July 20, 2011 at 1:25 PM ET
While other major carriers rollout capped data plans, T-Mobile has decided to set itself aside from the pack and offer new unlimited "Value" plans beginning Sunday (July 24).
But there is a slight catch.
The plans come in 2GB, 5GB and 10GB increments that give customers full speed access to data as long as you stay within those boundaries. Any data over that will come at throttled down speeds. But T-Mobile won't impose penalties for going over data limits, so yes, it's unlimited, just not unlimited at full speed.
When customers reach their data limit during their billing cycle, they will receive a free text message from T-Mobile that alerts them to exceeding their monthly high-speed threshold. They will then have the option to change their plan to one with more data, or continue using their current plan with reduced data speeds for the remainder of their billing cycle.
These "Value" plans will be available for customers who can pay for device upfront with a two-year contract, or over time through a monthly plan with no interest. Or, customers can choose to subsidize the cost of handsets with "Classic" plans that tie them to contracts.
Value family plans start at $49.99 per line for two lines for unlimited talk, text and data with 2 GB of high-speed data ($59.99 for individuals at 2GB, $74.99 for all that with 5GB and $104.99 for the whole shebang with 10GB of high-speed data). T-Mobile made a chart, seen below, that compares the two family lines in comparison to competitors' similar plans:
In contrast, Verizon's recently announced tiered plan will cost $30/month for 2GB, with customers shelling out $10 for every extra gigabyte of data they use.
To put it in perspective, about 60 percent of data users are clocking in at under 200MB a month, which amounts to "about 1,000 emails, viewing 400 Web pages, and 20 minutes of streaming video" vs. 2GB, which is about "10,000 emails, 4,000 Web pages and 200 minutes of streaming video," according to this story by msnbc.com's own Suzanne Choney. (There are about 2,000 megabytes in 2GB.)
Depending on how much of a data hog you are, 2GB may be all you need. And if not, there are options.