For business owners with a team of employees who are always on the move, having enough cellular data to stay connected is essential to maintaining efficiency and operational organization. Many cellular service providers claim to offer business plans that include unlimited data, but many of them fall short where it really counts. When searching for the right service plan to fit their needs, savvy business owners need to find a plan that offers truly unlimited data in all of the forms that employees use while on the road. This guide covers the basics of business data plans and points out the plans that are best for a business that truly wants to have it all. Compare business cell phone plans with unlimited data using the tool below.
Unlimited 4G LTE Data (may be slowed after 22GB of usage per month)
$90/mo+ $25 Upfront
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What Are Business Data Plans?
Business data plans are just like personal data plans but are tailor-fit to meet the needs of businesses with multiple employees. While most personal data plans can only service 5 or 6 devices at the most, business data plans can be expanded to include 10 or more devices on a single plan.
Cellular data allows your employees to place calls, send text messages, and access the internet from practically any location. Cellular data is used any time that a device is not hooked up to Wi-Fi and is incredibly handy for situations when an employee will be out of the office for an extended period of time. The fastest types of cellular data currently available are 4G and LTE.
Many business data plans will be equipped with special perks that aren't available with personal or family plans. However, the types of perks and data speeds that you can expect from a business data plan depends on the provider you choose and the types of plans that they offer.
What Types of Activities Use the Most Data?
When taking a look at cellular data plans for businesses, it's important to be familiar with the difference between megabytes (Mb) and gigabytes (Gb). For instance, it takes about 1 Mb of data to view a single web page while watching 8 hours of video would take up 1 Gb of data. Various data plans will list their available data based on these terms, and the most important piece of information to note is that 1 GB is the equivalent of 1,000 Mb.
The average mobile data user goes through about 800 Mb of data a month, but this number will be much higher for users that regularly stream music or watch videos. One of the biggest data hogs is video chatting, which is when two or more users communicate with the cameras and microphones installed in their smartphones. Video chatting is a common tool used by business owners to stay in contact with employees, but without an unlimited data plan, this type of communication can be quite costly.
What Is an Unlimited Data Plan?
An unlimited data plan is a data plan that doesn't put a cap on the amount of data that can be used each month. Data plans with hard caps will simply make it impossible to access the internet, listen to music, or video chat after a certain amount of data is used. However, many data plans that are marketed as "unlimited" actually have strict limits on the amount of data that can be used.
What Are Speed Caps?
Many data plans will provide unlimited access to cellular data but will slow this access down considerably after a certain point. For instance, a data plan that is billed as "unlimited" may provide 20 GB of data per month at 2 megabytes-per-second (Mb/s) but will slow this data down to a trickle after the 20 GB is used up. While it's still possible to access the internet with an active speed cap, doing so is laborious and frustrating.
Are Mobile Hotspots Unlimited?
One of the most impressive innovations equipped with modern smartphones is mobile hotspot technology. Activating a mobile hotspot allows mobile data customers to share their data plan with any device such as a laptop or desktop computer or a Wi-Fi-only iPad or Android tablet. However, connecting devices to a mobile hotspot can use up a lot of data very quickly, so even unlimited plans usually instate a speed cap after a relatively small amount of mobile hotspot data is used or charge extra for mobile hotspot data. Some providers don't allocate data for mobile hotspot use at all.
Unlimited Business Data Plan Options
Verizon offers a data plan called Business Unlimited for 4 or more phones that features unlimited data up to 22 Gb, at which point speeds may be throttled. This provider also offers two plans called gounlimited and beyondunlimited with similar perks. Verizon also offers plans that are priced based on the amount of data used per month. With the Verizon Plan for Business, up to 200 Gb of data can be shared across as many as 25 phones. There's even a Flexible Plan for Business that can handle 26+ phones.
AT&T offers two business plans, AT&T Unlimited Choice for Business and AT&T Unlimited Plus for Business. Each plan can accommodate up to 10 devices and both AT&T Unlimited Choice and AT&T Unlimited Plus allow for 22 Gb of data use before speeds are reduced. The AT&T Unlimited Plus features 10 Gb of mobile hotspot data, after which speeds are reduced to 128 Kb/s.
The T-Mobile Unlimited Business Plan allows for up to 12 lines. T-Mobile warns that accounts that use over 50 Gb of data in a month may have their speeds reduced until the next billing cycle. The Unlimited Business Plan also includes 10 Gb of mobile hotspot data and free Wi-Fi on American Airlines flights equipped with Gogo Inflight Internet.
Sprint offers an unlimited business plan for up to 5 phones. While Sprint points out that data speeds may be slowed during congestion times, there does not appear to be a speed cap with the Sprint business plan. Sprint also offers 10 Gb of mobile hotspot data per device per month.
Picking the Best Unlimited Business Data Plan
Long spurred to reach new heights through their perennial competition, AT&T and Verizon offer the most coverage around the country. While both of these companies apply speed caps to their plans after 22 Gb, Verizon and AT&T phones can be used almost anywhere.
The Sprint business plan is somewhat less expensive than the plans offered by competitors, but Sprint has the worst coverage of any of the leading mobile service providers, making their phones useless in many areas unless their customers are willing to pay roaming charges.
T-Mobile only caps lines after 50 GB in comparison to the 22 GB cap experienced with both AT&T and Verizon, but the T-Mobile coverage area is much smaller than that of either Verizon or AT&T. There is no clear winner among the business plans offered by these four major carriers since each carrier has both pros and cons.
In the end, the unique needs of each business will lead to one unlimited business plan appearing superior in contrast to all of the others. For small businesses that only need to equip 3 or 4 employees with unlimited data plans, any of these four leading carriers would most likely be able to provide a workable plan. But for companies with more than 25 employees, it appears that only Verizon is capable of meeting the unlimited data needs of a large workforce.
Unlimited Business Data Plans: The Bottom Line
It's important to remember that no unlimited data plan is truly unlimited. Every plan is speed capped at a certain point, resulting in data speeds that are truly annoying to work with. One of the truly discouraging aspects of supposedly unlimited data plans is the cap that's placed on mobile hotspot usage. Mobile hotspots are one of the most useful tools that an employee has at their disposal while on the road since there are some tasks that simply can't be accomplished with the small screen size and relatively low processing power of a smartphone. Savvy business owners will weigh the pros and cons and select a plan that best suits their particular needs.
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