T-Mobile and Walmart Stretch Meaning of 'Unlimited' With Cheap Family Plans

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T-Mobile and Walmart are touting a new unlimited talk, text, and data plan for cheap--as long as you accept a loose definition of "unlimited."

The Family Mobile Plan starts at $45 per month, plus $35 for each additional line. While voice minutes and text messages are truly unlimited, families will be throttled to sub-3G speeds after they use 250MB of data in one month.

As a promo, T-Mobile and Walmart are offereing 5GB of uncapped data to families that sign up before March 17--however, this promo rate only lasts through the end of March. After that, everyone gets knocked down to the 250MB soft limit.

At least the plan isn't tied to an annual contract. Users can bring their own handsets, or buy a new one at full price from Walmart. The small selection includes a basic flip phone, two feature phones, and LG's Optimus One Android smartphone.

For users who consume more data, and not as many voice minutes, T-Mobile and Walmart offer a $30 per month cellular plan with 100 minutes of talk time, unlimited text messages and 5 GB of 4G HSPA+ data. As with the Family Mobile Plan, users get throttled back to 2G speeds after hitting the limit.

T-Mobile isn't the only wireless carrier that's been stretching the definition of "unlimited" data. AT&T and Verizon both reduce speeds for users who consume the most data, although Verizon only does so when its network is congested. And T-Mobile has called its tiered data plans "unlimited" since last April.

Although wireless carriers argue that a plan with throttling is still "unlimited" because users can continue to access the Internet, speed restrictions are still a type of limit placed on the user. T-Mobile is doing a good thing by offering an affordable family plan with unlimited talk and text. Why muddy it with dishonest advertising?

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