Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile's plan prices are globally high, and 5G is not to blame

Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile's plan prices are globally high, and 5G is not to blame
The US is often pinned as an example for the world's richest country, but that record GDP is arguably built on constant overpaying for stuff that boosts the number to stratospheric heights. A $23 trillion real estate market? Check. A $3.5 trillion healthcare spending per year thanks to obscure drug and procedure pricing that overinflates them multiple times above the average in other countries? Check. The world's most expensive cell phone plan prices? Wait, what?

A recent news out of Korea stated that the country's three main carriers already have one million 5G subscribers between them. Despite Verizon's bragging that it managed to execute the first commercial 5G network connection with a phone (Moto Z3 with the respective Mod) - just a day before Korea said it will officially flip its 5G switch - the rollout in the US has been painstakingly slow. 

Are Verizon, AT&T or T-Mobile's plan prices too expensive?

The good news is that Verizon doesn't charge its intended $10 per line extra for 5G connectivity, at least for now, but that  doesn't mean that US plan prices are low for global standards - on the contrary. Let's have a quick look who pays what with the world's 10 largest carriers, adding some that have 5G already, and then some more for good measure, and gauge where we sit.

When we compare apples to apples, for instance T-Mobile's $85 with at least 50GB at full speed, only Canada's Bell is a bit more expensive. Verizon's top $95 charge is only lower than Korea's $110 for unlimited 5G with 3x the speed limit cap, too. In most countries, even developed ones, you can get pretty generous mobile data allotments for $50 or less. What about phone models?

Do foreign carriers really have more phone choices than Verizon, AT&T or T-Mobile?

With the world's second-largest phone maker Huawei and brands like Sony, HTC or Nokia all but missing in the US carriers' phone portfolio, it's not hard to fathom why the popular opinion is that American users have less freedom of choice than carrier subscribers abroad. Not only that, but we also love to complain how the rigorous FCC and carrier testing procedures in the US are holding back timely software updates for our phones.

That's why we decided to plot the number of models on each major US carrier - Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint - against a few carriers in Europe or Asia to see if the limited phone stable and late upgrade notions hold up to scrutiny.

As you can see, the postpaid choice on Verizon is pretty pathetic in comparison with most carriers both home and abroad indeed, but we may have its legacy CDMA network to blame, and that one is being retired by the end of 2019

T-Mobile has no such excuse but it does position itself as the discount and promo carrier so it strives to hit the value-for-money spot, as exemplified by its choice to be the first US network to officially sell the OnePlus 6T.

AT&T, on the other hand, is doing pretty well in postpaid choices, even though it, as all US carriers, suffers from the case of Huawei-titis and general Chinese brand malaise due to reasons beyond their will.

The Samsung-Apple market share duopoly

The average number of phones sold by carriers abroad is usually higher than on US carriers mainly because brands like Huawei, Sony, Xiaomi, Oppo or Nokia haven't gotten through to the American market for one reason or another. On the other hand, plenty of international carriers carry a much smaller number of LG phones compared to the US ones.

It is also easy to see that Samsung and Apple hold a near duopoly on the world's market, as they are consistently at the top two places among phone choices on most carriers outside of China. There is one more reason for Apple and Samsung phones to be so popular among carriers, besides the obvious virtues - they are just compatible with them all out of the box. 

Apple started this trend by providing a record number of LTE band support with each and every iPhone iteration since the 5s, and we are now at the 27-band mark with the unlocked 2018 models, which the globetrotter or carrier hopper in you will surely appreciate. Samsung's Galaxy S and Note lines are not far behind, as the unlocked models sold on the US website can work with each US carrier out of the box, too.

If you want decent US carrier plan prices, go family or prepaid 

From the "US vs World" plan prices and phone choices comparison tables above we can deduce that the US sits a bit above in prices and a tad below in choices. Ditching the legacy CDMA standard and transitioning to 5G will improve the situation with phone choices on Verizon, which now even carries Samsung's midrange A-series

When it comes to 4G/5G plan prices, though, the eventual merger of Sprint and T-Mobile could steer them either way in the long run, as there will only be a time-limited initial cap on plan pricing at the resulting new T-Mobile.

Needless to say, there are different perks involved with each carrier plan, and if you split the bill among four lines, the prices will be much lower but, overall, the US has one of the highest cell phone plan prices in the world, even against the fledgling 5G offerings. 

Hey, for the price of Verizon's most premium line, UK's EE sees its unlimited 4G/5G offering, and raises it a brand spanking new Galaxy S10 5G. What do you think, is encroaching on the $100 mark for a single line out of whack as far as cell plan prices go?

Are US carrier plan prices high compared to those in other countries?




1. bugs1129

Posts: 3; Member since: Jun 10, 2015

Jio in India has a postpaid plan for $3 with unlimited local text, talk and 4G LTE data of 25GB per month.

2. rossy

Posts: 46; Member since: Aug 23, 2013

I pay T-mobile $120 for 3 lines with taxes, fees, and Netflix included. This deal was available to everyone at the time. Moreover, T-Mobile subsidized my wife's iPhone to the tune of $750. So I don't know what data this survey was using.

4. Rampage_Taco

Posts: 1109; Member since: Jan 17, 2017

It's using current Single line pricing. As carriers offer cheaper plans per line with more than 1 line.

3. Eprius

Posts: 10; Member since: Jan 22, 2018

One thing this article fails to factor in is the requirements for coverage. Europe has 741.4 million people vs 327.2 million the US has. Europe's land size is 3.931 million mi² vs 3.797 million mi² in the United States. Europe as a whole is smaller than the US with double the population. It definitely costs the more to develop networks in the USA simply because they can't get the same amount of subscribers as Europe, especially countries with congestion.

5. Rampage_Taco

Posts: 1109; Member since: Jan 17, 2017

But do the European carriers service all of Europe or are they country based? Because they are listed by country.

6. LAgurl

Posts: 119; Member since: Dec 05, 2018

I go Mexico A lot and they do NOT have a plan with 30 gigs at full LTE speed ? Where do they get that ? Was there last month and their Telcel Max plan which is also the MOST expensive one it's 500 pesos only has 5 gigs of data which that's pretty bad when compared to most US Carriers. . I would imagine people would LOVE if they did offer a plan with 30 gigs at full LTE speed but that's never ever gonna happen !

7. Gawain

Posts: 448; Member since: Apr 15, 2010

All those other carriers are managing vastly smaller physical networks. The American continent is a monstrous land mass compared to Korea, Switzerland, etc. China is state owned, doesn't even compare.

8. Gottaluvnewtech28

Posts: 18; Member since: Apr 20, 2019


9. TheOracle1

Posts: 2340; Member since: May 04, 2015

Fair point but still doesn't justify the poor selection of phones. The "rigorous fcc and carrier testing" argument is plain bs. Wtf are the carriers testing when many international phones work straight out of the box? We're also supposed to believe that fcc testing is more stringent than EU CE testing? Nonsense.

Latest Stories

This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. You can order presentation-ready copies for distribution to your colleagues, clients or customers at or use the Reprints & Permissions tool that appears at the bottom of each web page. Visit for samples and additional information.