With a new generation of 4G super-phones on their way, and each wireless carrier endlessly promoting the benefits of their 4G system, it pays to take a look at what it will actually cost you to take advantage of those 4G systems.
We’ll start out by assuming that anyone with a 4G phone will at least take a 2GB plan. There are pay as you go data plans available, but the pricing for any serious amount of data is ridiculously high.
The wireless carriers have data calculators to help you figure out how much data you might use, but the reality is that most people who just use their phone for Email, accessing social networks and causal web browsing should do fine with 2GB/month. But power users and those who stream video can easily burn through a lot more.
So let’s break things down by carrier. We’ll look at the lowest cost 2GB plan (using the smallest number of available minutes with text messaging), then 2GB, 5GB, 10GB and 20GB with unlimited talk and messaging. These prices refer to individual plans.
Your best deal today is with Sprint. A 450 minute plan is $79.99 rising to $109.99. This is for unlimited 4G data on their network.
TMobile is arguably in the same ballpark with a twist – you pay for a certain amount of 4G data, after which they drop you down to 3G speeds for the rest of the billing cycle. So you still have high speed access – just not as high. With a 450 minute plan you’ll pay $69.99/month, With unlimited talk it rises to $79.99 for 2GB, $89.99 for 5GB and $119.99 for 10GB of 4G data. The next 10G will be free, but at 3G speeds.
Verizon comes next. After July 7 their prices for a 450 minute plan with 2GB will run you $89.99. Unlimited talk + 2GB will be $119.99, $139.99 for 5GB, $169.99 for 10GB and $269.99 for 20GB. Until July 7th you can still grab their $29.99 data plan under which the $119.99 will buy you unlimited talk and data. Still third place after Sprint and T-Mobile, but a lot less expensive than it will be for heavy data users.
AT&T loses the price war. At 450 minutes you’ll pay $59.99. With unlimited talk you’ll be at $94.99 for 2GB, $124.99 for 5GB (4GB plan + 1GB overage), $174.99 for 10GB and $274.99 for $20GB
There are many factors to consider when choosing a carrier (stay tuned for more on this subject). But when it comes to 4G, keep the following mind:
- Be skeptical of reputation and past experience of yourself and others. All of the carriers have been building out their networks, so anecdotal stories and reports from last year may no longer be relevant.
- None of the advertised 4G networks meet the official definition of 4G, and all of them offer similar top speeds. The speed you’ll actually get depends on where you are located and how many other people are using the network.
- If you’re a Verizon customer now on a 3G plan, congratulations – for now at least Verizon plans to grandfather in the unlimited $29.99 data plan. If you want a 4G Verizon plan, you have until July 7th go get on the plan. Unfortunately, Verizon is holding off releasing their next generation of super 4G phones until after July 7th.
- Remember that the AT&T purchase of TMobile will probably happen. So sometime next year AT&T will have control over TMobiles 4G network. Will they still offer the same deals when your contract expires? Who knows?