Two of the sweetest words to a nomad's ear: "Unlimited Data".
Especially data that you can share with laptops, tablets, gaming systems and for streaming video to replace a 'home internet connection.'
However, all of the unlimited data plans offered directly from the carriers today have gotchas - subject to network management (slowing down while on congested towers), limits on mobile hotspot use and video streaming optimization.
Even Verizon's new "unlimited" data plans have now have limits of 15-20GB of high speed mobile hotspot/tethering and can be slowed down while on congested towers. They're not the type of internet plan most nomads are seeking.
But Verizon's older grandfathered legacy 'original' unlimited data plans had no such limits - no slow downs and no restrictions on mobile hotspot use. These are the plans that are in demand by RVers & cruisers seeking a nationwide cellular plan.
But these plans retired in 2011, and obtaining them as a new customer is a bit on the difficult & risky side. But if you have one of these sweet plans, they are worth their weight in gold.
It is unbelievably freeing to be able to use the internet without constantly worrying about monthly data caps, overage charges, or punitive speed throttling. But these plans do come with risks and you do need to understand the trade offs and stay on top of protecting them.
Can You Still Get a Grandfathered Verizon Unlimited Data Plan (gUDP)?
Maybe? - But with LOTS of Caution & Risk!
In 2011 Verizon retired their previous unlimited data plans and they have continued to (mostly) grandfather these plans in. Given Verizon's new "unlimited" data plans, these older plans are commonly referred to as gUDPs (grandfathered unlimited data plans) or Legacy Verizon Unlimited Data Plans.
However, over the years Verizon has been shutting down these plans - especially those 'spawned' in ways that are against their terms of service. And Verizon officially changed their policy in 2014 to allow transferring legit plans to new owners (but the process still works.. sometimes.)
And some corporate accounts still have the ability to keep and create new unlimited data lines for their employees - and some rent those lines out (usually against Verizon's terms of service.)
And while it's possible to still get these plans and utilize them, there are some extra considerations to make before plunking down potentially big bucks to obtain and rely on one. We're tracking this constantly, and the below guidance will be updated as we learn anything addition:
Current Verizon Unlimited Data Plan Guidance
Fall 2018 Update: June saw a round of terminations targeting gUDP lines newly created by methods utilized by many data brokers. We anticipate these terminations to continue as the Verizon compliance team works through their audits. You can still acquire new lines by brokers still in the business, but anticipate those lines to eventually be terminated. Rental vendors are continuing to be regularly shut down and many public vendors are currently listing their availability as 'out of stock'.
Verizon's change in policy on selling phones unlocked has us also concerned they could rescind their policy on allowing phone SIMS to be used in Jetpacks and routers in the future.
Verizon announced in August 2017 that they will begin throttling video to 720p on smartphones, and 1080p on tablets and tethered devices. Then in October, Verizon announced that in early November, you can add 4K video streaming back on for $10/mo - this does apply to grandfather plans and we have step by step instructions added to the member portion of this guide on how to do it.
But Why Are Verizon Plans So Attractive?
Verizon built the foundation of its LTE network off of a 2008 auction win of spectrum that came with strings attached - in particular requiring Verizon to adhere to stricter open access rules that none of the other carriers need to abide by.
This means that Verizon has less ability to implement throttling, or restrictions against tethering & hotspot usage. However with the new FCC and administration, this could all be changing.
All of the other carriers offer unlimited data plans again, but they all come with 'network management' and/or restrict usage of mobile hotspot.
More Info: Understanding Unlimited Data Plans
Caution: All of this can change at any moment. When Verizon first offered these unlimited lines, internet usage wasn't as widespread as it is today - and they would love nothing more than to get rid of these plans. And they are continually making moves to do so.
These are grandfathered plans, and even if you have a contract - Verizon can change the terms or terminate accounts while charging early termination fees. Or they could decide to no longer allow these lines to be used in data only devices.
There is inherent risk that these plans can go away, or be changed in substantial ways that make them less attractive.
We can make absolutely no promises on what the future holds.
But we do promise to help our members best navigate the changes.
So, How do You Get a gUDP?
There are three primary ways for consumers to gain access to one of these grandfathered lines, and a third option to obtain an alternative unlimited Verizon plan:
Option 1: Rental/Lease ($125 - 249/month)
Those who have a corporate agreement with Verizion with multiple unlimited lines offer access to their lines on a month-to-month basis (often against the terms of their service with the carrier).
You pay the vendor for use of the line, and do not have a direct relationship with Verizon.
Rental Vendor Warning: Starting in 2016, many rental vendors became under audit by Verizon for this practice. Several have been shut down for contract breach, and others given warnings to reduce usage. The shut downs have continued as Verizon hunts down rental vendors and turns off lines, and we see new waves constantly.
If you choose this route, be sure to have a back-up plan
shouldwhen your plan is terminated with little warning. Vendors still in business are constantly shifting lines around as their various accounts get caught.
- Upfront costs are set by the vendor, and usually include the purchase of a SIM card and possibly a mobile hotspot device (Jetpack/MiFi). If they are including a MiFi device, make sure it is a current model so it supports all of Verizon's coverage. Check our Review Center for the current best options.
- Expect to pay $5 - 250 upfront depending on what is included.
- Monthly costs are also set by the vendor, and tend to range from $125 - 249/month (based on current market demand). This is a month-to-month agreement, which gives you flexibility to discontinue service as needed. But remember, no-contract goes two ways - we have heard several reports of unexpected price increases by vendors.
- This method is best for those who need a flexible short-term plan (such as a seasonal travel), can't qualify for a Verizon account (bad credit, international citizenship, etc.) or just don't want to go through the AOL process.
- Data Caps: After the summer 2016 crack down, some rental vendors now have data caps ranging from 90-500GB a month.
- Have a Back-Up Option: We highly recommend having an alternate way online if you rely on one of these plans. Remember, these plans can get shut down with little notice by Verizon (for contract breach, your vendor not paying their bill, etc). We have heard feedback that some whose vendor got shut down also had their MiFi/Jetpacks blacklisted by Verizon (thus they could not be re-activated on other lines of service).
We now keep our rental/vendor list on our Unlimited Data Plan Guide - scroll to the bottom and look within the Verizon Tab.
Option 2: Owning Your Own Line or AOL ($15-95/month)
There are actually two methods within this method.
One is going through the official AOL process to acquire a legit legacy unlimited data plan from an individual. Verizon does not officially support transferring gUDPs by this method - and we're hearing less and less reports of successful AOLs while keeping the gUDP feature.
The other method is utilizing a 'data broker' to spawn you a new line from either a corporate account or meddling with Verizon's systems. These methods are definitely against terms of service, and Verizon is on an active hunt to terminate lines created this way. We're not here to tell you not to try this method, but do so with open eyes as to the risks - you're pretty much guaranteed that at some point in the future Verizon will catch up and shut these lines down (and since these are postpaid plans, they have your personal information too and you could be stuck with ETFs.)
Have a gUDP line you want to sell? Unfortunately, with the AOL process no longer reliably working - the market for selling gUDP lines has pretty much dried up.
The basic process goes like this:
- You purchase a line from an existing account holder or hire a data broker.
- You then have to navigate through Verizon's AOL process to take over the account, or trust your data broker to make the necessary changes to your account. It takes some tenacity to navigate getting it done.
- Upfront costs fluctuate based on supply & demand, plan/contract offered and service provided. Current range is $250 - 1200. Expect to pay on the higher side if you want to use a vendor who walks you through the process and guarantees successful AOL.
- Monthly costs are fixed and set by Verizon and can range from $15-95/month depending on how the account is setup. Using the methods we outline in our guide, most our members end up paying $44.95 (plus taxes & fees).
- This option usually works out financially best for those seeking a longer term solution. The upfront costs (versus going rental) usually balance out after 6-8 months. Of course, there's always risk Verizon could discontinue these plans at any time.
Option 3: Flashed Devices ($5/month)
There are those who have discovered ways to flash the identification information of older prepaid Verizon flip phones onto modern day Verizon hotspot devices - allowing the hotspot devices to get online using data plans that were originally intended for downloading ringtones or checking e-mail.
This practice is VERY much against the terms of service with Verizon - and there may even be questions as to the legality of this practice (we're not lawyers). We've had it on good authority that the Verizon Compliance team is on an aggressive path to shutting this method down.
July/August 2018 Update: There are widespread reports of the 3G & 4G version of this plan being terminated. Data brokers seem to have left eBay and websites are shut down. There may be others who figure this method out in the future who pop-up - but expect Verizon to continue to hunt these down.
We're not here to tell you not to try this method, but do so with open eyes as to the risks - not just in this plan being shut down by Verizon in the future, but potential legal liability if you're caught (as this is prepaid, there is limited risks of Verizon being able to track the plan down to you personally however.)
With this method you pay an individual a few hundred bucks to flash a device for you, and then you setup prepaid billing for $5/month to keep the account open with Verizon.
- Upfront costs are set by the vendor, and usually include the purchase of a mobile hotspot device (Jetpack/MiFi). If they are including a MiFi device, make sure it is a current model so it supports all of Verizon's coverage. Check our Review Center for the current best options. Expect to pay $150 - 300 upfront depending on what is included. Note, because these devices are flashed (aka 'hacked') - once Verizon shuts down service, these hotspots essentially become bricks and can not be re-activated.
- Monthly costs are set by Verizon, and the plans used in the background tend to only require a minimal balance be kept on your prepaid account with Verizon. Some plans have the ability to use a service like CallingMart.com to purchase prepaid service even with auto renewals each month. The minimal prepaid purchase is $5/month - thus what the cost of the service becomes.
- Data Caps: There are no known data caps with this method. Just be aware that these particular plans were never intended for use beyond a few MB a month - so high usage does make them more visible to Verizon.
- Have a Back-Up Option: We highly recommend having an alternate way online if you rely on one of these plans. Remember, these plans can get shut down with little notice by Verizon. And because your hotspot device has been flashed, it is very difficult to make the device usable on other plans.
- Other gotchas:
- Canadian IP Address: There are multiple reports of some plans routing through a Canadian IP address - which makes it look like you're located in Canada. This can block access to some US content, such as video streaming services - without the use of a VPN service.
- Prepaid Plan: These plans are on Verizon's prepaid service - so be sure to check their prepaid map for coverage. There are some subtle differences in coverage as compared to their postpaid map (which includes more roaming partners.)
- Who This is For: This method is best for those who don't mind a plan that may not be legit AND need a flexible short-term plan, can't qualify for a Verizon account (bad credit, international citizenship, etc.) or just looking for the absolute lowest monthly cost.
August 2018: DrWireless.US and other eBay vendors have all disappeared after the shut-downs.
Here is one vendor who may still be in business: Vzwunlocker.com.
More Information On these Verizon UDP Plans:
Truly Unlimited: Becoming An Endangered Species
Back when cellular networks were slow and users were less data-addicted - carriers experimented with offering unlimited data plans at the top tiers of their pricing menus.
At the time, a heavy user might only ever consume 2GB a month, and tethering laptops and other devices was a rarity. Even the biggest data hogs weren't making much of a dent in the cellular networks, and thus were typically overlooked.
New devices were coming on to the scene with faster processors and bigger screens, encouraging people to use more and more data. Netflix and other streaming video and music sites were surging in popularity too, offering gigs of entertainment just a click away.
Tethering your laptop to get online via cellular was becoming a primary connection for some, not just a way to quickly check email while on the go. Working remotely, homeschooling families and as a primary means of entertainment became more of a norm especially for travelers.
Suddenly even an average user could easily consume many gigabytes on a cellular device... a day.
And too many people were starting to realize - why even bother dealing with WiFi when you had unlimited fast cellular data to play with? Some people even began to brag about cutting their home cable lines, and using over 500GB of data (or more!) a month on unlimited cellular plans.
With more and more people making exponentially increasing use of the physically finite cellular spectrum, it is little wonder that carriers began to freak out.
Here's a brief re-cap of the history of these plans, and the changes we have tracked on them over the years:
- Verizon Complicates Unlimited Plans - Adds "Above Unlimited" along with Beyond Unlimited & Go Unlimited Posted on: June 14, 2018
- ALERT: Verizon Now Enforcing 10GB Hotspot Limit with New "Unlimited" Plan! Posted on: April 18, 2017
- Verizon Extends Grandfathered UDP Cancelation Deadline Until March 16th Posted on: February 15, 2017
- Verizon Brings Back Unlimited Data Plans - With Some Catches Posted on: February 12, 2017
- Breaking News: Verizon Aggressively Moves to Cancel High Usage Unlimited Data Plans Posted on: January 6, 2017
- Verizon Introduces PopData: Unlimited is Back, In 30 Minute Chunks Posted on: October 13, 2016
- Verizon Crackdown on Unlimited Plans Continues: Lines Used In T1114 Routers Being Canceled Posted on: September 20, 2016
- [Updated] Verizon Update: Three Way Assault Underway on Unlimited Data Plans Posted on: July 27, 2016
- Breaking News: Verizon Moving Against Unlimited Plans? Posted on: July 20, 2016
- Verizon Begins 'Phase 2' of Unlimited Data Plan Price Hikes Posted on: April 1, 2016
While these lines are technically smartphone lines, Verizon does not currently put any restrictions on mobile hotspot use - except they have terminated accounts where the SIM card has been put in to some home routers, like the T1114. You can either subscribe to their official tethering plan for $30/month, or just simply put the SIM card you activate on your smartphone into a MiFi/Jetpack.
Caution: Do NOT use these plans in Verizon's T1114 home router - Verizon has shut down accounts that use this device. We believe this is specific to this type of device in how it handles voice service and SIM cards, and will not carry over to use in Jetpacks and other routers. But we do consider there to be some increased risk. Our members have access to our risk analysis chart.
Here's our guide to swapping SIM Cards: Changing SIM Card Sizes: Cutting Down & Adapting Up
Under the new FCC however, there is suspicion that Verizon may in the future place restrictions on use of these plans in data only devices.
In July 2016, Verizon started targeting 'extraordinarily' high bandwidth users for termination.
Initially, those in contract have not been targeted, but about 1200 high usage out of contract accounts 'well in excess' of 100GB a month were terminated in July 2016 and another 8200 in January 2017 with reports of customers using under 100GB. We advise caution going forward.
If you're not in contract, there seems to be no current 'safe' amount we can advise particularly after the January 2017 termination round being so aggressive. We have heard speculation that now Verizon is sending out automatic termination letters once an out of contract line averages 100GB of usage over the past 3 months (but have seen no reports of this.)
If you're in contract, you're probably safe using higher amounts - but we still advise moderation. Should you not be able to extend your contract in the future, remember - you will be subject to the current thresholds for high usage. Or, you could adopt an 'enjoy it while lasts' attitude.
In the rest of this guide below (which is member only), we share what we're tracking in the industry based on our own research and member feedback as they go through the process. We also have contact information further data brokers.
This guide is updated constantly.
Included in this Guide
This 20,000+ word article covers the Verizon Unlimited Plan - how to keep it if you have it, and the remaining options to obtain such a plan for yourself.
- Updated Guidance For Existing Plan Holders after June 2018 Termination Round
- Video Overview of UDPs
- Options for Acquiring a Verizon Unlimited Data Plan
- Pros & Cons of each method - Which is right for your situation?
- Shopping for Plans - What to Look For
- Navigating the Assumption of Liability Process
- Tips for existing Verizon customers wanting to add a UDP line
- Switching Devices
- Monthly Plans and Costs
- Maintaining, Using & Protecting Your Plan
- Recommended Tweaks to Make to your UDP Account to Save the Most Money
- Disabling Video Throttle
- Ways to Share Your Data - Tethering and Hotspot Options (including, using your UPD in a Jetpack/MiFi)
- Knowing your Verizon gUDP Risks
- Protecting Your Unlimited Plan into the Future
- Regulatory History (Why are Verizon unlimited plans different?)
- >>> Extending Your Contract (and keeping $29.99 pricing!) <<<
The rest of this in-depth guide will walk-you through the steps to obtain a Verizon Unlimited Plan and keep it as protected as possible going forward.
Due to the depth & frequency of changes to this guide, it is part of our exclusive offerings for our premium members.
If there are major changes that impact UDPs, our members also get e-mail alerts to keep them 'in the know' and we help them navigate the next steps.
Who This Guide Is Intended For:
This guide is part of our resources to help keep RVers & cruisers online in their travels. It complements our other content on signal enhancing, routers, satellite, WiFi, TV & entertainment, other cellular plans and solutions that might be part of a mobile internet arsenal.
This guide is NOT intended to be a stand-alone 'Verizon Unlimited Data Plan Guide' for the general public, and we have no interest in selling it as such - please do not join just to gain access to this article. There are plenty of other places on the web tracking this topic that you can find with a little searching.
To proceed with this guide, please log in above, or
Join as a Mobile Internet Aficionados member
DISCLAIMER: Before you attempt acquiring a Verizon Unlimited Data Plan, realize that you are doing so at your own risk.
There is a chance you might buy the wrong thing, or you might accidentally agree to an account change that loses the unlimited plan, or that you encounter a Verizon rep along the way who makes your life difficult.
And it is pretty much guaranteed that if you acquire a line via a data broker, your line WILL be terminated at some future point. And you may be liable for early termination fees.
There is also the always present risk that Verizon might change around the terms of how they treat unlimited plans entirely - just days, weeks, months, or years after you get the account. They could decide to discontinue the plans entirely, throttle speeds, implement data caps, increase prices or cancel your plan while demanding an EFT payment.
You are responsible for making sure you stay 'in the know' as to any changes that transpire that might impact your plan. Make sure you're getting our MIA exclusive newsletters for our alerts (and reading them), subscribe to our Special Announcement Verizon UDP Forum thread, tune into our special guidance webinars when hosted and put your contract expiration date on an alert calendar so you don't get caught off guard!