Best Mobile Providers for Streaming

We compared mobile carriers in terms of data limits, speed, cost, and added benefits to determine that AT&T is the best overall for streaming.

Best Overall
ATT
3.8 out of 5 stars
3.75
Starting from
$85
/mo
  • Check
    Unlimited data allotment
Best Value
Visible
4 out of 5 stars
4
Starting from
$40
/mo
  • Check
    Unlimited data allotment
Best Coverage
Verizon
4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5
Starting from
$80
/mo
  • Check
    Unlimited data allotment
Best Budget
Mint Mobile
4 out of 5 stars
4
Starting from
$30
/mo
  • Check
    Unlimited data allotment
Easton Smith
Mobile, TV, & Moving Expert
Read More
Published on November 22, 2021
8 min read

Finding the best mobile provider plan for streaming requires more than just looking for unlimited data and a low price tag. Carrier unlimited plans aren’t truly “unlimited,” and most have a data cap where your speeds will eventually slow down, and streaming could suffer. Additionally, some unlimited plans offer free Hulu or HBO Max, which is another thing to consider when choosing the best carrier for streaming.

In our search, cell plans from AT&T, Visible, Mint Mobile, and Verizon topped the list thanks to fast 5G speeds, tons of data to live stream your favorite show, and valuable add-ons to help you save money.

Our pick for best carrier for streaming overall, AT&T and its Unlimited Elite plan, doesn’t slow down until you’ve reached 100 GB, which is higher than most. Plus, you’ll get HBO Max for free to stream classics like Game of Thrones or The Sopranos. That combination of data and free access to great streaming content is why we recommend it so highly. 

On the other hand, Visible is truly 100% unlimited with no data cap of any kind. However, the carrier could deprioritize you during heavy network load, as they run off Verizon’s network and Verizon customers get priority. Still, Visible is an excellent option for streaming.

Those are just a few of your choices, so let’s get into the details.



What to look for when choosing a cell plan for streaming?

Depending on how often you plan on streaming video on your phone, the most important thing to look for is how much data the plan actually offers. AT&T, like almost every other carrier, has several “unlimited” data plans, but they’re not truly unlimited. Instead, once you use up 30 or 50 GB of data in a month, you’ve used more than the average customer, and they may begin to slow your speeds, also known as throttling. Cell providers call it unlimited but ultimately there’s still a cap.

Now, keep in mind that carriers don’t automatically slow down your internet connection once you reach that limit. AT&T will only throttle an unlimited plan if it needs to, like in a densely populated area, heavy network loads at a football game, or things of that nature. Luckily for you, the network is likely plenty stable when you’re home on the couch, so throttling isn’t a huge concern.

Still, be aware of (and ask the employee if you're in a store) if the plan you’re considering throttles data, and if so, at what point. That’s why we’re recommending AT&T’s Elite plan as the best overall—it guarantees at least 100 GB of data a month before you may run into throttling issues.

AT&T Unlimited Elite: Best overall

At least 100 GB of data per month and you’ll get HBO Max for free
Pros
  • Unlimited data & fast 5G speeds
  • Up to 100 GB on the highest plan
  • Free HBO Max streaming service
Cons
  • Expensive at $85 per month

What we like about AT&T's Unlimited Elite cell plan

At $85 per month, this certainly isn’t the cheapest unlimited plan available. In fact, it’s one of the most expensive. You get what you pay for, though, and you’ll have enough data to watch anything and everything without worry. Plus, AT&T offers tons of fantastic phones, delivers fast 5G speeds nationwide, and getting a full streaming service for free is icing on the cake.

Plenty of data options

Like we mentioned above, AT&T has some of the best unlimited data plans for streaming. The peace of mind you’ll get by not having to worry about missing your favorite TV show versus going over your limit is worth the price.

What we don’t like about AT&T's Unlimited Elite cell plan

Our only major complaint has to do with money, as this plan is rather pricey

A bit expensive

No one wants to spend more money than they have to. So while $85 per month is a lot for unlimited data, just remember everything you’re getting. And if you don’t end up using anywhere near 100 GB a month, AT&T does offer two lower unlimited plans at $75 and $65 per month, but those are limited to 50 GB and don’t come with HBO Max.

What is throttling and deprioritization?
Heads Up

It’s easy to confuse the two terms throttling and deprioritization, so here’s what you need to know before we proceed.

  • Throttling is when your cell phone company slows down your data because you’ve used up your allotted amount of 4G or 5G data for the month.
  • Deprioritization is when your cell phone company slows down your data (internet and streaming speeds) occasionally because the network is congested.

Additionally, carriers like Verizon will throttle your data after you’ve gone over your limit, but only when the network is congested. They’re prioritizing customers that haven’t used all their data yet, over you, but only if they have to.

Visible Unlimited Plan: Best value

Unlimited data, speeds, and hotspots for half the cost of most of the competition
Pros
  • Unlimited data & hotspot
  • No speed caps on 4G LTE
  • Only $40 per month
Cons
  • 5G isn’t full speed like 4G LTE
  • Deprioritization
  • 480p streams

What we like about Visible's Unlimited Plan

What’s not to like here? Visible runs on Verizon’s expansive and stable 4G/5G network and offers unlimited data, unlimited mobile hotspots for tethering, and no throttling on 4G LTE. For the price, it’s hard not to consider this over Verizon or even AT&T. The value is clearly visible, if you know what we mean. 

Great multi-line plan options

Similar to family plans, Visible offers something it calls Party Pay. When you invite friends or family to join Visible, you’ll get a discount on your bill. No, you don’t share data or billing accounts, so there’s no need to worry. Each person you bring over gets you a discount to where you could be paying just $25 per month for unlimited data.

What’s an MVNO?

Visible is a mobile virtual network operator, also known as an MVNO. These are typically smaller, prepaid cell networks that use bigger companies’ existing cell towers. Visible piggybacks off of Verizon Wireless. (In fact, Verizon owns Visible.)

In this case, you know you’re getting fast cell service through Visible simply due to the ties with Verizon.

What we don’t like about Visible's Unlimited Plan

We don’t particularly like a few things, although they’re certainly not deal-breakers by any means.

Deprioritization

The first is deprioritization because they’re an MVNO, and they all do it. If Verizon’s network has any congestion or is under heavy load in a particular location, Visible users will get slower speeds and deprioritized in favor of Verizon’s actual customers.

Capped 5G speeds

Another minor complaint is 5G speeds. While Visible offers unlimited fast 4G LTE, newer devices capable of 5G get capped at 200 Mbps. That’s not very fast, not enough to stream TV, making 5G almost not even worth using. 

Streams in 480p

The only potential deal-breaker with Visible is that, just like T-Mobile, video streams on YouTube, Netflix, and just about any other app are only watchable in 480p resolution. That’s not even 720p HD, which might bother potential buyers.

That said, on a small smartphone display, 480p is technically considered “DVD quality,” so this isn’t as big of a deal as some make it out to be. Either way, keep in mind that you won’t be able to stream anything in 1080p.

Verizon Wireless Play More Unlimited: Best coverage

Superfast 4G LTE and 5G speeds nationwide and you get Hulu, Disney+, and ESPN+ free
Pros
  • Unlimited data & fast 5G speeds
  • 15 GB Hotspot
  • Popular streaming services for free
Cons
  • Expensive at $80 per month
  • Throttling after 50 GB of usage

What we like about Verizon's Play More Unlimited cell phone plan

Verizon is an excellent choice for anyone that wants to live stream movies, TV, or sports on their phone. Here are some reasons why.

Great coverage, speeds, and customer service

They have some of the best coverage in the nation, fast 4G LTE and 5G almost everywhere, and the customer support is pretty great.

Includes free streaming subscriptions

Perhaps the best part, though, is that along with unlimited data, your Verizon Play More plan gets you Hulu, ESPN+, and Disney+ completely free, which is worth a pretty penny itself. Watch tons of shows, catch up on The Mandalorian and enjoy UFC and more on ESPN+. That’s an excellent value from one of the best carriers in the United States. You’ll also get access to the newer Discovery+ streaming app free for the first 12 months.

What we don’t like about Verizon's Play More Unlimited cell phone plan

There’s plenty to love about Verizon, but here’s where they fall short for those trying to stream video.

Throttling begins at 50 GB

Unfortunately, Verizon only offers 50 GB of “unlimited data” a month before it potentially starts throttling customers. So, if you stream a ton, you could go over that limit and see a slowdown. For only $5 more, AT&T’s plan gives you twice as much headroom.

Mint Mobile Unlimited: Best budget plan

A very affordable unlimited data plan with a catch or two you’ll want to take note of
Pros
  • Unlimited data & fast 5G speeds
  • Runs on T-Mobile’s reliable network
  • Only $30 per month
Cons
  • Throttling after 35 GB of data usage
  • Deprioritization
  • Price goes up after 3 months (unless you sign a 12-month contract)

What we like about Mint's Unlimited cell phone plan (H3)

Mint Mobile is one of the hottest new cell providers these days. They’re fun, affordable, and reliable thanks to T-Mobile’s network and have some extremely budget-friendly plans. If you’re trying to live stream video or sports, though, you’ll want the highest unlimited data plan.

Great BYOD option

We love that you can bring your own phone and enjoy the extended 5G coverage and speed of T-Mobile, all for only $30 per month. That’s honestly hard to beat and an excellent choice for teens or college kids.

What we don’t like about Mint's Unlimited cell phone plan

It’s not all good news, though. Here’s where Mint isn’t as refreshing.  

Deprioritization and throttling

Mint Mobile is an MVNO, so T-Mobile may deprioritize your service during network congestion. Then again, you can’t complain when you spend more on Starbucks each week than you do for your phone service. At only $30, something has to give somewhere.

Another downside is data throttling. Mint’s most expensive unlimited plan is actually just a 35 GB/month cell phone plan. You’ll still have service if you exceed 35 GB, but they can potentially throttle your speeds to unusably slow levels.

While T-Mobile is one of the best options these days and has more coverage after buying Sprint, they still don’t cover as many areas as AT&T or Verizon, so keep that in mind.

12-month contract

That lucrative $30 per month price point only lasts for three months. After that, you’ll have to sign a 12-month contract to keep that wonderful price or pay more to go month-to-month. Budget-conscious shoppers will love Mint Mobile compared to the $80 prices at AT&T and Verizon.

Recap: What’s the best mobile provider for streaming?

The best mobile provider for streaming ultimately comes down to how much data you plan to use while streaming endless movies and TV. It’s more about the data limits than the individual carriers, so find a plan that suits your needs.

So, let’s do a quick recap of the highlights and what to look for so you’re better prepared when you buy an unlimited data phone plan for streaming.

  • Best overall value: AT&T’s Elite plan offers up some of the best speeds, full coverage, and the most data (100 GB) for $85 a month. It’s an expensive plan, but you’ll have the most to work with.
  • Best value: The best overall value is Visible. You get all the benefits of Verizon Wireless unlimited 4G LTE and 5G for only $40 a month. Just be aware of deprioritization and throttling.
  • Best coverage: Verizon’s Play More Unlimited plan offers the best bang for your buck, but you’ll pay $80 a month for all that goodness. You get nationwide 5G coverage, 50 GB of data per month, and some of the most popular streaming services like Hulu and Disney+ completely free.
  • Best budget: Mint Mobile’s $30 unlimited data plan is shaking up the entire industry, and it’s worth consideration. Just remember the price goes up after 90 days and you’ll potentially deal with deprioritization and throttling if you’re a heavy user.

We hope this review of the best mobile providers for streaming helps clear a few things up regarding unlimited data plans, throttling, pricing, and more as you invest in a new smartphone plan.

Now get ready to Netflix and chill or Amazon Prime and binge time.

Methodology

To select our list of the best mobile providers for streaming, we started by comparing all the unlimited plans currently available. And trust us, you’ll need unlimited data. We used powerful comparison tools from our partners at WhistleOut to find unlimited plans with the most data, fastest speeds, any potential throttling limits, and cost.

We’ve extensively researched, tested, and used all these cell phone carriers and their networks so you don’t have to. In fact, we’ve reviewed cell phone plans from all the major carriers big and small.

Then, we used that knowledge to look at each unlimited plan, its cap or potential for throttling, network coverage, and price, to determine which mobile provider is best for streaming.

Easton Smith
Written by
Easton Smith
Easton has worked as a freelance writer and researcher for several years, reviewing health, lifestyle, and technology products. He has probably read more Terms of Use contracts than any human alive. When he’s not sitting in front of a computer, Easton spends his time camping, climbing, and volunteering with humanitarian aid organizations.

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