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Unlimited data returns to major mobile carriers

Competition forced major carriers to bring back unlimited data, but beware hidden fees and restrictions.

Major wireless carriers recently announced they now offer unlimited data again. So, what happened? The answer is simple - competition. Competition is a good thing for you and your smart office because it helps to drive down the rising costs of telecommunication.

Overage Fees
You may recall that more than a decade ago, overages on minutes and text messages resulted in stories of skyrocketing bills. Over the years, that business strategy moved toward tiered data use charges as smartphones became the major communication device of consumers. It is a pricey and frequently changing structure that can be confusing to customers on a budget.

Unlimited Data Plans
All four of the major cellular carriers now offer competitive unlimited data plans. Sprint is offering four lines for $22.50 per line that would increase to $160 for all four after a year. Verizon’s plan is a flat $45 per line per month ($180 per month) for four lines. AT&T is $180 per month for four lines. T-Mobile is $160 per month for four lines with taxes and fees included. T-Mobile’s pricing appears to be the most straightforward of the four - the others have different tiers or don’t include taxes and fees. Before switching plans, do your research to understand the actual cost.

Read the Fine Print
There’s another caveat to the new unlimited plans - all is not what it seems. While you may get unlimited data, you may not get it at full speed after a certain point of usage. Meaning, if you exceed the data use indicated in the fine print, your wireless carrier may throttle data or drop your speed down to 3G or 2G. This may not be an issue in some rural areas, but if you are accustomed to the speed of a 4G LTE network, you will notice a difference. Again, review the details before you commit to a new plan or carrier.

Another restriction of some unlimited plans is they may not allow a mobile hotspot. If you are accustomed to using a cellular hotspot on your smartphone to connect your tablet or laptop to the internet, you will want to check your carrier’s policy for this new plan.

Save Money
The availability of unlimited data plans is a significant step forward for consumers and could result in potential savings, but beware of hidden fees and restrictions that can affect the final price. Did you know you may also be eligible for a discount? Most carriers have corporate, military or loyalty discounts that you can take advantage of monthly. Check with your carrier to find out if you might be eligible – you can save up to 20% a month!

Have experience with an unlimited data plan? Tell me about it in the comments below, on Twitter @nerdsquawk or via email at [email protected].

The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Penton Agriculture.

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