Carriers in The US

    (Updated On April 19th, 2014)

    So after long and repeated conversations with various people on both Twitter and ADN, I've decided to just make a post I can reference to on the subject. I'd like to thank @Shadowhawk_64 for inspiring me once and for all to write this. Now let's get down to business.

    So first thing's first is AT&T. My family has been customers on AT&T since 1998 (thank you account manager for that). That means we've been with AT&T for 15 years now. That's a long time. Because we've been loyal so long, we've always been able to get out of that $36 "upgrade fee".

    Many phones and companies have come and gone over the years, yet we're still with AT&T. Their service is perfectly good where we live, but that's not the problem. The problem is the price gouging.

    Here's the current AT&T plan we have. We have 4 people on a family plan with various smartphones (Two iPhone 5's, One iPhone 4, and One iPhone 5s). So it should be cheaper right? Wrong.

    700 monthly minutes with somewhere around 4200 rollover minutes. We have the family texting plan of unlimited texting with free and unlimited mobile to mobile calling. AT&T will not let us drop down to 450 minutes because we have 4 people. Here's data:

    Mom - 2 GB plan for $25 a month with a risk of going over and getting slapped with a $10 fee per 1 GB
    Dad - 2 GB plan for $25 a month with a risk of going over and getting slapped with a $10 fee per 1 GB
    Me - 2 GB plan for $25 a month with a risk of going over and getting slapped with a $10 fee per 1 GB
    Max - 300 MB plan for $20 a month with a risk (always cuts it close) and getting slapped with a $15 fee per 300 MB.

    So our total bill is usually around $225 depending on the month and taxes. We could move to the 6 GB shared plan, but it'd cost us $230 every month. Parents don't want to pay for that, so that is out.

    That's not right. $220 a month for 4 people using not much data is outrageous. Having to pay $10 more per month for technically the same amount of data? Also BS.

    We could move to Verizon, but that'd require buying new phones and getting a 8 GB shared plan. The new phones alone (three 16 GB iPhone 5's and one 64 GB model) would cost us $700 (not including AppleCare) and the monthly bill would be $260 a month, making the first bill over $1000.

    Not happening, Verizon. Sprint... Well, their service sucks everywhere so that's automatically out. But what about the magenta carrier, T-Mobile?

    Yes, T-Mobile. The company that honestly gives a damn about their customers. Since they are a GSM carrier, we could not have to buy new phones. All of our phones would simply needed to be unlocked (two already are) and have a T-Mobile SIM thrown in each.

    Two are iPhone 5's, one is a 4, and the other is a 5s. How does that factor into coverage? Well, if any of the 5's die or the 5s dies somehow, the new replacements would have the parts for T-Mobile built in.

    Since our family lives in the Bay Area, an area filled with tech people, most carriers seem to care about us. So T-Mobile has refarmed a lot of spectrum near us. Currently on airportal.de (a crowd-sourced map for refarmed T-Mobile 3G/4G) there are many gaps, but that's because people aren't reporting the new network.

    This is where I've come up with a plan. My AT&T contract expires at the end of October, so I shall test T-Mobile's hidden $30 a month plan with 100 minutes of calling, unlimited texting, and 5 GB of unthrottled data later. Perfect plan for me. I hardly ever talk on the phone and use a lot of data. If I get throttled, it's my own fault.

    If this plan works, when all of our contracts are over December 2014, we shall all move (and the network will be even better then). Here are the current plans we would get on T-Mobile for our family as of April 19th, 2014.

    Mom - Unlimited talk and text with 3 GB of unthrottled data because she doesn't use her phone much.
    Dad - Unlimited talk and text with 3 GB of unthrottled data because he doesn't use his phone much.
    Me - I use my phone for everything it's got, so unlimited everything. And "Jump!" so that I can get the new iPhone every year.
    Max - He's fine with the 3 GB of unthrottled data.

    The final cost per month, you ask? About $198, after taxes and one installment plan. That's a savings of $30 over AT&T and $60 on Verizon. Add in not having to get new phones for T-Mobile's network and you save hundreds of dollars over Verizon.

    That's huge. It's the perfect amount of data and other items we need. If we go over, it's our own darn fault and we suffer the throttling (which wouldn't be bad, just find Wifi). We don't get billed. Our bill is unaffected by going over or not (for the 3 GB plans).

    My brother and I would finally be able to use our phones all we want, without any fear of our carrier taking a ton of our money and our parents fearing us going over a then non-existing limit.

    So in a recap, all carriers except T-Mobile suck. T-Mobile may have a little problem with its coverage right now, but according to them (and their brilliant CEO John Legere) they will be ramping up network quality fast. They've already got more LTE than Sprint and Sprint had a year's head start.

    I shall be testing the T-Mobile $30 a month plan before switching in tandem with AT&T. If the network works, I shall get off AT&T onto that $30 plan for the next year. That drops our AT&T bill down to $180. $10 a month cheaper than now ($30 plan included with total).

    So that's my beef with the carriers. I hope you'll follow me (@matthewmspace on Twitter and ADN) while I perform this experiment and beyond. I will probably have a weekly post on this time during that time as well. Thank you for reading this long post, if you made it this far.