NEW YORK — Unlimited wireless data is back. After sliding off the menu of cellphone plans, data plans with no caps are making a comeback at smaller wireless companies trying to compete with AT&T and Verizon.
T-Mobile USA, the nation's fourth-largest cellphone company, said Wednesday that it will start selling an unlimited-data plan again on Sept. 5, after stopping sales of such plans early last year. A day earlier, No. 5 carrier MetroPCS cut the price of its unlimited-data plan as a promotion for a limited time.
The moves by T-Mobile USA and MetroPCS, neither of which sells the iPhone, come as their three larger rivals are thought to be gearing up to begin selling the iPhone 5 in a month or so.
No. 3 carrier Sprint Nextel Corp. already has an unlimited-data plan and credits that with helping it attract customers for its smartphones.
AT&T, the nation's second-largest carrier, stopped signing up customers for unlimited data plans two years ago, while No. 1 Verizon Wireless stopped last year. Both have shifted toward lifting all limits on calls and texting, but limiting data usage.
From a network management perspective, that makes sense, as calls and texts use very little network capacity, while video downloads and other data use can clog the network and slow the service for everyone.
T-Mobile's unlimited plan will cost $30 per month when added to a regular calling and texting plan and $20 when added to a cheaper "Value" plan offered to customers who bring their own phones. MetroPCS Communications Inc.'s unlimited plan will cost $55 per month during the promotion period, down from $70, and will include unlimited texting and calls.
T-Mobile had been calling all its data plans "unlimited," but once a customer hits a certain level of usage in a month, it would slow down speeds drastically.