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T-Mobile Launches America's Only Real 5G Plan, Magenta Max


5G is finally making a real difference to the data we can use on our phones.

T-Mobile just launched the only current service plan that, in my mind, takes real advantage of the extra capacity of 5G. It’s called Magenta Max, and it will be available on Feb. 24.

Magenta Max lifts the “deprioritization throttle” that’s been on almost all unlimited mobile plans until now. The way unlimited data generally works in the US is that it’s unlimited until you’ve both used a lot of it, and other people are trying to use the same tower. In that case, you get put behind them in a priority queue, which can lead to much slower speeds. Until now, plans have also tended to restrict hotspot data and throttle video quality.

The main exception to deprioritization is Verizon’s 5G UWB system, which has huge capacity but very limited coverage; Verizon’s nationwide 5G still has a cap. Sprint had an unlimited 5G plan, but Sprint doesn’t exist anymore.

T-Mobile’s new plan has no throttle, comes with 40GB of hotspot data, and upgrades mobile video to 4K. It has various other perks too, as shown below.

Magenta Max perks

Magenta Max costs the same as the previous Magenta Plus plan, T-Mobile says. Cell phone plans are wavy and confusing, based on stacks of “limited time” promotions. Right now, Magenta Plus has a “third line free” temporary promotion, which lowers the per-line rate from $57 to $47 with three lines, and the $47 is what shows up on T-Mobile’s website. T-Mobile says it will do a limited-time promotion on Magenta Max to equal the price of the previous deal.

That means Magenta Max costs $85 for one line; $70 each for two; and then, during the promotion, $47 each for three; $43 each for four; $40 each for five; and $38 each for six. Rates will go up after the promotion ends.

I’m not going to turn this story into a comprehensive review of carrier service plans, tempting as it is. But I’ll say that the “big three” carriers have in recent years focused primarily on multi-line family plans, with their best prices coming between three and six lines. Single-line users generally find better deals with wholly owned sub-brands like Visible or Metro, or virtual carriers like US Mobile or Ting. We have more at The Best Cheap Cell Phone Plans.

Magenta Max is possible because mid-band 5G is finally starting to give T-Mobile much greater capacity, and it’s supported by all of the most popular new smartphones. According to T-Mobile’s recent earnings call, it now covers 106 million people with mid-band 5G. The company pledges to cover 200 million by the end of this year. Unlike with AT&T’s and Verizon’s nationwide 5G, which just use bits of old 4G spectrum and thus don’t materially increase capacity, T-Mobile’s mid-band 5G can greatly increase the amount of airwaves available to any individual phone, opening up new lanes with very little traffic currently on them.

The question now becomes what happens when Americans’ insatiable lust for data begins to equal T-Mobile’s new network capacity. We’ve had unthrottled, unlimited data plans before, way back in prehistory before everyone was a smartphone user. (Pour one out for the $2.99 unlimited T-Zones add-on, which also included 300 SMS.) That’s a problem T-Mobile would love to have, I’m sure.


Taking It Home

So what about home internet? T-Mobile has been promising a 5G home internet product since 2019, but the rollout appears to be stuck on a lack of the Nokia home modems it needs to give to customers. Yes, consumers can use T-Mobile’s 100GB mobile hotspot plan for home internet, but a home internet plan should be truly unlimited.

T-Mobile Hotspot Plans

With all of this new capacity coming, T-Mobile has pledged that it will provide unlimited home internet to at least 9.5 million desperate Americans by 2024. For now, though, Elon Musk’s Starlink system is getting all of the mind share, simply by making fast speeds available in rural areas where nobody had the option for fast speeds before. T-Mobile can’t win there until it actually sells a product.

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