The wireless wars are making it a good time to shop around for a new wireless plan.
All four major wireless carriers in the US -- AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile -- now offer unlimited data plans, which are great if you don't want to worry about how much data you're using. And the companies have been falling all over themselves to compete with one another over price. While the biggest discounts can be found for people on family plans with two or more lines, there are still some good deals to be had for people on individual plans.
In this edition of Ask Maggie, I help a reader find a deal that will drastically reduce her monthly bill.
I need your help finding the cheapest wireless plan. I'm not savvy about this in any way and don't know a tiny bite from a gigabyte. I really hope you can help.
Here's my situation: I never had to think about cell phone data and internet until I got divorced. Now I'm on my own and have to figure out the best plan for my budget. I've hopped around with Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile, and now I have Sprint. I use my phone as a hotspot sometimes, and I usually use a total of 10 gigabytes of data a month. So I think I need more data. What's the best plan I can get for one person? Right now I'm paying $127 a month for service, which seems too much!
I'm so overwhelmed trying to figure this out!
Single in the City
I hear you. The major wireless carriers keep changing the pricing and details of their plans. And it can be maddening trying to keep up with everything. The good news is that it's a competitive market and that means that prices have generally been falling.
Given your current data usage, it sounds like an unlimited plan might be the best solution for you. These plans all offer unlimited text messaging and calling and more data than you're likely to use each month.
But there are a few things you should be aware of when it comes to these so-called "unlimited" plans. For one, the data on these plans isn't really unlimited. Most of them will slow your service if you hit a limit of about 20 to 22GB of data per month. Also, these plans have separate caps for using your phone as a mobile hotspot. In general, the cap is 10GB a month. But if your total data usage is 10GB a month, you should be able to stay under that cap if you only use your phone as a hotspot on occasion.
Here's a look at the plans that would best fit your needs:
AT&T Unlimited Plus
This is AT&T's most comprehensive unlimited plan. (It also offers Unlimited Choice, which is $30 cheaper, but it does not include the "hotspot" feature and also has other limitations.)
Data: Up to 22GB of data at 4G LTE speeds. After that your connection could be slowed if there is network congestion.
Video: Unlimited high-definition streaming
Hotspot: 10GB at 4G LTE speeds and then speeds of 128kbps speed after that.
Perks: A Free HBO credit through DirecTV, a $25 discount on AT&T DirectTV; unlimited talk and text messaging in Mexico and Canada, unlimited texts to 120+ countries from the US.
Verizon's plan is very similar to AT&T's plan, but is a little cheaper.
Data: Up to 22GB of data at 4G LTE speeds. After that, your speeds may decrease during times of congestion.
Video: Unlimited high-definition streaming
Hotspot: 10GB at 4G LTE speeds, After that, speeds will slow to 3G
Perks: Unlimited talk, text, and data in Mexico and Canada and 500MB of 4G LTE speed data, which slows to 2G speeds after that.
Sprint's plan is the least expensive on this list. But it also puts caps on what you can do with your phone until it starts slowing your data to an undefined speed. Also beware that the price will increase by $10 a month after July 20, 2018.
Data: Up to 23GB of data at full 4G LTE speeds; after that speeds are slowed, but the company hasn't said to what speed it's slowed to.
Video: Unlimited streaming at 1080P
Gaming: Up to 8mbps of usage and then service can be slowed.
Music: Up to 1.5mbps of usage and then service can be slowed.
Hotspot: Up to 10GB at 4G LTE speed, 2G speed after that.
T-Mobile One Plus
T-Mobile just raised the price of its premier unlimited plan by $5 a month. But it offers some nice perks that could be beneficial to you if you travel a lot.
Data: Up to 30GB of 4G LTE data, 3G speeds after that.
Video: Unlimited video streaming in high-definition
Hotspot: Up to 10GB of data at 4G LTE speeds, speeds reduced after that.
Perks: Unlimited data and text messaging in 140+ countries; unlimited talk, text, and data in Mexico and Canada; unlimited free GoGo Wi-Fi on select flights.
Bottom Line: If price is the biggest concern, go with Sprint. But if you travel a lot, T-Mobile could be a better value. And if network coverage is a concern, traditionally Verizon has had the widest cellular footprint, so that may be your best bet.
Ask Maggie is an advice column that answers readers' wireless and broadband questions. If you have a question, I'd love to hear from you. Please send me an e-mail at maggie dot reardon at cbs dot com. And please put "Ask Maggie" in the subject header. You can also follow me on Facebook on my Ask Maggie page.
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