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Is Your Unlimited Data Plan Really Unlimited?

Short answer, no. Longer answer, definitely not

By Dennis Jones

Unlimited data plans aren't unlimited

Unlimited plans – you know, the ones that offer unlimited data, calling, texts, etc. – have been in the news recently. First, the big carriers were taking them away. Then, some carriers were bringing them back. In the midst of the headlines, unasked was the question, are unlimited plans actually that unlimited in the first place?

Turns out, not so much. Let’s start with the most important, unlimited data. Why so important? Mobile data usage continues to soar. Global mobile data traffic will increase eightfold between 2015 and 2020. And by 2020, video will account for 75 percent of mobile data traffic. In other words, we are all becoming heavy data users, which makes the promise of unlimited data really compelling to us all.

Unfortunately, that fact makes unlimited data plans a less compelling financial proposition for carriers though. And they’ve taken action. The unlimited data in your unlimited plan no longer entitles you to unlimited data at optimal data speeds. Carriers have gone on record saying that they will slow down data speeds for high usage unlimited subscribers, especially during peak usage times. If you want more data at speeds that actually support high bandwidth activities, carriers are encouraging you to move over to usage-based plans. The stated reason: to ensure a good user experience for all subscribers, by eliminating customers who abuse unlimited data.

It’s not just data but pricing. Those of you who have been grandfathered into unlimited data plans have also gotten a rude shock recently. Although your plan is by no stretch of the imagination unlimited, unlimited data plans have been going up in price, sometimes with increases that are as high as 67 percent.

So when it comes down to it, unlimited plans are really not that unlimited, between data caps and device restrictions, explicit or implicit; for instance, you can’t use your cellular network on a Wi-Fi only device. Next time you try to catch that viral video on YouTube, don’t bother. You probably won’t have the bandwidth.