The 3 Secret Limits on ‘Unlimited’ Data Plans

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3 Secrets About Unlimited Data Plans
Alina Cardiae /

Not all unlimited data plans are created equal. In truth, they’re rarely unlimited. Learn the limits of the unlimited data plan so you can buy the right plan at the right price.

Limit 1: Data deprioritization

No unlimited data plan will guarantee an endless amount of high-speed data anywhere anytime. Read the fine print and you may find the term data deprioritization — which means that once you use up a certain amount of data (usually around 22 GB to 23 GB, though T-Mobile sets the data limbo bar higher at 30 GB), your data speeds may slow to a crawl in times of heavy network traffic until the congestion clears.

In other words, you’re only guaranteed a finite amount of high-speed data in a month. After that you could be relegated to the slow lane during times of high network traffic.

Limit 2: 3G versus 4G speed

Some plans like AT&T Choice Unlimited Plan only offer a slower 3G data speed, which is fine if you’re just downloading a few emails and updating your Facebook page now and then. But if that’s all you’re doing, you probably don’t even need an unlimited data plan because those basic tasks don’t require much data at all. Sign up for 3 GB or 4 GB a month, and you’d be more than set.

However, if you plan to be upping your Snapchat game or want to stream music or videos often, you’ll need all those unlimited data gigabytes to upload or download these larger files. And you’ll want the 4G LTE speeds for smooth video streaming and faster file loading.

Limit 3: Mobile hotspots

Mobile hotspot is a feature that lets you share your carrier’s network connection with other devices (laptops and tablets included) so they can access the internet. In a word, this feature is awesome: It’s what makes our laptops into true mobile offices and our iPads into streaming video baby sitters. It might even save your family (and your marriage) on your next family summer vacation.

But some unlimited data plans like AT&T Choice Unlimited and Cricket Unlimited don’t include this feature and others, like T-Mobile One Unlimited Prepaid, do include it but at slower 3G data speeds, which as mentioned before, is a data drag.

Whether you’re ready to supersize your data and go unlimited or prefer just a few gigabytes, it’s always a good idea to compare plans to be sure you’re getting what you need at the right price.

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