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Our picks haven’t changed, but we’ve updated this guide with information about Verizon’s new unlimited data plans, the arrival of C-band 5G on AT&T and Verizon, and 3G band plans for All major carriers.
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If you haven’t seen how your current bill compares to what it might be under a new plan or service, you should check it out now. Despite the recent switch from four national carriers to three, and the transition from 3G to 4G and now 5G networks, prices have fallen while allowances have risen, especially among those dozens of small carriers that are Reseller services from the Big Three. But as always, most deals come with a catch.
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There may not be a job or plan that we recommend for everyone, but we have suggestions for some of the most common needs, and tips for those with more unusual needs.
I’ve been covering the wireless industry since the late 1990s — the first guide to cell phone service, written in 1998, devoted a lot of color to comparing analog and digital phones. I’ve tested phones and cell phone plans from all the major carriers — the historic quartet of AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon, and before that Nextel — for The Washington Post, CNN Money, Discovery News, PCMag, VentureBeat, and others, and I now cover technology and telecommunications issues for Fast Company, USA Today, and other sites, including trade publications such as Light Reading and FierceTelecom. And in July 2021, I did a more than a thousand-mile road test from Baltimore to Atlanta for PCMag’s Fastest Mobile Network Project.
We’ve narrowed this guide down to the most popular national options—starting with the country’s three major carriers and their prepaid services and services, then adding services offered by sites like PCMag, the American Customer Satisfaction Index, and the J.D. authority
We also chose to exclude candidates in the US region. This means that regional carriers have been selling services from US Cellular and cable companies such as Comcast and Spectrum, who have either received their published rates or fully subscribed to their home broadband subscriptions. Finally, we reduced prepaid services that required separate purchases of data, text, or voice minutes to meet our monthly usage limits.
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For each, we have calculated the cost of three typical offers of mobile service: average use of 3 GB of data; Situation for many people who need unlimited data for their phone but use mobile hotspot more than 3 GB; and heavy use cases with unlimited mobile data and 10 GB of mobile hotspot usage. This number is higher than in previous versions of this guide because the use of standard data has increased significantly: In March 2022, NPD Group analyst Brad Aquies told us that research by the company has shown that in the fourth quarter of 2021 the use of US mobile data will increase. in the quarter. 12 GB per month, average use (according to extreme cases) of 17.2 GB.
We no longer include messages or voice minutes, as all add-on services now offer unlimited messages and calls.
The quality of a wireless network is not something you can evaluate with a single letter: coverage and performance often vary greatly from location to location. They also change over time — as anyone who used T-Mobile in 2011 and stays with that carrier can attest. To try to get the most balanced picture of the three major carriers (and their network marketing services), we conducted independent surveys of wireless network coverage and performance from Opensignal, PCMag and RootMetrics. we. We weren’t particularly interested in super-fast download speeds if the coverage to access those speeds was light; Consistently good performance in high-traffic, work and visit locations is a priority.
Our guess is that anyone who wants to use the mobile hotspot feature on their phone to share LTE or 5G bandwidth for a long time will want to do it at full speed, at 2G speeds. No refunds, like “unlimited”. “need a plan. We also think that most people won’t use more than 3 GB of data per month with this feature, as it can put the phone’s battery at risk, but we have a serious situation that uses up to 10 GB per month. Estimated GB. Using a smartphone.
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We’ve also broken down the same numbers for shared plans for two and four lines, because many of you said you wanted to see your options to compare family prices.
If a plan offers a summer rate that allows for automatic payments or one-year prepayment, or has a loyalty discount that lowers your bill over time (Summer 2020 with the new Verizon Prepaid feature), we’ve included these options. However, we did not count transactions that required sales by phone or sending a number.
Because almost every phone in the US will work with one of the three major carriers, we didn’t take into account the phones that each carrier or service sells on their websites and in their stores. And we didn’t even think about the promotion that disables wireless service for all new iPhones.
We also didn’t include media deals like T-Mobile adding free Netflix subscriptions to accounts with two or more lines, AT&T dropping $15 HBO Max service on Elite plans unlimited $85. , and Verizon. This includes Apple Music or the Disney+ bundle, Hulu, and ESPN+ in some of the unlimited plans.
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Finally, we ignored taxes and fees because they vary by jurisdiction (in my case, with a legacy T-Mobile plan, for example, those fees were in the October 2021 bill 7.4 % added). But regardless of where you live, the taxes and fees should be the same for all your options — except for T-Mobile’s Magenta plan and its Boost and Outlook offerings, where taxes are the price he published.
If more data is more important to you than coverage in non-metropolitan areas, the Magenta plan offers great value for unlimited data on a strong network. Plus, T-Mobile has the best 5G service and international plans.
If data is your priority—meaning you have a fast network connection and can use it to download and upload in volume—you should consider T-Mobile’s Magenta plan. T-Mobile’s basic unlimited data offer is more generous than its two rivals, and its 5G rollout has improved its already good network in a growing segment of the country.
The only thing that should catch your attention is the price: Magenta costs $70 per month for unlimited mobile data, with a priority of 100 GB. (After that, T-Mobile may slow down your connection to make room for other customers’ connections, but whether you experience this depends on external factors such as the number of customers in ‘a region and the difficulty of the network.) compensation. Comparable plans from AT&T and Verizon cost $5 and $10 more, respectively, before taxes and fees. T-Mobile covers these fees at the advertised rate. (Two Magenta lines cost $60 each, and four cost $35 each.) You don’t get much data to use with mobile hotspot sharing, but the 5 GB included here is still plenty. On top of that hood, T-Mobile advertises “3G speeds”, a seemingly generous option that we all love – but the broadband information page reveals that you only get 600 kbps, which isn’t much better than the 2G level. That AT&T and Verizon allow above their own hotspot caps.
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All data allowances around the world are unnecessary if the connection is too slow to use, but T-Mobile’s network has advanced thanks to its 5G vision. The mid-band spectrum that T-Mobile took over when it bought Sprint allowed it to deploy super-fast 5G with better coverage than you get from AT&T and Verizon and even faster but more vulnerable millimeter wave not even available from 5G. -band 5G that both competitors are currently offering. And this 5G mid-band, which is sold by T-Mobile as 5G ultra-capacity, offers a faster service than the 5G low-band that fills its network and has the widest 5G of its competitors.
The difference was always evident in third-party tests, as well as in our own evaluation of Wi-Fi hotspots from the three major carriers.
Opensignal’s test results for T-Mobile, published in January 2022, give this provider the lead among the big three for download and upload speeds. And Opensignal’s own 5G test, also published in January, shows an even bigger advantage for T-Mobile: an average 5G speed of 150 Mbps, much higher than the average 56.2 Mbps and 49.1 Mbps download on Verizon and AT&T. . And you have a better chance of enjoying those speeds on T-Mobile, with 5G available 35.4% of the time – more than double the second-best figure of 16.5%.
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