The earthquake shaking the RV mobile internet world this week is the news that Verizon has taken over all Millenicom Hotspot Plan customer accounts.
Millenicom has a long history of offering good service and a great overall deal to the data-hungry RV market, and for the past six years they have had a relationship with Verizon where Millenicom offered data-only service on Verizon's network under Millenicom's name.
That arrangement has now been suddenly dissolved by Verizon, and Verizon has taken over all the lines that Millenicom used to manage. Despite the wording in their initial e-mail being a bit confusing, this was not a buy-out of Millenicom or their customer accounts.
This change fundamentally impacts Millenicom's business, as they are now a Mobile Internet Service Provider with no customers and no services to offer. We've learned that the bulk of the Millenicom staff has been laid off, and there is no one answering the support chat, e-mails, or phone number anymore. We certainly feel sorry for everyone who has lost their jobs, and to those of us who have depended on Millenicom as the core of our mobile internet arsenal, it feels like losing a good friend.
The behind the scenes details that led to this sudden shift are pointless to speculate on, and the full story may never be known. All we know for certain was that this seems to have caught nearly everyone involved by surprise.
But the behind the scenes details shouldn't matter to Millenicom customers who are now wondering about the future of their beloved data plans.
What matters is the practical impacts of the situation, and figuring out what is next for each of us.
Here is some further information that we've been able to piece together....
The Bad News
- Verizon has no idea who you are... yet. Millenicom had bulk accounts with Verizon, and now Verizon has to convert those accounts over to individual accounts. Verizon was just given the Millenicom customer list on Thursday, and this will take time. In the meantime, if you contact Verizon for any sort of information or support, don't except them to know what you're talking about or to have clear answers. You're not in their system yet, and the rank-and-file Verizon support staff and store workers will especially have no clue what a Millenicom is. We're seeing a lot of information flying around forums and the web sharing highly variable and even contradictory encounters with Verizon by Millenicom customers calling in for guidance - this is because Verizon does not have any answers to give anyone yet.
Millenicom has no control over the plans anymore, and no way to provide customer or technical support. This means that until Verizon finishes setting up new accounts, there is very literally nowhere to go for support if you have a problem with your line or if you experience any speed throttling issues.
- Verizon hasn't given any official timetable on how quickly they will get new accounts set up, and what the new plan options might be for former Millenicom customers who choose to continue on as Verizon customers. For those making decisions on how to best take advantage of the October double data deals, you need to be prepared that you might not get all your questions answered in time. If you have decisions to make before you lock in a double data deal, we recommend setting yourself a 'decision date' before October 31 and be ready to act on it - regardless of if you have heard from Verizon.
The Good News
- Millenicom asked Verizon that no current accounts get cut off for services you already paid for, and that the transition to Verizon be seamless for all Millenicom customers. So hopefully there will be no down days, no matter how long it takes for Verizon to get a new offer put together.
- No one should bill you come November without your authorization - At this point Millenicom has no relationship with you and should not be billing you any further. You were on a month-to-month no contract plan with them that has now been ended. If they do, you should refute the charge with your credit card company. As far as we are aware, your billing information was NOT forwarded to Verizon and they have no authority to bill you directly until they establish a direct relationship with you. Of course, that does mean that come November 2, it's entirely possible your service could be cut off if that has not happened.
- There appears to be no one watching the usage meter and enforcing the 20GB monthly limit this month. Until Verizon takes over and sets up new individual accounts for those who choose to sign on as Verizon customers, there appears to be no usage enforcement. This isn't an invitation or encouragement to abuse the accounts, but the accounts are at present behind the scenes actually "unlimited" lines with no overage charges.
- Hopefully Verizon is planning to make an offer to current Millenicom customers to encourage them to stay on. There is a chance that if you wait out the chaos, Millenicom customers may be offered a grandfathered-in data plan that is better than anything that Verizon offers directly. If Verizon chooses to continue Millenicom's pricing, you may be getting 20GB for $90/mo instead of the $130/mo (plus taxes & fees) that Verizon currently offers. But this is just speculation right now.
- The mobile hotspots provided by Millenicom are unlocked and can be used with other Verizon plans, you just need to get a new SIM card. The current SIM cards can not (yet?) be migrated to another plan, but Verizon can issue new SIM cards for free via mail or directly at corporate stores. And affiliate stores generally sell them for less than $15. If you're considering a Verizon double data deal promotion, remember - all you need to lock in before October 31 is the data plan (which will require device lines attached to them.). Everything Verizon has published however indicates that you will be able add/delete lines later without impacting your promotional data.
What To Do?
It seems logical that Verizon will want to convince Millenicom customers to stay on board, and for most people it is probably worth waiting to see how enticing Verizon makes the offer. If you don't like what Verizon offers, you can easily sell your Hotspot or activate it on a regular Verizon shared data plan instead. And if Verizon offers you a "grandfathered" data plan that is cheaper than current public rates, you might even be able to sell that too.
But if you jump ship now and move your Millenicom hotspot to another plan, you will miss out on whatever options are offered.
It's a tough spot, especially for folks trying to make decisions between 'double data deals' by the Oct 31 deadline and/or considering options like taking over unlimited grandfathered in plans.
We are keeping our Cellular Data ‘Wars’ – Guide to Picking Your October Plans post updated as we learn more details with more in depth guidance for our Mobile Internet Aficionado premium members on how to best navigate the changing options.
Until Verizon catches up and starts contacting customers, there's not much else to do but wait or make other plans.
Answering questions about November Service & Billing:
For alternatives to Millenicom for high data users who need nationwide access, here's our recommendations:
Some of the detailed content we've created for our MIA premium members to help in this process:
- Cellular Data ‘Wars’ – Guide to Picking Your Plans (October 2014 Options)
- Acquiring and Assumption of Liability (AOL) of a Grandfathered Verizon Unlimited Data Plan