While the 5GB monthly allowance is standard these days, many 3G service providers used to offer \"unlimited\" service. In March of 2008 Verizon switched to the 5GB limit, and Sprint followed suit in the summer of 2008, but both providers did something special for their existing customers: they \"grandfathered in\" their contracts and allowed subscribers who signed up before the terms of service changed to keep their unlimited accounts. As long as those customers don\'t make any changes to their accounts, they can continue to use their 3G service without having to worry about overage charges.
Since overage charges can really add up if you\'re a heavy user who often goes beyond 5GB in a month, customers who have an old unlimited Sprint or Verizon contract understandably don\'t want to lose that benefit. Most customers understand that if they don\'t do anything at all to their accounts, they don\'t have to worry about losing their unlimited status, but what if you need (or simply want) a new modem? We often hear customers tell us, \"I need a new modem, but I\'m on the old unlimited data plan - am I going to lose that if I get a new modem?\"
As a general rule, as long as you don\'t sign a new 2-year contract and are swapping to a 3G-only device, you will KEEP YOUR UNLIMITED STATUS. To replace your modem while preserving your account status, you need to make sure you do an ESN swap, NOT a true upgrade. Upgrading is very tempting - the mobile broadband carriers will typically offer you a cheap or even free modem if you upgrade and extend your contract by another two years, but this will automatically put you under the new terms of service, which include the 5GB allowance! Doing an ESN swap will cost you more than an upgrade, because you will need to purchase the modem outright instead of getting a subsidized one from the carrier, but you will be able to keep your unlimited status. 3Gstore has a variety of low-cost refurbished modems that are perfect for folks who want to swap to a new device without losing their unlimited account status.
There is one very important exception to the \"doing an ESN swap will not change my contract or plan\" rule, and it applies to Sprint 3G/4G devices. Sprint\'s 3G/4G devices (like the Overdrive, 250U, and U600) REQUIRE Sprint\'s 3G/4G plan, which provides unlimited 4G service but has the 5GB allowance on the 3G side, with overage charges thereafter. This is the ONLY plan that you can activate Sprint\'s 3G/4G devices with - you CANNOT activate a 3G/4G device on a 3G-only plan. For people that live in a 4G area, this isn\'t a problem since the 3G/4G plan provides unlimited 4G access, but for people that will mainly be relying on the 3G side, giving up your unlimited 3G service might not be worth making the switch just yet. If you have a 3G device with an unlimited Sprint plan and are considering doing a swap to a 3G/4G device, you should only do so if you actually have access to 4G and plan to use it; otherwise, you may want to wait until 4G is available in your area.
One more thing to note is that while an unlimited contract is important to heavy users, most users don\'t use anywhere close to 5GB - if you fall into that category, it may make more sense for you to do a traditional upgrade (so that you can get a cheap or free Sprint or Verizon device) or even consider the no-contract DataJack 3G service, which has the 5GB limit but costs less per month.
If you have an unlimited 3G account, the bottom line is that you CAN switch to another device and keep your unlimited status, as long as it\'s another 3G device that you\'re swapping to and you don\'t do a true upgrade - but you should evaluate your usage habits to see if it might make more sense to accept the 5GB allowance and save some money.