Phone Plans

What is a Shared Data Plan?

Sara Nuss
February 26, 2023

A lot of carriers have something akin to shared data plans on their website. There are a few names for plans like that, and “shared data,” “family plans,” and “multi-line plans” are high up on that list. In this article, we will cover an overview of shared data plans, what they bring to the table, and how to choose which one is best for you. 

What is a Shared Data Plan?

A shared data plan is a phone plan with multiple lines sharing the same data pool. This is a less common kind of plan now, as all the major carriers have switched to unlimited family plans. You technically share the unlimited pool of data but the spirit of the shared data plan is lost in those plans. 

Certain MVNOs retain shared data plans, and we will talk about some of our top picks for MVNO shared data plans and major carrier shared data plans. The idea behind shared data plans is that it allows you to save money on your monthly phone bill. That’s pretty great, right? Cell phone plans are crazy expensive, and finding any way to save money each month is a win in our books. Let’s dive into some of the best multi-line plans with major carriers, and how you can leverage your family or a group of friends to give everyone affordable premium wireless plans. 

Shared Data Plans With Major Carriers

Family plans from major carriers are amazing ways to get serious discounts on their premium wireless service. This is a great way to grab a plan with one of these providers that give you unlimited high-speed data without paying the $70+ per month that comes with a single-line plan. If you are someone who likes to use a lot of data every month (more than 50 GBs) then an unlimited plan is your best option. These users are often people who like to stream audio or video on their device while on a mobile network, but these days phone services take more and more data to operate. 

A lot of social media platforms, for instance, default their video to a higher resolution, making any time you spend on one of those platforms a larger data expenditure on your end. On top of that, there are a lot of background processes on your mobile device that use a surprising amount of data throughout the month. Unlimited high-speed data plans ensure that you don’t have to worry about using a lot of data throughout the month. They are, unfortunately, rather expensive. That’s where a shared data plan comes in! Let’s look at some of the offerings from the major wireless networks. 

Verizon Start Unlimited

An affordable option for a premium wireless cell phone plan 

Quick Facts

  • $80/60/45/35 a month per line
  • Postpaid Plan
  • Verizon’s 4G LTE and 5G networks
  • Unlimited data
  • No hotspot

This is Verizon’s most affordable plan, and it has some of the best multi-line savings out there. Going from $80 a month to $35 is astonishing, making this an exceptional option for plans with a lot of lines to gain access to a major wireless network without paying the premium that is often associated with it. The downside to their cheapest unlimited plan is that users don’t have much “premium” data, which only means that if there are times of serious network congestion they will slow down your data. 

Keep in mind that before your data gets slowed down, they slow down all their MVNO customers. There are not a ton of opportunities to pay this little for coverage with a major wireless network, and for those who want to stick with the big three no matter what we cannot recommend the Verizon start unlimited family plan enough. 

Your data will only get slowed in times of serious congestion, like major sporting or concert events. And if you’re at the big game you don’t need to be on your phone anyway, right? Joking aside, this is a fantastic way to get an amazing deal at a major wireless company for incredibly competitive prices. A plan at Verizon gives you the opportunity to get an even more robust plan if you need it, but when you’re looking for a family plan with the hopes of cutting down your wireless bill, we recommend looking for a plan that will leave you paying less than $50 a line. 

A family plan with unlimited data allows you to use your phone on the go to enjoy its mobile capabilities at all times. 

T-Mobile Essentials 

The best premium wireless family cell phone plan

Quick Facts: 

  • $60/45/30/25 a month
  • Unlimited talk and text
  • 50 GB premium data, unlimited high-speed data
  • No contract 

Our pick for a major wireless company’s data plan is T-Mobile Essentials. Right off the bat, the multi-line savings are fantastic. Halving the cost with a three-line plan is a great deal, and the plan comes with a lot of great advantages as well. It has no contract, which is always good, and it comes with unlimited high-speed data and 50 GB of premium data as well. The premium data is a nice boon, but all it means is that your first 50 GB of data usage each month is protected against any slowdowns that occur in times of high usage. 

Unfortunately, it is impossible to know how much data shortages will affect you, but it usually only happens when there are an extraordinary number of people in an area. Whenever the bandwidth in an area is strained, major networks will slow down MVNO users to free up more bandwidth for their customers. If it gets strained again, the network will slow down users without premium data, leaving only premium users with full-speed data while the high data consumption persists. The other unlimited plans at T-Mobile have more bells and whistles attached, like additional premium data, high-speed hotspot allocation, and other incentives like a free Netflix account. If the price hike is worthwhile for you, you can switch to one of those! 

AT&T Unlimited Premium Plan

Best family plan for premium data plans

Quick Facts: 

  • $85/75/60/50 a month
  • Unlimited premium data
  • 50 GB high-speed hotspot data
  • 4k UHD Streaming
  • No contract 

This is a rather expensive plan, but family plans bring down the overall cost and make it much more affordable for all the great add-ons you get. When deciding whether or not this plan is for you, take into account all of the added features that up the price. Is your family big on using hotspot data and video streaming on the go? Those are the two major features that make this plan more expensive and separate it from the basic tier of unlimited plans. 

The unlimited premium data, as well, is best for families who, together, use hundreds of GBs every month and want to always have full-speed data no matter where they are. These are the people who love using their phones to stream audio and video and spend a ton of time outside of WiFi zones. 

There are tons of times a shared data plan can save a group lots of money on their phone bill. Friends are able to pool their plans and go in on a shared data plan together.

Shared Data Plans With MVNOs

Shared data plans with major wireless providers are excellent, but they do start at a rather high price and, for medium and low-data users, oftentimes provide way more data than they need. If you are someone who routinely uses less than 20 GB of data each month, a shared data plan through an MVNO could be the perfect way for you to gather up some friends and family members and save big on your wireless bills each month. Let’s take a look at some awesome shared data MVNO plans. 

Google Fi Simply Unlimited 

Best MVNO shared data plan for three or more users

Quick Facts: 

  • $50, $40, $25, $20 a month
  • 35 GB high-speed data
  • No contract 
  • Runs on T-Mobile and US Cellular’s network

At the top of our MVNO list is the simply unlimited plan from Google Fi. This is a great choice for families who use their phones a fair amount but don’t need unlimited high-speed data. The savings start to pile up when you have at least three lines on the plan. With great coverage, fast speeds, and a low price point, Google Fi’s simply unlimited is a great choice for a shared data plan. It is worth mentioning that this is a shared data plan in its truest sense. This is not necessarily a point for Google Fi, because it means that all of the plan’s members pull from the same 35 GB of data allocated to the plan each month. It is hard to sell this $25 plan over the T-Mobile essentials family plan, but there is a time and a place for utilizing an MVNO instead of a major wireless network. 

Mint Mobile Family Plan

Best MVNO shared data plan for mixed-data users

  • Mix and match phone plans per line
  • Prepaid Plan
  • T-Mobile’s 4G LTE and 5G networks
  • Data-dependent on plan
  • Hotspot data

Next up is Mint Mobile’s Family Plan. This plan lets every user pick their data allocation for the month. This is one of the best shared data plans for families with low data users and medium data users. A mix-and-match plan like this lets members take a cheaper option while letting medium data users get one of Mint Mobile’s more robust offerings. Unfortunately, Mint Mobile doesn’t have any plans with unlimited high-speed data, so true high-data consumers may not find a plan that gives them all they need through this service. 

This is a great choice for people wanting to find a cheaper option for their cell phone service while being able to use some mobile data when out and about. Family plans evade the major downside of Mint Mobile, which is the 12-month contract on their cheapest plans. Signing onto a three-month contract gives you sufficient leeway to decide which of Mint Mobile’s offerings works best for you. If you want to save some more money, it also lets you work on using less data each month so you can switch plans to one of their cheaper offerings. 

Cricket Wireless

Best MVNO unlimited family plan

Quick Facts

  • $55/40/30/25 per month
  • Prepaid Plan
  • AT&T’s 4G LTE and 5G networks
  • No Contract

Cricket Wireless is our top pick for an MVNO with an unlimited high-speed data family plan. While it is not a shared data plan, This is a great plan, but keep in mind how similar the prices are between this MVNO and T-Mobile’s unlimited plan. This highlights the similarity between MVNOs and major wireless companies. The big difference here is that the unlimited plan at Cricket Wireless is the third most expensive plan out of the four, and the T-Mobile Essentials plan is the least expensive out of their big three plans. Cricket Wireless customers can move down to a 10 GB mobile plan and, importantly, each line receives its own 10 GB data pool. No need to worry about sharing data with this one! 

Shared data plans are great, but there is a time and a place where an individual data plan shines. The flexibility and ease of operation of a single-line plan can be worth the extra expense. 

Shared Data Plans Versus Individual Data Plans

Shared data plans or family plans provide a lot of value to medium and high data users. As you’ve seen, the savings from three or four-line plans are tremendous, especially on unlimited data plans. If you have the people willing to join up in a family plan, we recommend it. You can take your pick of premium wireless plans without worrying about paying a huge sum every month. 

There are people, however, who get the short end of the stick when it comes to these awesome deals on unlimited plans. These are low-data users. People who spend a lot of time in WiFi zones or don’t use their phone much when out and about. If you use less than 20 GB of data each month, then an unlimited plan might lock you into a service that’s not for you. At its cheapest price, even an unlimited plan from major wireless gets affordable, but make sure to dig up any extra fees tacked on top of the flat price of the plan. 

Key Takeaways

We hope that you’ve reached a satisfactory conclusion regarding shared data plans! They are fantastic ways to save on your monthly phone bill. There are lots of options out there, and we hope this list has narrowed it down to one that works for you. If you want to see some other options, feel free to check out our comparison tool, which will list all the best deals in your area. 

If you know you want a shared data plan, the final decision is whether you want an MVNO data plan or a plan from a major wireless network. Both have their strengths, and in the end it comes down to whether or not you want to pay a little extra for the certainty that your data will always be at the highest possible speed. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is data sharing?

A shared data cell phone plan is one where every user on the group plan draws data from a combined allocation. While lots of shared data plans draw from an unlimited data allocation, limited data shared plans either pool the data for everyone or give out an individual pool of data for each line. 

What is Verizon’s cheapest unlimited plan? 

Verizon’s cheapest unlimited plan is their Welcome Unlimited plan, which starts at $65 a month for one line. While this basic unlimited plan does not grant access to their Ultra Wideband speeds, users will enjoy unlimited data on their nationwide 5G network. 

Is it cheaper to have a shared phone plan?

Yes! Multi-line plans come with pretty amazing discounts. If you can get a group of people together that all agree on what they want out of the plan, a shared phone plan is a fantastic option. 

What data plan has the most coverage?

Verizon is currently winning the race for nationwide coverage, with AT&T and T-Mobile close behind. These three major companies provide excellent coverage and shared data plan packages on their lightning-fast 5G networks. 

Is T-Mobile better than Verizon? 

Well, it depends. Verizon is a cut above when it comes to additional perks on top of their unlimited data plans, but T-Mobile has fantastic data speeds and greater 5G coverage than its rival. On top of that, T-Mobile’s international data plans are far better than what Verizon can offer.

Sara Nuss
Sara Nuss is a journalist from Pittsburgh, PA that specializes in wireless, dewi, phone plan advice & blockchain.
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