The biggest news in wireless this week is Verizon’s change of heart on unlimited data. But there’s one person that won’t be celebrating Verizon’s at-long-last unlimited plan: T-Mobile CEO John Legere.
In a move that will surprise no-one, the outspoken Cool Boss of mobile has taken to Twitter to overshadow Verizon by announcing shake-ups to T-Mobile's own unlimited offering. The still-new T-Mobile One plan will undergo several key changes from this Friday, including unlimited HD video and the addition of high-speed hotspot data.
One unlimited, upgraded
As of yesterday T-Mobile’s $70 standard One unlimited plan restricted video streaming to 480p+; acceptable for mobile use, but not quite HD quality. Customers could buy 24-hour HD passes for $2 per day, or upgrade to the pricier One Plus plan for $85 each month – an option that features unlimited HD passes, although you’ll need to activate the service every 24 hours for daily 1080p+ streaming.
Along with unlimited talk, text and data, T-Mobile’s One plan also included unlimited mobile hotspot use, but speeds were restricted to 3G. But thanks to the launch of Verizon Unlimited – which includes unlimited HD video streaming, plus 10GB of 4G LTE mobile hotspot every month – T-Mobile has addressed the two biggest One pain points by eliminating them completely.
The One plan will get a feature upgrade on February 17, which means that all video will now stream in HD, free of charge and (hopefully!) without the need to flick on HD passes every 24 hours. The plan’s mobile tethering will also get a speed bump: you’ll still receive unlimited 3G hotspot access, but customers will also enjoy 10GB of high-speed tethering every month.
In addition to the above tweaks, T-Mobile One will still include key features such as unlimited plan use in Mexico and Canada (including unlimited data), unlimited 2G data roaming worldwide, unlimited international text, plus free in-flight texting and one hour of monthly in-flight data per month thanks to GoGo.
Verizon vs. T-Mobile
At $70 per month, T-Mobile’s One plan is slightly cheaper than Verizon’s $80 Unlimited option. So how does Verizon compare to the soon-to-be new-and-improved T-Mobile One plan?
Both plans include unlimited domestic talk, text and 4G LTE data, but Verizon does lack international features that well-traveled customers may consider a deal-breaker. Like T-Mobile One, Verizon Unlimited includes international calls and texts to Mexico, but data roaming in both countries is restricted to just 500MB per day, and data use elsewhere outside the US requires the $10 daily TravelPass add-on.
Verizon also skips over the GoGo in-flight text and data use that’s included in T-Mobile plans, and unlike One and One Plus, taxes and fees aren’t covered in the $80 monthly charge – you’ll still need to pay sales tax for the plan price itself, which is around $5 per month, per line.
I told you at #UncarrierNEXT that we were going to make this whole industry give custs what they want - unlimited! And we just did. POW! pic.twitter.com/vVWKoZi8eI
— John Legere (@JohnLegere) February 13, 2017
If you’re already on a One plan, you’ll receive your 10GB of high-speed tethering and bonus HD video streaming from Friday onwards; there’s no need to switch plans, and both new features are included in the current $70 plan price. What’s unclear is how the changes will affect customers on the $85 One Plus plan, who are already paying extra for HD video that requires activation every 24 hours.
Customers on One Plus who have been happy to pay more for HD binge-watching may now prefer to downgrade to the less expensive One option. However, although One will now include 10GB of LTE hotspot use, One Plus still comes with unlimited high-speed tethering, as well as faster free data roaming internationally.
T-Mobile’s swift response to Verizon isn’t unexpected, but it will be interesting to see if competing unlimited plans from AT&T and Sprint also undergo changes. Sprint, like T-Mobile, restricts resolution and speed on its $50 Unlimited Freedom plan; if customers want HD video and faster music and gaming, they’ll need to switch to the $70 Unlimited Freedom Premium option.
Data prioritization: still a thing
As always, it’s important to remind prospective customers that unlimited data does come with some restrictions. Both Verizon and T-Mobile operate ‘data prioritization’ policies for their heaviest data users, meaning data speeds may be temporarily throttled if, and when, the network becomes congested.
If you’re a T-Mobile customer, you have around 28GB of LTE data use before you’re affected, while Verizon users have a 22GB threshold. AT&T and Sprint also implement prioritization, with the top tier of customers usually hitting around 23GB per month.
The good news is that T-Mobile customers with varying or lower data needs can be rewarded for showing some restraint. The carrier will pay back customers up to $10 per line during low-data months, so if you happen to use less than 2GB on any line by the end of your billing cycle, you’ll be refunded.
Verizon Unlimited is available to new and existing customers now, while T-Mobile’s plan changes will go live this Friday. For more info on unlimited data, start comparing plans below.