First things first: there is no such thing as an unlimited plan. Sorry, US consumers, but it’s a fact. After having done away with unlimited plans years ago, every major cellular carrier in the country now offers some form of “unlimited” wireless plan now. And in each and every case, the unlimited plan is, well, limited. Different plans have different limitations, and Verizon is the latest wireless carrier to throw its hat in the ring and launch a new “unlimited” plan. So, in this post, we’ll take a look at the fine print and run down all of the limits in Verizon’s new unlimited plan.
Before we dive in, allow us to reiterate once again: there is no such thing as an unlimited plan. Every carrier includes limitations with its “unlimited” offering, and they’re all pretty similar. There are subtle differences in the fine print from each carrier though, so let’s see what’s in store for Verizon subscribers who opt for the carrier’s pricey new unlimited plan.
You know that unlimited data you’ll be able to enjoy once you sign up for Verizon’s unlimited plan? Well, it’s limited. You can indeed use 1GB of data in a billing period or 1,000GB of data, but you’ll only be able to enjoy up to 22GB of data at guaranteed full 4G LTE speeds. After that, Verizon says it “may prioritize usage behind other customers in the event of network congestion.”
In other words, if you’ve used more than 22GB and there are other people in your area connecting to the same cell towers, your data speeds are going to be throttled. Every other major wireless carrier in the US has the same policy, though the throttle threshold varies. AT&T guarantees 22GB of full-speed data per billing period as well, while Sprint promises 23GB and T-Mobile ups the figure to 28GB.
On to the next caveat: no miles for you. If you’re used to racking up credit card miles or points when you pay that pricey wireless bill each month, you’re out of luck. In order to sign up for Verizon’s new unlimited plan, you’ll need to set up auto-pay using a debit card or a checking account. Verizon doesn’t have to pay credit card processing fees this way, so it likely saves between 2% and 3% on each transaction.
And speaking of caveats involving fees, you’ll have to enroll in paperless billing in addition to auto-pay unless you want to be charged an extra $10 per month. Paper is expensive these days, it would seem.
Finally, the last big caveat pertains to tethering, or the practice of using your Verizon phone as a Wi-Fi hotspot to connect other devices to the internet. Again, unlimited plan subscribers will be able to use an unlimited amount of data for tethering, but they’ll be limited to 10GB of full-speed data per billing cycle. After that, throughput will be throttled to 3G data speeds. T-Mobile and Sprint have similar policies, while AT&T doesn’t allow tethering at all with its unlimited data plan.
As a reminder, Verizon’s new “unlimited” plan costs $80 per month for a single line, $140 for two lines, $162 for three lines or $180 for four lines. After that, it costs $20 per line to add more, with a limit of 10 lines per account. Meanwhile, Verizon’s announcement came just two days after Sprint unveiled a special limited-time promotional rate for its “unlimited” plan. For $80 per month, Sprint customers can have up to five lines on an unlimited plan. That works out to as little as $18 per line.
UPDATE: As a number of readers have pointed out, there’s another big caveat with Verizon’s new unlimited plan: corporate, employee, student and federal discounts cannot be applied. Verizon will still honor military and veteran discounts, however.