Image: getty images
It’s official: unlimited data plans are back.
Following Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint, AT&T finally caved and announced the return of its own unlimited data plan for all customers, and not just customers who are DirecTV or U-Verse subscribers.
Compared to the competition, the AT&T’s "unlimited" plan is easily the worst — it’s the most expensive and offers fewer features.
A single line costs $100 and each additional line costs $40, which breaks down to the following per month:
1 line: $100
2 lines: $140
3 lines: $180
4 lines: $220 ($180 after you receive a $40 credit)
Here’s the handy comparison chart Sprint created, amended with AT&T’s new unlimited plan details and pricing:
Image: screenshot: Sprint
As you can see, while AT&T offers similar features compared to its rivals (22GB of data at 4G LTE speed before you see throttled speeds during network congestion), unlimited video streaming at HD resolution and unlimited calling and texting, it’s missing one key feature: mobile hotspot data. Every other carrier offers 10GB of hotspot data for tethering your devices. WTF AT&T?
Also, AT&T’s being super shady about the HD video streaming. By default, the "Stream Saver" feature is switched on, which means unless you turn it off your videos will be downscaled to 480p resolution. If AT&T is banking on customers being too lazy or dumb to turn off Stream Saver in order to reduce data usage and decrease network congestion, maybe its network just isn’t good enough to support unlimited data.
No more excuses
"At the end of the day, people don’t need unlimited plans," former Verizon CFO Fran Shammo said at an investor conference in 2015.
As this week’s unlimited data plan announcements showed, Shammo couldn’t have been more wrong.
People don’t just want unlimited data plans, but a lot of people need them in order to keep up with new data-heavy lives.
Having access to more data is now a necessity, thanks to the rise of video streaming, live broadcasting, music streaming, Snapchat, and all of the other apps and services that suck down more data than ever before
A few reasons carriers used to justify killing unlimited plans after making the switch from 3G to 4G LTE networks included a fear of network congestion and an inability to make enough money to maintain the infrastructure. "You cannot make money on an unlimited video world," Shammo said.
Well, clearly the carriers have sorted it out and can make money now, or else unlimited plans wouldn’t be back. Whatever reasons they gave years ago for why unlimited data plans had to go just sound like BS in hindsight.