It’s been only a day since Verizon resurrected its unlimited data plan, and the company’s competitors are already doing their best to try and counter. T-Mobile has made the first move, with CEO John Legere moments ago announcing two improvements to the carrier’s T-Mobile One unlimited plan that both take effect this coming Friday. Beginning February 17th, the plan will include HD video, an upgrade to the 480p/DVD-quality “optimizations” that are currently in place.
Until now, customers have needed to spend extra money to stream HD video using cellular data. They could either subscribe to the regular T-Mobile One plan and spend $3 on any day they wanted to watch high definition video, or pay an extra $15 monthly for T-Mobile One Plus, which offered “unlimited HD day passes” and some other perks. But these restrictions around video have been the worst thing about T-Mobile’s latest unlimited plan from the start. Verizon’s plan doesn’t downgrade video quality, which left T-Mobile little room but to make this choice. It’s unclear whether the annoying HD day passes will still be part of the plan. Verizon doesn’t make its new unlimited customers jump through those hoops.
Hooray for competition
The other change Legere announced is related to the hotspot feature of T-Mobile One, which lets you share your smartphone’s data connection with other devices. As of Friday, the plan will let customers use up to 10GB of high-speed data each month for tethering. That matches Verizon’s plan, which also allows for 10GB of LTE tethering. But again, prior to today, T-Mobile One only allowed 3G hotspot speeds unless you paid extra for the T-Mobile One Plus plan.
Lastly, Legere announced a promotion that will offer two lines of T-Mobile One for $100. A two-line family plan usually costs $120 per month. Unlike other carriers, T-Mobile includes taxes and fees in its advertised price — so that should be all you pay month to month. Verizon charges $140 (plus taxes and fees) for a two-line unlimited plan.
Assuming there’s no sneaky fine print or trickery here, T-Mobile has at least for now regained its feature-for-feature price advantage compared against Verizon Unlimited. The company also has a higher threshold (28GB versus Verizon’s 22GB) before its users might experience reduced speeds when the network is congested. Here’s how the comparison now shakes out, though T-Mobile oddly leaves out the three-line scenario.
Verizon’s rivals are clearly (and quickly) feeling pressure to respond after the leading US carrier made a surprise announcement about the return of unlimited data. Those new plans are available today starting at $80 for a single line. T-Mobile and Sprint offer their own unlimited data plans; AT&T offers the option only to consumers who use the company’s services for both wireless and TV. That, too, is likely to change as a counter to Verizon. My, what a thing competition is. Perhaps the federal government should think long and hard before allowing any potential merger between the big players.