Give up any hope of ever getting an unlimited data plan from your wireless carrier.
It’s over. Consumers have lost, and the carriers have won. There will never be an option for you to get unlimited data like you had in the early days of the smartphone.
Yet that hasn’t stopped carriers from trumpeting so-called unlimited data plans. But if a carrier says you’ll get unlimited data, it’s leaving out an important part of the story.
The latest example comes from Verizon, which announced its new “unlimited” plan on Sunday. The plan says it offers you unlimited data for $80 per month.
Sounds great, right?
It is. At least until you see the caveats.
Verizon says it may slow down your data speeds if you go over a 22 GB of data within a billing period. This is commonly referred to as “throttling,” a term that tends to make wireless carriers cringe. Throttling significantly slows your connection down until the next billing cycle begins. If you’ve ever been throttled, you know it makes your phone nearly impossible to use. Verizon also limits your hotspot usage to 10 GB before slowing your connection down to 3G speeds.
But there is some good news.
Unlike T-Mobile’s unlimited plan (which has even more caveats), Verizon will still let you stream video at HD quality. However, it’s unclear if Verizon allows streaming at full 1080p HD or the slightly lower quality 720p HD. T-Mobile reduces the video quality below HD.
Of course, most people won’t go over that 22 GB limit. And Verizon says throttling only occurs if there’s a lot of traffic on the network. (However, the company isn’t really clear on what that means.)
While it’s technically correct that you’re getting unlimited data with this plan — Verizon won’t charge you extra no matter how much data you use, after all — calling it “unlimited” isn’t correct in spirit. A throttled connection is essentially like having no connection at all.
I could go on and on. There are caveats to the caveats, which also have their caveats.
So instead of wasting your time, here’s the TL;DR: You will always have to pay for high-speed wireless data. If you go over a certain limit, you’ll have to pay more or deal with painfully slow speeds. There is and never will be such a thing as an unlimited data plan, at least until someone creates a revolutionary way for us to wirelessly connect to the internet.
Today, “unlimited” just means you won’t be charged more for going over a certain data cap. It doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed full-speed, unlimited data.