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July 14, 2018
Your phone's unlimited data plan isn't really unlimited — this is what you really get

  • Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile all say they have unlimited data plans, but there’s fine print you need to know about.
  • There’s a cap on your high speed data, no matter what plan you pay for.
  • You won’t pay overages, but your data will come to a crawl if you go over your limit.

Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint all offer “unlimited” data plans that suggest you can use as much high-speed data as you want each month.

But the truth is more complicated.

In reality, if you use too much data in a month — even if you pay for one of these plans — your carrier might drastically slow your connection down. If you go over your plan’s cap, you won’t have to pay overages, but your data might be so slow that you won’t be able to do very much online other than load mobile websites and check e-mail.

So, while your plan might be technically unlimited in the sense you can use as much data as you want, you’re still effectively locked into a data cap because of the slower speeds your carrier might impose after you go over.

Recently, the major carriers have added tiers to their unlimited data plans with larger caps of high-speed data. It’s confusing.

I took a look through the so-called unlimited plans offered by the big four U.S. carriers to find out what you actually get when you pay for “unlimited data.”

You can’t blame the network operators for wanting to have a bit of control over the volume of data passing through their networks. We are blessed in the West to have unlimited high speed internet into the home; and we as consumers think that our experience to our WiFi router is identical to that of our cellular mobile data plan. It could not be further from the truth.

The cold hard reality is that operators rip out and replace their cellular infrastructure with a degree of frequency that is shocking. Were you aware that operators in Europe are now end of life-ing 3G infrastructure by 2020? That 3G infrastructure which was initially marketed as “get your football to your phone” lasted a paltry 17 years when compared to the average life span of a copper cable and the associated high speed internet deployed thereon.

Cellular operators are about to undergo a massive 5G upgrade; and expect prices to rise and the data packages per subscription to fall on unlimited/unlimited with throttling and non-unlimited plans.

Your phone's unlimited data plan isn't really unlimited — this is what you really get