrictions.
As we noted on Monday, Verizon brought back unlimited data for the first time since ditching it several years back (which restricted it to â€˜grandfatheredâ€™ plans only.) Its new deal is $80 a month for one line and $45 for each additional lines. The main restrictions are that using more than 22GB a month puts you at the top of the list if and when Verizon throttles speeds to deal with network congestion; you have to use automated payments and electronic billing; and hotspot tethering is available at 4G speeds for the first 10GB a month and then drops to 3G speeds.
AT&T has now made its unlimited data plan available to all customers, not just those signed up to specific cable or satellite TV packages. Itâ€™s $100 a month for one line, $140 for two lines and then $180 gets you four lines (the fourth being â€˜freeâ€™ as a family deal.) The big restriction is that thereâ€™s still no hotspot tethering allowed.
Sprint also responded to the Verizon news. Itâ€™s offering a $10 discount until next April on its usual price of $60 for one line, $100 for two lines and an extra $30 for each additional line. Itâ€™s also ditched a policy that automatically restricted streaming video to standard definition, though 4K streaming is still blocked, gaming is capped at 8Mbps and music streams at 1.5mbps. Its hotspot tethering also works at full speed for only the first 10GB a month, but it then drops to 2G speeds rather than 3G.
T-Mobile was already close to where the â€˜market normâ€™ seems to be: it too has 10GB of hotspot tethering before a drop to 3G speed, along with a soft limit of 28GB a month before throttling is a possibility. Its main change this week is that all customers on the unlimited plan can get HD streaming without needing to manually enable it each day as used to be the case. (They will need to turn it on once in their account settings.)
The company has also tweaked its pricing: one line is still $70, but two lines is dropping to $100. The rest of the pricing remains the same with $140 for three lines and then $20 for each additional line. (Note that these figures include relevant taxes and fees, unlike the prices of the other carriers.)
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