Ina Fried

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T-Mobile Looks to Put the “Unlimited” Back in Its Unlimited Data Plan

Even as most of its rivals move away from totally unlimited data plans, T-Mobile is looking to get back in the game.

Starting Sept. 5, the No. 4 U.S. carrier will offer data plans that have full-speed service regardless of the amount of data used. It sells a number of “unlimited” data plans today, but it slows the speed once users hit a preset limit.

Many customers still don’t know what a megabyte is, let alone how to keep track of how many they are using, T-Mobile USA vice president Kevin McLaughlin said in an interview.

“They clearly understood minutes and how minutes worked, but data is a whole other story,” he said.

Both AT&T and Verizon have moved to tiered data pricing and, most recently, are focusing their energy on pushing customers to share a pool of data across multiple devices. Sprint, meanwhile, has continued to aggressively market its unlimited data plans.

For its unlimited data option, T-Mobile plans to charge $20 to $30 per month extra on top of a voice and texting plan. That means a single line “value” plan with unlimited talk, text and data is $69.99, while a similar traditional plan (one in which the phone price is subsidized), will cost $89.99 per month.

Those plans are actually $5 per month cheaper than what T-Mobile charges for plans that slow down after 5GB of high-speed data use. However, those plans–unlike the new plans–can be used with the phone acting as a mobile hotspot or tethered to a computer.

For T-Mobile, the move is also its latest effort to stem a tide of customer defections over the last several quarters. The company is also working to rejigger some of its resources to allow users to bring an iPhone onto its network at full data speeds.

T-Mobile currently doesn’t sell the iPhone, but has more than 1 million iPhones running on its network. That’s despite the fact that current limitations mean those Apple phones only get data at slow 2G speeds.

The company aims to allow iPhones to run at full speed later this year and is prepping a big rebranding campaign, also planned for the second half of the year.

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First the NSA came for, well, jeez pretty much everybody’s data at this point, and I said nothing because wait how does this joke work

— Parker Higgins via Twitter