When Verizon launched the new Verizon Unlimited Plan in February, the fine print clearly stated that hotspot / tethering usage would be limited to 10GB per billing period - with tethering speeds supposed to be throttled to a glacial 600kbps once that limit was crossed.
In August, Verizon increased that cap to 15GB per device.
This added a lot of confusion for folks, and many assumed they had truly unlimited data.
But that seems to be changing this week.
Several Verizon customers have been noticing that their mobile hotspot usage tally has been showing something other than zero - including our own account.
Which means, we anticipate that we'll soon start to hear reports of mobile hotspot use being throttled to the promised 600 kbps threshold after 15GB is used.
Verizon's 15GB Mobile Hotspot Cap
As a reminder, here are some details of the cap that we've reported on before:
- The 15GB limit is distinct from the 22GB network management limit. (see below for an explanation of the difference).
- The limit was per line (not per account).
- The 15GB limit applied to ALL hotspot/tethering usage.
- The limit was even intended to apply to mobile hotspots (Jetpacks, MiFis, etc) too - capping them at an effective 15GB/mo per line.
- This limit does NOT apply to grandfathered unlimited accounts - just Verizon's new unlimited accounts launched this year, including Beyond Unlimited.
Should you get a notification from Verizon, remember this is not a new limitation, it's just enforcing the cap they already disclosed.
15GB Tethering Limit vs 22GB Network Management
The 15GB tethering data limit is NOT the same thing as Verizon's 22GB network management threshold.
Verizon's new plans are ALL subject to network management after 22GB of usage in a month. When you cross the limit, Verizon may slow you down relative to other customers - but ONLY when towers you are connected to are congested.
Late at night or in less busy areas you will still get full speed.
The 15GB tethering limit on there other hand applies only to hotspot / tethering usage, not to usage directly on a smartphone or tablet. But when you cross the 15GB limit, your ability to share your connection is slowed down to 600kbps 24/7 until your bill cycle resets - no matter what the level of tower congestion.
If you are using a Jetpack on the new Verizon unlimited plan, you will never make it to the 22GB network management threshold in a month. You will be slowed to a crawl long before you get there.
The grandfathered classic Verizon UDP however is not subject to the 22GB network management limit, nor the 15GB tethering limit.
Need more than 15GB?
For travelers like RVers and cruisers, mobile hotspot is where it is at. While the carriers don't intend to be a home internet replacement (which is why these caps are in place), for those without options for cable or DSL, cellular data is what is used to keep laptops and other devices online.
Caps like these are especially felt.
Verizon's network is tops in terms of nationwide coverage, and plays a central role in many mobile internet setups. So if you need more than 15GB of mobile hotspot usage on the network, here are the legitimate ways to get it:
- Add Additional Lines: You can have up to 10 lines on a Verizon account. Smartphone lines are as little as $50/each (for Beyond Unlimited) and tables & hotspots can be added for $20/each. Each will receive an additional 15GB of high speed hotspot data. Since data is not shared between devices on unlimited accounts, you will need to switch which device or SIM card you are utilizing.
- Data Boost: A little known feature of the Unlimited Plans is that customers can do a once-a-month data boost to get 5GB of additional high speed mobile hotspot usage for $35. That only amounts to 20GB in a month but it might be just enough to get by. For more information on this option: Data Boost FAQ.
- Data Only Plans: For dedicated data devices like Jetpacks and MiFis, Verizon does still offer tiered data plans up to 100GB/month. Just be prepared for sticker shock, prices range from $110/month for 20GB to $710/month for 100GB. For more information: Data Only Plans
- Tiered Data Plans & Pop-Data: Verizon still does offer their S, M & L plans to new consumers (with 8GB of less of data - including mobile hotspot use). These plans have a feature to enable Pop Data, which allows for sessions of 30 or 60 minute unlimited data for a couple bucks. This may be ideal for those who just need bursts of data throughout the month. For Information: Verizon's Pop Data
- Grandfathered Unlimited Data Plans (gUDPs): The plans Verizon retired in 2011 are not currently subject to these terms and include truly unlimited mobile hotspot use and no network management. They are getting harder and harder to obtain and maintain, but there are still options for both acquiring a line or renting one. For more information: Our Guide to Grandfathered Unlimited Data Plans (some portions member only)
Other Unlimited Tethering Options
Verizon has made things increasingly difficult - but other carriers have actually made unlimited tethering much easier. Here's some of the current best options:
- AT&T's new Unlimited Plus plan allows you to add mobile hotspot lines for as little as $20/mo (if you only have one smartphone line, the addition of a hotspot line switches the plan to a multi line account for a minimum price of $145/month) - and while these lines are subject to network management after 22GB, they are NOT subject to any throttling or hard caps on usage.
- Another popular option was the Connected Car $20/month stand alone plan, however we have not seen the Mobley device in stock since late July - but keep checking.
- T-Mobile's One+ International plan for $95/month includes unlimited high speed mobile hotspot use from a smartphone, and remains a great option. Those 55+ receive a $20/month discount.
We are also tracking several other unlimited data options that are not direct from the carriers, which can be found in our Unlimited Data Guide.
These plans, and unlimited data options from other providers, are constantly changing - so do be sure to keep your eye out for the latest developments.
- The Four Major US Carriers – Which is Best for RVers?
- Understanding Unlimited Cellular Data Plans: Network Management, Throttling & Mobile Hotspot Usage