T-Mobile vs. Verizon New Unlimited Data Plans Comparison

phones7Competition is good. Without the popularity of the T-Mobile unlimited data plan, we wouldn’t have the reluctant, new Verizon Unlimited data plan. In turn, Verizon’s new plan features made T-Mobile improve their deal to include HD video streaming video and 10 GB of LTE tethered hotspot data. In addition, starting 2/17, T-Mobile is running a special promotion of 2 lines with Unlimited data for $100 with taxes and fees included. If you assume $5 on monthly taxes and fees, that works out to $45 + $5 taxes per line. This is nice if you’re a 2-line household like me and are unable to take advantage of the 4-line deals. T-Mobile is effectively $35 + $5 taxes per line if you have 4 lines. Until 2/22, you can also stack another $150 for each line ported to T-Mobile (bring your own phone).

Here is a comparison graphic of the T-Mobile and Verizon Unlimited plans as of 2/17/17. Although created by T-Mobile, I found it fair enough. Adding in an estimated $5 per line in taxes and fees is even low in some geographic areas.

tmo100

The final comparison point remains network quality (coverage, reliability, and speed). Although T-Mobile touts their network availability is within 2% of Verizon according to OpenSignal, this still remains a local issue. If T-Mobile doesn’t have coverage in your living room or in the middle if your commute, you don’t care about the rest of the network.

Premium features with a smaller price gap. Usually the “frugal” plans I talk about are MVNOs, but these plans have features that most MVNOs don’t have like:

  • Free voice roaming. For example, the unlimited T-Mobile plan will let you roam on AT&T GSM networks in rural areas where they don’t have voice coverage. Verizon also offers voice roaming onto other networks in areas where they don’t have coverage.
  • 4G LTE hotspot tethering. Most MVNOs either ban tethering or charge extra, including Cricket and Straight Talk.
  • Unlimited high-speed data without throttling. T-Mobile will “network de-prioritize” your data after you use 28 GB in a single cycle, while Verizon will do the same at 22 GB. Basically, if the network is really busy at a specific point in time and you have exceeded those limits, your data speeds may go down. This is different than the “throttling” that other MVNOs do, for example an always-on speed limit of 128 kbps.

For travelers, T-Mobile also includes unlimited international text and 2G data in over 140 countries. While some MVNOs have poor customer service and support via e-mail only (no phone number), the major 4 carriers will at least have humans via 1-800 number.

Bottom line. T-Mobile and Verizon have both improved their Unlimited plan features and lowered the prices recently. While they still cost more than MVNO alternatives, they also offer a few premium features like hotspot tethering that MVNOs usually don’t include. You’ll have to decide if the premium features are worth it at these new price points.

Comments

  1. Nice review for a 2 line household – but since I need 4 lines – I’m sticking with Cricket using AT&T towers. 5 lines with unlimited talk/text and 3 GB/month high speed LTE data for $100 (all-in, taxes included). 4 lines costs the same as 5 lines – so I hooked up a family member with a free phone line.

  2. MVNOs are great choices if you understand their limitations. Of course, being with big mama comes with additional benefits but at an additional cost.

  3. T mobile has good offers but has very bad reception in my area. Too bad I just can’t get off Verizon.

    • I always wonder how much to T-Mobile’s bad reception reputation is from 5 years ago or more. OpenSignal is crowd-sourced and claims that they are within 1 or 2% of each other now. My parents use Ting on T-Mobile networks and haven’t complained about reception. I’m always wary of traveling and not having reception myself. I guess this is why Verizon can charge a premium.

      • This means that T-Mobile is within 2% of Verizon among users of OpenSignal. Even that is unreliable because the only way the comparison would be fair is if the users were carrying a phone from each carrier at all locations. OpenSignal, as well of the other crowd-sourced tools such as Sensorly, should only be used to check if a carrier provides good coverage at a particular location.

        • An acquaintance had T-Mobile for years because of the low cost, but the reception was not the greatest. Traveling to Florida, Chicago, Massachusetts, and a few other locations convinced me that T-Mobile is still not where it needs to be. That acquaintance switched to Verizon and has been stunned by how great the reception is in places where she used to not have any. I keep wanting to switch to T-Mobile due to the cost and the worldwide data, which would greatly help me, but I would rather pay a bit more and not have to worry about service domestically. They still aren’t there yet.

          What sealed it for me is that I have a good friend in the telecom industry and they report that Verizon has much newer equipment on their towers and more towers than the other three carriers do and that hasn’t changed even in the last few years, so it makes sense.

  4. We have T-Mobile and when we moved to San Diego we got zero service at our house, even though just a block either way down the street it was fine. They gave us a free “cell spot” thing that uses your home’s internet connection to provide cell service to your phones/devices. Works great, and was free.

  5. We have six lines on our current plan. With the data limited plans you could add up to 10 lines, so it’s strange that the maximum you can get (or at least that they talk about) is four lines. Seems very apples to oranges.

  6. I recently learned about Total Wireless from Clark Howard. It’s a MVNO that works on Verizon’s network, sold through Walmart or in is partnership with them, so a cousin of Straight Talk if you will. Like most of you, it sounds like, I’ve been searching high and low for a solution to being on VZ’s network without paying their premium, and for me, this is it. Works great; I haven’t experienced any difference in quality from my previous VZ pre-pay, or any throttling, and travel cross country for work. Being single and usually on wifi, the 5 gig plan for $35 monthly works for me, but there are other options. One caveat: don’t expect much in customer service. So if that’s important to you, than Total Wireless probably isn’t for you.

    http://www.totalwireless.com

  7. Straight Talk now has the Verizon network available as an option. I switched from T-Mobile network on Straight Talk and couldn’t be happier. My coverage and service improved dramatically. You can’t beat it for $45 / mo. And on top of that I bought an unlocked Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge and it also serves as a world phone supporting major GSM networks around the world. I sometimes travel internationally and this has worked out very very well.

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