Most carriers now offer a variety of unlimited cell phone plans. The days of rate plans segmented by minutes will likely come to an end in the next couple of years. We’ll probably be left with unlimited rate plans and, for very light users, pay-as-you-go plans. Some of the prepaid offers have actually undercut the national carriers’ contract plans. This is somewhat different than traditional prepaid minutes that have usually been more expensive. However, those customers willing to sign a contract usually have access to better phones at a much lower price. Another reason to move customers towards unlimited calling plans is that itemizing and segmenting a phone bill costs a lot of money and some analysts say almost 30% of your monthly bill. So it will be net cost savings to the carriers most likely.
Here’s a summary of current carrier offerings, along with some pros and cons:
- Cricket & MetroPCS ($35 to $50): Unlimited plans, with the higher price plans including text messaging, voice and data, and extended coverage. These plans are best for those not traveling a great deal outside their local area. While both carriers can offer coverage in most parts of the country, that is achieved via agreements with other carriers. As a result, roaming charges can quickly add up.
- Boost ($50): From the prepaid division of Sprint, this unlimited plan offers voice, text, web, and two-way radio. When rolled out earlier in 2009, this low price point shocked many in the wireless industry. The ‘catch’ here is that service is on the network that Sprint acquired when it purchased Nextel a few years back. Coverage is somewhat limited (with roaming N/A outside those areas) and data is not 3G. If you don’t frequent rural areas and don’t need data, this might be worth a look.
- Virgin Mobile ($79.99): Virgin uses the Sprint network, so they have undercut the major carriers by $20. Add $10 for text and $10 for data, and the $99.99 price point matches that of Sprint. A limited selection of 3G phones right now.