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How do AT&T’s new rates stack up against the competition?

How do AT&T’s new rates stack up against the competition?
AT&T announced on Thursday a new segment to its rate plan structure which arguably vindicates the position that T-Mobile has been touting since it first introduced contract-free rate plans a few years ago.

Love them or hate them, the data sharing rate plans are here to stay, particularly for AT&T and Verizon, whose larger networks enable them to push that value proposition versus “unlimited” data plans that T-Mobile and Sprint offer.

Instead of going through every single data tier between Verizon and AT&T, we put together a few different scenarios based on the number of devices that might be involved, and the amount of data that is purchased.

Since T-Mobile has only three flavors of data, 500MB, 2.5GB and unlimited, and Sprint pretty much only has an “unlimited” data option, we will highlight the other differences in the plans. If you are shopping carriers, you will definitely want to keep all the factors in mind, but if spending less money is your absolute priority, then these comparisons may reveal some unexpected angles for you.

Here are the scenarios we picked for comparison:

  1. Two smartphones sharing 4GB of data
  2. Two smartphones and one tablet sharing 6GB of data
  3. Four smartphones sharing 10GB of data
  4. Five smartphones sharing 15GB of data
  5. Five smartphones and two tablets sharing 20GB of data

Since this is comparing AT&T’s new rates, we will be examine the new tiers of a no-contract smartphone (or AT&T Next). We will not include the cost of the device or insurance (as might apply to AT&T Next, VZW Edge, T-Mobile Jump! or Sprint One Up) in the monthly comparison.

We are also not going to include activation fees since there are variables where they may or may not apply. For example, lines activated on AT&T Next do not incur an activation fee, but a customer provided device, activating a new line of service would ($36).

T-Mobile does not have a “share” plan, per se. In that instance, the smartphones will each have the 2.5GB data option, the tablet will have the 500MB option for scenarios 1, 2, and 3. For the fourth scenario, we selected the unlimited option for the T-Mobile lines. The final scenario will be calculated as if T-Mobile accommodated plans in excess of 5 total lines on the account, though even if you had two accounts (one with 5 lines and one with 2), we see no reason why the numbers would not line up.

For Sprint, unless otherwise noted, the data option at a minimum per line will be “unlimited” data. For tablets, in each instance, we chose the current promo of 2GB for $15 as the lower tiered options would not be comparable to the other three carriers.

You may be thinking that this is going to be a predictable result, T-Mobile is the cheapest while AT&T and Verizon are the most expensive.  We suspect that the numbers will surprise you, and seeing the numbers side-by-side will drive home the cost considerations you may have if you decide to shop around.

Turn the page and take a look at how things stack up.

  • Options

posted on 06 Dec 2013, 03:46 7

1. Gemmol (Posts: 792; Member since: 09 Nov 2011)

wow im amaze, I'm proud of ATT

posted on 06 Dec 2013, 05:18 15

2. Droid_X_Doug (Posts: 5993; Member since: 22 Dec 2010)

Imagine how life would be if AT&T had purchased T-Mo.... Does anyone really think AT&T would be offering these options if they had been able to remove one of their competitors from the market?

posted on 06 Dec 2013, 07:41 6

5. PBXtech (Posts: 1032; Member since: 21 Oct 2013)

Nope, and I'm perfectly happy with my unlimited T-Mobile data plan.

posted on 07 Dec 2013, 12:42 1

53. zekes (Posts: 229; Member since: 14 Aug 2012)


posted on 06 Dec 2013, 07:42 7

6. Napalm_3nema (Posts: 2236; Member since: 14 Jun 2013)

Spot on. This is why we need more than two healthy carriers (ATT/VZW), two healthy OEMs (Apple/Samsung), and two healthy ecosystems (Android/iOS). Competition breeds innovation and keeps established companies from engaging in anti-competitive behavior like price fixing and supplier lock-in.

posted on 06 Dec 2013, 06:13 2

3. Whateverman (Posts: 3284; Member since: 17 May 2009)

No surprise that vzw would be the most expensive carrier in every senario, but SPRINT... coming close to and even matching vzw should be criminal. I'm no fan of vzw anymore but at least their 3G is actual 3G. Sprint needs to make some serious changes with their prices, customer service, and fix their 3G speeds or not even Softbank will help them.

posted on 06 Dec 2013, 08:53 5

8. OldNorseBruin (Posts: 232; Member since: 12 Mar 2013)

...SPRINT's 4G runs more like .4G; When you try to connect to a site, ANY site, the bar goes half-way across the screen and then...STOPS. You can go out, eat dinner, do some Christmas shopping, run 3 marathons, then go back to your phone and...the site has STILL NOT connected...TRAVESTY.

posted on 06 Dec 2013, 09:28 1

10. g2a5b0e (Posts: 3814; Member since: 08 Jun 2012)

.4G. LMAO! That was excellent!

posted on 06 Dec 2013, 10:27

16. bitslizer (Posts: 22; Member since: 29 Jul 2010)

It has to do with the iphone 5s/5c launch, alot of city area, the swamp of iphones joining the LTE on sprint's network have saturated the 1900mhz LTE air wave (usually the backhaul is fine)

I've been standing next to my wife's Galaxy S4 on 1900mhz LTE with my new HTC One max on 2500mhz TDLTE, connected to the SAME tower (and thus same backhaul) she's doing very badly on the speed test while I was flying by at 20mbps. which would confirm what I said above

Sprint only have a 5x5mhz setup in 1900mhz which meant they can't handle as many users as VZW or ATT (which run at least 10x10 if not more)

But that should be going away soon, Sprint's new Tri-band LTE phone (LG G2, N5, Samsung's galaxy mega, HTC one max) allow most of those phone to get off the 1900mhz and uses the 800mhz and 2500mhz options

the 2500mhz TDLTE have ALOT of capacity even more than , ATT and VZW's 10x10 I've been getting 20-60mbps on speed test in downtown chicago, but their building penetraion sux!

800mhz should be turning on very soon and that should improve sprint's coverage in their existing footpirnt as well as match ATT and VZW's building penetration.

Iphone 5s and 5c can uses both 800 and 1900 LTE, but not the 2500LTE

posted on 06 Dec 2013, 11:09 2

28. alpinejason (Posts: 262; Member since: 06 Sep 2011)

if you think that at&t and verizon have poor building penetration sucks try sprint.you dont even have to be in a building just get near any concrete structure and you will not have any signal

posted on 06 Dec 2013, 11:29

31. bitslizer (Posts: 22; Member since: 29 Jul 2010)

I should have worded that more clearly, my bad

My intention was to say the 2500mhz TDLTE's building penetration sux! not VZW/ATT,

ATT/VZW building penetration should be the best as they are on 700mhz.

on the other hand my expereince have been decent, even in the middle of an office building i'm still able to hold a 1900mhz LTE signal, but I have to be near a windows if i want to hold 2500mhz LTE signal

posted on 06 Dec 2013, 11:16 3

29. g2a5b0e (Posts: 3814; Member since: 08 Jun 2012)

Sprint's 4G was garbage well before the new iPhones debuted, man.

posted on 06 Dec 2013, 11:32

32. bitslizer (Posts: 22; Member since: 29 Jul 2010)

Maybe a market by market thing, my 4G expereince around Chicago suburbs (napervile, schaumburgh, evanston, Oakbrook, etc etc) have been pretty good, its only when I get to downtown Chciago that the LTE speed drop like a rock.

I don't know what its like in Ann Arbor though

posted on 06 Dec 2013, 12:00

34. PapaSmurf (Posts: 10457; Member since: 14 May 2012)

I have to disagree there. Sprint in Aurora, Plainfield, etc. is not great at all. T-Mobile's 2G is faster than Sprint half the time, which is quite sad.. When there is LTE signal with Sprint, it isn't that bad, although it could be a lot better.

posted on 06 Dec 2013, 13:34

40. bitslizer (Posts: 22; Member since: 29 Jul 2010)

When there is LTE signal with Sprint, it isn't that bad, although it could be a lot better.


As for Plainfield/Aurora, I only have experience around Eastern Aurora by Rt 59 and little stretch of Plainfield near bolingbrook, in both area I normally get LTE services

posted on 06 Dec 2013, 16:13 2

43. thunder18 (Posts: 140; Member since: 06 Aug 2009)

Just depends on your area like it does with all of the carriers. I get 20 Mbps down and nearly 8 Mbps up in a suburb of D/FW. My co-workers on T-Mobile can't get any reasonable data speed in our training room. In our cafe, all of us lose service, AT&T(via my Blackberry), Sprint via my LG Optimus G, on co-worker on his T-Mobile Note 3 and another co-worker on his Verizon Note 2.

Blanket statements are not useful without indicating where you are located at the very least.

posted on 06 Dec 2013, 10:13 1

15. bitslizer (Posts: 22; Member since: 29 Jul 2010)

The comparison is not 100% accurate,

Sprint's cost in fact included the monthly phone financing you would pay for a new phone separately on Tmo and ATT's new plan, or if you op for Sprint's version of their new financing option (one up) the monthly cost goes down by $15 per phone lines.

If you take that into here's what the numbers actually looks like

2x smartphone
ATT = $120
Sprint = $120 ($150 - 2x $15)

2x smartphone + tablet
ATT = $140
Sprint = $135 ($165 - 2x $15)

4x smartphone
ATT = $200
Sprint = $200 ($260 - 4x $15)

5x smartphone
ATT = $255
Sprint = $235 ($310 - $75)

5x smartphone + 2 tablet
ATT = $295
Sprint = $265 ($340 - $75)

Remember Sprint also you don't have to worry about Data cap, granted their LTE system is not as good as ATT, but I've been using their new Sprint Spark LTE Band 41 2500mhz LTE and its blazing fast (20-60mbps in downtown Chicago).

So now Sprint just have to response with their own new price plan,
1) They need to position their pricing better to be clearly below ATT
2) They should just break out the phone subsidy and give a 2 year upgrade cycle (tradiditonal) financing option and the 1 year upgrade cycle (new One UP) financing option.

posted on 06 Dec 2013, 10:30

17. PapaSmurf (Posts: 10457; Member since: 14 May 2012)

You actually get LTE in Downtown? That's surprising, considering thousands of people have rioted on Sprint's Facebook page complaining no LTE at all in Chicago. Want to screenshot some speedtests for me?

posted on 06 Dec 2013, 10:51

24. bitslizer (Posts: 22; Member since: 29 Jul 2010)

Yes, LTE 1900 is really hit or miss right now due to saturated airwave (confirmed by my own expereince and S4GRU's experts)

But when I can get on the 2500mhz TDLTE, my speed have been flying! usually 20-60mhz

granted 2500mhz airwave is not really loaded down yet, but sprint got so much mhz in that freq (160mhz in the top markets) they can just increase the channel size to relief the congestion.

I'm stuck in the basement right now with lousy reception, when I go out for lunch in an hour or so i'll grab some screenshots

posted on 06 Dec 2013, 11:03

27. PapaSmurf (Posts: 10457; Member since: 14 May 2012)

Comment #19 is what I get with T-Mobile inside my house. Outside or on Michigan Ave, it's above 40 constantly.

posted on 06 Dec 2013, 13:31

38. bitslizer (Posts: 22; Member since: 29 Jul 2010)

Here you go, this is by Lake and Franklin on B41

can't post links yet so just copy and paste into broswer

more typical would be 20mbps download though.

posted on 06 Dec 2013, 10:36

20. Maxwell.R (Posts: 218; Member since: 20 Sep 2012)

That is incorrect. We built the plans without accounting for Sprint One Up. We stated so. Before you even pay for data (really a $30 flat rate), the monthly access is tiered for devices 1 through 4.

We also stated that we did not opt for any of the upgrade plans (AT&T Next, Edge, etc). This was a raw comparison of rates. Moreover, even if you bring your own phone to Sprint, the carrier still wants you to sign a two-year agreement.

posted on 06 Dec 2013, 10:45

22. Droid_X_Doug (Posts: 5993; Member since: 22 Dec 2010)

Having to sign a 2-year agreement when you provide your own equipment or pay un-subsidized pricing is total bullsh*t. No wonder they are losing subscribers.

posted on 06 Dec 2013, 10:48

23. PapaSmurf (Posts: 10457; Member since: 14 May 2012)

Their speed alone is the reason why.

posted on 06 Dec 2013, 11:00

25. bitslizer (Posts: 22; Member since: 29 Jul 2010)

Yes, what you said is true, and yes Sprint plan currently does not give discount for BYOP

But the article then only hold true for "Bring your own phone" to all 4 carriers.

Most of us (especially those who are regular of PA) are upgrading phones every year or every 2 year using the available financing options, and the figures posted in the article does not reflect the costs and discounts from financing a phone.

Better to compare total cost of ownership over 1 vs 2 years (+ cost out of contract).

posted on 06 Dec 2013, 11:01 1

26. PapaSmurf (Posts: 10457; Member since: 14 May 2012)

Most of us on PA buy our phones off contract...

posted on 06 Dec 2013, 11:50

33. Maxwell.R (Posts: 218; Member since: 20 Sep 2012)

The last time I did a total comparison of total cost, all it did was serve to confuse everyone. The examples we built all were based on customer provided equipment, sans fees (because it is different by every carrier).

If you are financing a phone, that is not a rate-plan related expense. In the end, this comparison gives clear window of how much it costs to have service.

posted on 07 Dec 2013, 17:58

54. 14545 (Posts: 1676; Member since: 22 Nov 2011)

I am shocked that sprint is that expensive. I *thought* they were cheaper than ATT. It doesn't shock me to see VZcrapya charging by far the most. If I weren't on an unlimited plan I would say adios.

posted on 06 Dec 2013, 06:18

4. daveydog (Posts: 52; Member since: 01 Sep 2013)

Does att really charge for gps use (for navigation)? The rep said it would cost 10/m to use it... I don't mean att nav, I mean google nav, etc. Also do they have other extra fees, like for detailed billing? $4-5/m? If that is true, it negates the good news for me personally....

posted on 06 Dec 2013, 09:57 3

13. Bilpocalypse (Posts: 301; Member since: 13 Oct 2012)

They only charge for AT&T Navigator. If the rep told you otherwise, he is full of s***. You should use the default mapping solution on your phone and save yourself the money, unless you have an iPhone. Then you should download Google Maps or Here Maps.

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