When I started writing for ZDNet 15 years ago, mobile phones were being used by 74% of the US population, but only 14% of those people were using these basic phones to access the internet. The latest data shows that 97% of Americans own a mobile phone, with 85% of those being smartphones that access the internet multiple times a day.
Smartphones and wireless cellular services are now essential for businesses to compete in today’s market and broad coverage is an expectation. After T-Mobile’s recent acquisition of Sprint, the US market is dominated by Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T. Each of these carriers offers various plan options for businesses of all sizes.
5G continues to roll out across the US, but reliable and dependable LTE service is still essential to getting work done. The pricing for business service is competitive, and as someone who has been in the industry for decades, it is amazing to see the reasonable pricing for such fast service that reaches across the nation.
Verizon phone plans for businesses
Verizon Wireless has the most subscribers in the US and is popular with businesses. Three Business Unlimited plans make it easy to find the perfect option for your business. All three Business Unlimited plans from Verizon include unlimited talk, text, and data. Support for 5G, mobile hotspot, and tablet use differentiate the three plans. Pricing is also for five or more lines, targeted for business and not for family usage.
While there are no limits on minutes, texts, or data, in times of congestion data may be slower with this Start plan. Nationwide 5G, low-band spectrum 5G, is supported with the Start plan and a compatible smartphone.
Tablet, smartwatch, and hotspot options are available for additional costs on the Business Unlimited Start plan. The price also includes $5 per month savings for paper-free billing and auto pay.
- Nationwide 5G coverage
- Able to add additional devices (watches, tablets) to the account
- No support for mmWave, high-band, 5G
- Data speeds slowed down during times of congestion
For $10 more per line per month, Verizon adds 60GB of premium network access, 5G UWB (mmWave) support, and unlimited mobile hotspot service. In addition, Verizon’s Business Mobile Secure is included at no additional cost. This enhanced security bundle includes lookout mobile endpoint secure, mobile device management, Wi-Fi protection, and tech support.
- Nationwide 5G coverage, including mmWave spectrum
- Enhanced security bundle included
- Unlimited mobile hotspot service
- 60GB limit during high usage time periods
The highest level Verizon Business Unlimited plan provides twice the amount of premium network access, 120GB, along with 50% off on Business Unlimited Pro tablet plans.
This plan may be perfect for businesses using connected tablets out in the field and smartphones that are using data throughout the day away from Wi-Fi service.
- Nationwide 5G coverage with mmWave support
- 50% cost savings on tablet plans
- Enhanced security bundle included
- Unlimited mobile hotspot service
- $50 price per line higher than other tiers
T-Mobile phone plans for businesses
After the purchase of Sprint, T-Mobile is now the second largest (in terms of subscriber count) carrier in the US. While T-Mobile has long been known for its consumer-friendly cellular plans, it also has one of the most extensive libraries of business offerings for small companies, large companies, and government agencies. Its new Business Unlimited plans are presented below, but there are other options that require direct discussions between businesses and T-Mobile.
Business Unlimited Select plans are designed for small business customers who need 2 to 12 lines of service. Two lines are priced at $45 per line per month, four lines are $30 per line per month, and six or more lines are just $25 per line per month.
These plans include 5G network support, 5GB of high-speed mobile hotspot data, as well as unlimited calling/texting/data in Mexico and Canada.
- Very affordable small business plan
- Nationwide 5G coverage
- Unlimited service in Mexico and Canada
- Unlimited streaming is limited to SD content
- Included data in Canada and Mexico is 128kbps speed
If the employees of your small business travel by airplane and need Microsoft apps, then you should consider the T-Mobile Business Unlimited Advanced plan. This service plan includes 40GB of high-speed hotspot data, Microsoft 365, one hour of Gogo in-flight Wi-Fi, and 5GB of high-speed data in Canada and Mexico.
- Affordable per line price point
- Microsoft 365 productivity service included
- One hour of in-flight Wi-Fi service
- 40GB of high-speed hotspot
- 100GB of premium data
For small businesses that want it all at reasonable per line prices, the new Business Unlimited Ultimate plan is for you. In addition to the unlimited talk, text, and data (with 5G included) small businesses also get unlimited premium data, 100GB of mobile hotspot, and Microsoft 365.
Streaming content is provided with unlimited 4K UHD quality, WiFi on your flight is unlimited, and data in 210 countries is twice as fast (256kbps) as the other T-Mobile small business plans.
- Unlimited premium data
- Unlimited WiFi on your flight
- Microsoft 365 services included
- 5GB of high speed data in Canada and Mexico
AT&T phone plans for businesses
After T-Mobile added Sprint subscribers to its total subscriber base, AT&T dropped to third in total subscriber count. However, AT&T is also well established as an enterprise service provider with four enterprise options available to customers. AT&T also serves as the backbone for the FirstNet network optimized for first responders.
The Unlimited Your Way for Business plans allow up to 10 devices per plan group and are designed for small to medium-sized businesses. The more lines you add, up to 10 lines, the less expensive the starting price is for AT&T Business Unlimited Starter, Business Unlimited Performance, and Business Unlimited Elite. For 10 lines, the starting price is $30, $35, and $40 per line per month, respectively. For just a single line, these prices are $65, $75, and $85 per line per month, respectively.
Hotspot data allotments, priority data transmission, and higher definition streaming are features that improve as you move from the Starter tier to the Elite tier of service. Select the number of lines on the Unlimited Your Way website to view pricing for your company.
- Price per line decreases with additional lines
- Multiple tiers of service are offered
- Limited to 10 lines of service
- Priority data transmission restrictions
- Hotspot data limits
Unlimited calls and text messages in the US, unlimited calls to Mexico and Canada, and unlimited texting from the US to more than 120 countries are included in the AT&T Mobility Select – Pooled plan service. Data is served up to each employee from a single shared pool for each business account.
Plans start at $35 per month, but potential customers need to contact AT&T to discuss specific details and plan pricing.
- Affordable plan pricing
- Unlimited calls to Mexico and Canada
- Shared pool requires management to allocate
The AT&T Mobile Share Plus for Business plan supports from one to 25 smartphone lines with various monthly data caps, ranging from 3GB to 120GB per phone. Pricing per phone starts at $50 per month for 3GB and goes up to $615 for one phone with 120GB of data.
Shareable data, rollover data, unlimited talk and text, mobile hotspot service, and international talk, text, and data are provided with these plans.
- Support for up to 25 lines of service
- Rollover data support
- Mobile hotspot service included
- Data caps allocated by service option
Unlimited talk, text, and 4GB of data per line are provided with the AT&T Business 4GB plan. Hotspot data and standard mobile security services are also provided with the plan. Pricing for smartphones starts at $50 per month, but further pricing requires consultation with an AT&T representative.
AT&T Business 4GB is available for tablets for $20 per month and for wearables for $10 per month. AT&T advertises this plan as best for small businesses.
- Unlimited talk and text
- Controlled pricing per each phone
- Service options for tablets and wearables
- 4GB data limit per each line
MVNO options for businesses
While the three major carriers offer focused business plans, there are also a few MVNOs that offer attractive per line plans that may work well for small businesses. MVNOs (mobile virtual network operators) are companies that use establish wireless carrier infrastructure to provide no or minimal contract options for customers. The MVNOs do not openly advertise which wireless carrier infrastructure they are using, but as soon as you insert a SIM into your phone, you can see which carrier is connected to which MVNO. MVNOs are optimized for consumers looking for phone service with no contracts and prepaid options, but these same elements may help small businesses control costs and adjust to market demands.
Most MVNOs offer attractive per line prices with each account limited to five or six lines. US Mobile is one MVNO that actually provides shared data plans for companies of any size. Enter the number of lines you need and the amount of shared data to view your total monthly payment.
A couple of examples include 50 lines with 100GB of data for $650 per month or 30 lines with 50GB of data for $385 per month. We had the opportunity to test out the two available US Mobile SIM cards and found the service to be fast and reliable.
- Specific service offering for businesses
- Scalable to your business size and line needs
- Competitive $9 per line base fee
- Verizon and T-Mobile serve as network providers
- Data price per GB may be higher than unlimited plans
Mint Mobile is one of the most popular MVNOs thanks in large part to advertising by one of its owners, Ryan Reynolds. While there are no specific business plans, three/six/twelve month plans for individual phones are available starting as low as $30 per month for unlimited talk, text, and data.
T-Mobile provides the network for Mint Mobile’s service so you will need GSM handsets for the service.
- Unlimited talk, text, and data plan options
- Flexibility for less expensive data limit plans
- No specific business service plans
- Limited to T-Mobile coverage area
- Three available contract period options
Cricket Wireless is an established MVNO, service provided by AT&T, that has retail stores around the country so you can get support and establish service in person if you desire. One to five lines can be setup for each account with measured data or unlimited data. Mobile hotspot data can also be added to each line.
4G LTE and 5G data is provided, along with international support, cloud storage, and more.
- Established, trusted MVNO
- Physical retail stores around the country
- Unlimited and measured data plan options
- No long term contract required
- Service coverage area limited to AT&T network
- Five line limit per account
What steps should a new business take to establish wireless service?
While this buying guide provides current pricing and service options from the three primary US wireless carriers and MVNOs, specific pricing for your business requires a conversation with the carrier to fully define your company needs, available service discounts, and contract lengths.
One of the first things to figure out is where you will need service geographically in the US as all three carriers have slightly different coverage maps. Your geographic operating area may remove one, or more, carriers from your viable candidate list.
The next step is to determine how many lines of service you will need and then the data needs of those lines. Calling and text messages are unlimited in all cases, but data speed and amount of data will drive your costs.
Most carriers also offer additional incentives and services, such as hotspot, in-flight coverage, Microsoft 365, and more. Make sure to account for the value of these incentives in your decision-making process.
What are the disadvantages of a MVNO?
Most MVNOs are focused on the consumer market so business plan offerings for more than six lines of service are rare. Pricing can be very competitive and with no contracts these MVNOs may be attractive to businesses just getting started that do not want to lock in long-term contracts.
Account management may require more time from businesses given the consumer focus of MVNOs. MVNOs are also subject to the infrastructure provided by the big three US carriers, but there are several established MVNOs with solid reputation and a record of high-quality service and support.
Does the choice of my smartphone model limit wireless service?
In the past, the US wireless market was split into GSM and CDMA service technologies with two carriers supporting each of these technologies. Modern smartphones support LTE and 5G service without CDMA technology your choice of smartphone is not as limited.
The most popular smartphones in the US, Apple iPhones and Samsung Galaxy phones, support all wireless technologies in the US wireless market so there are no limits on using these phones with any US carrier. If you purchase these phones directly from Samsung and Apple, then you can choose to purchase unlocked models.
Some phones are sold in a locked state so they can only be used on one specific carrier. This may be changing soon and there are processes to unlock your phone from your carrier if you decide to switch carriers. There used to be incentives for purchasing locked phones, but in today’s world purchasing unlocked phones gives you the most flexibility for choosing your service provider.