Round and round the cheap cell phone plan merry go round we go again! I’m going to switch to AT&T Prepaid! When I moved to DC, I was on T-Mobile, but that didn’t work for me. Then I switched to Verizon prepaid, which also didn’t work. AT&T redid their plans, and has a cool multi-line discount calculator.

The very short version of why those other networks didn’t work for me is that T-Mobile doesn’t have the coverage in the places I need it and Verizon has been ruining the service quality on their prepaid plans in the past year or so.

The Verizon prepaid data congestion throttling is really bad. At first, they had “unlimited” plans where if you went past some reasonably high number like 22 GB in a month, your data would be lower priority when the network gets congested.

But now Verizon prepaid customers are deprioritized all the time whenever the network gets congested. This would be ok if the throttling put your speed down to 3 Mbps or something like that. But the speed gets clamped down to under 1 Mbps. It’s often straight up unusable. Whenever this happens, voice calls kick over to the old school CDMA network with crappy call quality and no background data. This is a big city. The network is often congested. It sucks.

There are times where all I want to do is to pull up directions in Google Maps to see the best route around traffic. But the route options screen will take a while to display travel times with traffic, and shows little “offline” icons on the routes because there’s no data yet. Then I sit there waiting, and eventually it gets some data and says the actual time estimates.

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My work phone is on Verizon postpaid, and the service is way more reliable. I use it way less so don’t see if it gets congestion throttled as much, but often if my personal prepaid Verizon phone is getting throttled and/or kicked down to CDMA, the work phone is still making VoLTE calls just fine.

You’d think if the congestion throttling on Verizon bothered me that much, I’d look for a plan that doesn’t have it. But the Verizon postpaid plans that don’t have deprioritzation either have too low of a data cap, or are “unlimited” and way too expensive.

Enter AT&T Prepaid. It used to have a ridiculous 3 Mbps speed limit. This was terrible. Even Cricket, AT&T’s in-house prepaid subsidiary, had an 8 Mbps speed cap. I tried Cricket back in the day and that 8 Mbps limit (and 4 on uploads) was annoying. 3 Mbps would be unlivable.

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But just as Verizon has made its prepaid plans so unreliable as to be unusable in a big city (or at the beach that the big city people overrun) now AT&T has gone and totally redeemed its prepaid plans!

There’s no more speed cap. You don’t get VoLTE or HD Voice calling, but that’s no big deal as AT&T’s 3G HSPA voice network is totally fine quality and allows background data no problem. And the price!

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With the autopay and multi-line discounts, I’ll be paying $70/month for me and my wife to each have 8 GB per line. Unlike Verizon where this is all of a sudden an issue, voice & data will work at the same time most all of the time, and I won’t get throttled within an inch of my life in populated areas.

I’m not expecting miracles. But if it gives me service in most of the places I go and doesn’t straight up not work like Verizon prepaid, I’ll be happy.

This is exactly why I buy unlocked and universally-compatible phones. There’s too much variability in which network works the best in what location, and the prepaid plans often move around with what restrictions you’ll have to put up with. Being able to hop networks with all the options available is great.

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UPDATE: When I went to the “contact us” link, it said there’s no chat available for prepaid plans. But when I just out of curiosity put in my IMEI and started trying to add a plan to my cart, a chat window popped up and I asked it some questions.

There is no congestion throttling or any other speed cap while using your 8 GB of data on the $50 ($40 after autopay discount) plan.

You can use hotspot and it counts towards your 8 GB cap.

There’s one annoying thing: the autopay discount takes 2 months to kick in so that means you have to pay for 2 months without it and then on your 3rd month you get the discount. When it does kick in, it’s not retroactive.

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The multi-line discount does kick in as long as you make sure to talk to someone in a store or on the phone when activating so they can put it on the account right away.

In my case that would be $90/month for 2 months and then $70/month after the autopay discount kicks in.

Oh, and they charge $0.99 for SIM cards on the website.

Looks like this is the move for me. So sick of Verizon prepaid congestion throttling BS.