I recently ended my personal wireless contract with Verizon so I could have the freedom to use the phone and network of my choice, without any long term commitments. Verizon offers the best nationwide 4G LTE network, but I rarely needed the kinds of speeds they provided and they didn’t support the unlocked phones that I wanted to use.
Over the years I have had service on all the major US carriers including AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon. I have signed multiple contracts and paid thousands of dollars for wireless services, but I have never been loyal to any carrier. Each one has its own benefits, but none of them have really provided a service that I can’t get somewhere else, often for less cash.
For the last couple of months I have been using my Straight Talk SIM on AT&T’s HSPA+ network. Straight Talk gave me the freedom to choose AT&T’s or T-Mobile’s network, but I went with AT&T because they offered the HSPA+ bands used by most global phones. This allowed me to freely rotate devices between the global HTC One X, GSM Samsung Galaxy Nexus, and LG Optimus 4X HD.
My favorite thing about pre-paid service is being able to change my network or device at any time with no early termination fees or penalties. AT&T has the best HSPA+ coverage in my home state of Texas, but if T-Mobile comes along and offers me 70% faster download speeds then I would definitely give them a shot at my business.
Starting this month, T-Mobile might actually have the most attractive network and wireless plans of any carrier in the US. Here are five reasons you might want to think about switching to T-Mobile next time your contract is up.
1. Support for unlocked AT&T and global phones
Starting this month, T-Mobile will introduce 4G HSPA+ service on their 1900 MHz spectrum. This means that unlocked AT&T and global smartphones will be able to achieve faster HSPA+ speeds on T-Mobile’s network. The new 1900 MHz HSPA+ has already been turned on in cities like Seattle, Las Vegas, Washington DC and the New York metro area. It should reach over 70% of T-Mobile’s HSPA+ footprint by the end of the year, but no coverage maps are available yet.
2. T-Mobile’s 4G HSPA+ can compete with AT&T’s 4G LTE
T-Mobile is the only major carrier without a 4G LTE network, but they plan to start their roll out next year. That might disappoint some who are already on 4G LTE, but recent tests have shown that T-Mobile’s 4G HSPA+ network can compete with AT&T’s LTE network and it is much faster than their existing HSPA+ network.
AT&T only supports HSPA+ 14.4 Mbps, but T-Mobile uses the latest DC-HSPA+ 42 Mbps. T-Mobile’s internal tests of unlocked iPhone 4S devices running over 4G (HSPA+) on their 1900 network recorded on average 70% faster download speeds than iPhone 4S devices on AT&T’s network.
T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray told GigaOm that “In many cases T-Mobile has enough free PCS spectrum to replicate its current dual-carrier HSPA+ configuration in its old 2G bands.” That means download speeds should increase with supported devices in select markets.
3. Pre-paid “unlimited” plans starting at $30
T-Mobile offers the most choices to wireless customers, including both post-paid and pre-paid plans. Their lowest price for Monthly 4G plans starts at only $30 per month. Cheaper plans include limited minutes, but you still get 4G HSPA+ speeds for the first 5 GB of data transfer. Other pre-paid options for T-Mobile’s network include Straight Talk SIM or Simple Mobile, which both offer unlimited voice, text, and data service for $45-50 per month.
4. Truly Unlimited Nationwide 4G HSPA+ data
If you are a data hog and you need a truly unlimited data plan with no limits or overage fees, then T-Mobile has you covered. Their new Unlimited Nationwide 4G Data plans are more expensive, but it’s nice to know you have that option and you can still use any unlocked device.
5. Nexus support
We don’t know much about the next Nexus smartphone, but we assume it will be offered in an unlocked HSPA+ model like all the previous Nexus devices before it. There could still be carrier branded Nexus smartphones on Sprint or Verizon, but the best Nexus experience will be on the unlocked devices that receive faster software upgrades directly from Google. Like we said above, AT&T will only support theoretical download speeds of 14.4 Mbps, so T-Mobile’s HSPA+ 42 Mbps network will be the obvious choice if you have proper coverage in your area.
According to our stats, Verizon is easily the most preferred carrier among our users in the US. They are followed by T-Mobile and Sprint, with AT&T in a distant 4th place. T-Mobile is only the 4th largest carrier in terms of subscribers, but clearly their secret it out among our hardcore fans.
If your wireless contract is up for renewal soon, how many of you are going to re-up for another two years? Are 4G LTE speeds enough to keep you locked into a contract, or would you rather enjoy the freedom of an unlocked device on an open network?