Last week was the busiest ever here at the RV Mobile Internet Resource Center - starting with Verizon's surprise announcement that it was bringing back unlimited data plans.
This started a chain reaction - with every other carrier scrambling to respond with new or updated unlimited plans of their own.
Here is a quick recap of the week - with links back to our in-depth stories for further details:
- Verizon Unlimited - Verizon's new plan not only brought back an official unlimited option to the nations largest carrier, it also raised the stakes for everyone else by including 10GB of high-speed mobile hotspot usage per line, and full HD video streaming. But unlike Verizon's fully unthrottled grandfathered unlimited data plans, these new plans are subject to both tethering limitations and "network management" that threatens to reduce speeds on congested towers after 22GB of usage.
- T-Mobile One - Just hours after the Verizon news broke, T-Mobile CEO John Legere responded by announcing that T-Mobile One plans would now also include HD video streaming and 10GB of high-speed mobile hotspot usage. T-Mobile's network management threshold is 28GB/mo, and for $25/mo you can upgrade a line to "One+ International" to enable unlimited high-speed mobile hotspot usage.
- Sprint Unlimited - Two days later Sprint joined the fray, announcing that it would also now be including 10GB of high-speed mobile hotspot usage, as well as unlimited HD video streaming. Interestingly, Sprint caps video streaming at 1080p "True HD" resolution - limiting the potential for 4K Ultra-HD streaming. Sprint's network management threshold is currently 23GB/mo, and unlike the other carriers - Sprint treats VPN usage the same as mobile hotspot data, limiting it to 10GB/mo.
- AT&T Unlimited - The last carrier to respond was AT&T, wrapping up the week on Thursday by announcing that the AT&T Unlimited plan that had formerly been available only to customers who also subscribed to DirecTV was now available to anyone. AT&T's offering was extremely underwhelming however - costing more than all the other carriers, and yet lacking in ANY mobile hotspot capability at all. AT&T's network management threshold is 22GB, the same as Verizon's.
- UPDATE (2/27): AT&T Tries Again - Just ten days after the first underwhelming offering, AT&T roared back with entirely new Unlimited Plus and Unlimited Choice plans that replace the previously lackluster unlimited offering. Read our news story for the details.
Wow - what a week!
And we also covered AT&T's extremely generous Wireless.Home Phone & Internet Rural plan (250GB for $60?!) and Verizon pushing back the cancelation date for some high-usage grandfathered unlimited plans that had fallen out of contract back until March 16th.
Here is a video we've just produced going over all the new unlimited plan option:
AT&T and T-Mobile: If You Want HD Video...
Ever since the launch of Binge On, T-Moble has throttled video streams to 480p "DVD Quality" resolution to control the load on the network.
If you wanted to watch something in HD, you would have to manually activate a HD Day Pass to enable full-speed video for 24 hours.
And if you wanted HD video every day - this would quickly become a tedious daily chore.
T-Mobile has done away with confusing and cumbersome day passes for good.
But you still need to manually enable HD video!
If you want the new HD streaming feature (and 10GB hotspot) existing T-Mobile customers will need to log into the My T-Mobile portal and accept the new account terms, and then new and existing customers will need to toggle on HD support in their user profile.
Once you turn HD on, the setting will stick until you change it.
AT&T's new Unlimited plans work similarly - and comes with AT&T's new Stream Saver feature turned on by default. If you want to watch HD video, you need to remember to manually adjust this setting!
Here is how you manage Stream Saver (from AT&T's FAQ page):
Stream Saver is automatically turned “On” when it is first added to the lines on your account. If you want to turn it off (or later back on), you can do so at att.com/myatt or through the myAT&T app. After you change Stream Saver settings, please wait 5 minutes and then restart your device so the change can take effect.
Verizon and Sprint thankfully do not force you to jump through any hoops like this to stream full HD goodness.
Comparing Unlimited Data Plans
All of the major carriers now have an unlimited data option offered directly to new customers.
Here's our quick comparison grid (that will be kept up to date as the carriers continue to compete with each other) of the Unlimited options:
Check the 'Alternative Unlimited Plans' for unlimited data plans we're tracking available from resellers or by obtaining grandfathered in older style plans.
For RVers needing to replace a home internet connection, these new smartphone unlimited data plans offered by the carriers will rarely fit the bill, but some of the alternatives may play a strong role at the center of a mobile internet arsenal.
- Understanding Unlimited Cellular Data Plans: Network Management, Throttling & Mobile Hotspot Usage
- The Four Major US Carriers – Which is Best for RVers?
- Navigating Verizon Grandfathered Unlimited Data Plans – Assumption of Liability, Buying & Renting
Confused by all of the Options?
Join us for our next live member webinar - where we'll be addressing how to put together different cellular data plans to best meet your RVing traveling style.
The webinar will be archived, and available exclusively to our premium members who fund everything we do here at RVMobileInternet.com.
When: Tuesday, March 28 - 8pm, EDT
Topic: Understanding & Optimizing your Cellular Signal
Description: There are so many variables that can impact your cellular signal and thus performance. In this month's webinar, we'll overview understanding those variables, reading your signal (bars, db, SNR, bands, speed tests, pings and more) and the steps you can take to optimize your performance. We'll go over antenna only solutions, MIMO and boosters - recapping a bit of our recent round of signal enhancing testing too.
This webinar will be jam packed with information, so come prepared to set aside a good hour with us! This webinar WILL be archived for viewing later, and the foundation of a brand new guide we're creating on optimizing your cellular signal.
How to Attend Our Webinars: Our webinars are a MIA member exclusive. Members, please log in to get the broadcast details. If you're not a member, please consider joining.