T-Mobile undercuts rivals on 'unlimited' plan

Mobile carrier introduces an "unlimited" everything plan for $79.99 a month, $20 cheaper than its closest competitor's offering. The fine print for T-Mobile's deal reveals, however, that the data service is not actually unlimited.

Marguerite Reardon Former senior reporter
Marguerite Reardon started as a CNET News reporter in 2004, covering cellphone services, broadband, citywide Wi-Fi, the Net neutrality debate and the consolidation of the phone companies.
Marguerite Reardon
3 min read

T-Mobile USA is taking on its wireless competitors with its new "unlimited" everything cell phone plan for only $79.99 a month, proving that it's still looking to compete as regulators consider AT&T's bid to buy it.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Today the company launched the new plan that includes unlimited talk, texting, and data up to 2GB a month. While talk and texting appear to be unlimited, the fine print for T-Mobile's deal reveals that the data service is not actually unlimited. Consumers are allowed to use up to 2GB of data per month. After that, the company will slow down the data service. But customers will not be charged an overage fee.

T-Mobile said in its press release that its typical customers on its "4G" HSPA+ smartphones use only about 1GB of data per month." AT&T claimed a year ago when it eliminated its unlimited data plan that 98 percent of its smartphone customers used less than 2GB of data per month.

Even though the data service may have some restrictions, it's still a pretty good deal compared to competitors' offerings.

Sprint Nextel offers an unlimited voice, texting, and data service for $99 a month. Verizon Wireless began testing a similar offering in August that included unlimited voice calling, text messaging, and data for $99. The service was tested in select markets in Los Angeles and San Diego. But according to Verizon's Web site, the company isn't offering that plan nationwide. Instead it offers an $89.99 unlimited talk and texting plan. Unlimited data can be added for $30 more a month, taking the total cost of the service to $120 a month.

AT&T doesn't offer an unlimited everything plan. It does offer an unlimited talk plan for $70 a month and unlimited text plan for $20 a month. Consumers can get 2GB of data for an additional $25 a month. Unlike T-Mobile, which will slow down traffic when its 2GB limit is exceeded, AT&T charges overage fees when the 2GB threshold is exceeded.

Last month, AT&T announced it will acquire T-Mobile in a deal worth $39 billion. Since then there has been a lot of speculation about what might happen to pricing when and if AT&T's acquisition of T-Mobile is approved by regulators. AT&T and T-Mobile have each said AT&T will honor T-Mobile service contracts after the merger closes. But after those contracts expire, there is no guarantee that AT&T will continue to offer the great deals that T-Mobile has put together.

Even though T-Mobile customers may have to eventually give up this $79.99 unlimited everything plan in the future, it's clear from its introduction that T-Mobile is still serious about competing against its wireless rivals. In a statement regarding the merger last week, a T-Mobile spokesperson had this to say:

"Until this deal is closed, we remain an independent competitor to AT&T. There is no change in service for our customers, and we remain committed to ensuring that our customers have the best experience possible using T-Mobile USA products and services."