Review: The Verizon Plan / More Everything by Verizon (Cellular Data Plans)

verizon-plan-cellular-data-plans-review

From the June 2017 release of our iOS app 'Coverage? - showing LTE coverage for Verizon.

Ask in almost any RVing group about which carrier is best, and you'll hear Verizon mentioned more often than any other. And there's a good reason for that. When it comes to raw nationwide coverage, Verizon wins hands down.

Coverage & Speed Notes

Verizon is the largest cellular carrier in the USA - whether you count the number of customers served, or the raw square miles of LTE coverage.

Verizon's popularity though is also its weakness. Though in general Verizon typically delivers great performance, in some areas Verizon's network can be severely overloaded and slow when other carriers are still humming along.

Particularly at major RV rallies and events, Verizon towers are known to melt down to being barely functional.

So while Verizon makes sense as a primary network - if connectivity is critical to you it is smart to have a backup plan on board too.

TIP: Verizon currently takes advantage of four LTE bands - 2, 4, 5, and 13 - in the future band 66 will become important. Older devices that support just one or two of these bands still dominate the airwaves, and they can get stuck on an overcrowded channel while newer Verizon devices are blazing along an order of magnitude faster in the cellular equivalent of a car pool lane.

If you have older devices - keep an upgrade in mind, particular if you notice friends and neighbors getting better Verizon performance.

Verizon Plans & Features

On July 7, 2016 Verizon introduced the 'New' Verizon Plan, and then in February 2017 Verizon revised things further introducing the Verizon Unlimited option, Verizon's first official unlimited offering since 2011. In August 2017, they revised their Unlimited Options further.

This current Verizon plans are now:

  • Small - 2GB - $35/mo (plus $20/line access fees)
  • Medium - 4GB - $50/mo (plus $20/line access fees)
  • Large - 8GB - $70/mo (plus $20/line access fees)
  • Go Unlimited - $75/month (single line), $65/line (2 lines), $50/line (3 lines), $40/line (4+ lines)
  • Beyond Unlimited - $85/mo (single line), $80/line (2 lines), $60/line (2 lines), $50/line (4+ lines)

+ Additional devices:  You also pay an additional "line access fee" to add tablets and Jetpack hotspots at $20/mo each, and you can have up to ten lines sharing a plan.

Verizon also has data-only shared plans for customers that do not have a smartphone line, though there is no unlimited option and the costs for large buckets of data quickly gets stratospheric (100GB for $730/month).

Here are some of the most interesting policies and perks of the current Verizon plans:

  • Unlimited Talk & Text
  • Carryover Data: Verizon now includes 'Carry Over Data' on tiered data plans.  If you don't use all of your allotted data in your current billing period, it rolls over to be used the next month. But you can not build up a balance - the unused data expires after just one month.
  • Safety Mode & Data Boost: Verizon's tiered data plans now include the ability to turn on 'Safety Mode' to eliminate the risk of surprise overage charges for using too much data. With Safety Mode enabled, data will simply be slowed down for the remainder of the month to 2G-speed (128 kbps) once the high speed data is used up. If you do need more fast data, you can manually purchase a "Data Boost" for $15/GB as needed.
  • Mobile Hotspot Use: All Verizon plans include mobile hotspot use. However there are limits on the "unlimited" plans:
    • Go Unlimited: Mobile hotspot speeds are always capped at 600 kbps speeds.
    • Beyond Unlimited: Includes 15GB of 4G high speed mobile hotspot before reducing to 600kbps for the remainder of the month. This 15GB usage cap applies even to standalone Jetpack hotspot lines sharing an unlimited plan.
  • Video Throttling: New as of August 23, 2017, all Verizon plans (even legacy and tiered data plans) are subject to 720p video resolution caps on smartphones, and 1080p on tablets & tethered devices.
  • Unlimited Domestic Roaming: Verizon imposes no limits on domestic roaming for calls or data when you are off their network, making Verizon's coverage map seem even larger than it already is. The new Unlimited plan though claims that domestic roaming may be capped at 2G speeds, and Verizon has sent out termination letters to unlimited customers who primarily utilize their extended LTE network coverage.
  • International Roaming: For customers with the Unlimited plan, roaming in Mexico and Canada includes 500MB/day of high-speed data per line. Verizon plans offer customers the ability to purchase a 'Travel Pass' which allows you to use your tiered data plan internationally. In Mexico & Canada the cost is $5/day, and in other countries it is $10/day. Charges are only imposed on days you actually use the plan.

Unlimited Data Options:

There are now four options for unlimited data on Verizon:

  • 'New' Unlimited Data Plan - Beginning August 23, 2017 Verizon has changed their unlimited data plans to have two choices.
    • Go Unlimited: This plan is always subject to network management (you may be slowed down during times of congestion), video is always capped to 480p on smartphones (720p on tablets) and mobile hotspot use is always restricted to 600 kbps.
    • Beyond Unlimited: This plan allows for HD video resolution on smartphones capped at 720p and 1080p for tablets & tethered devices. But this plan IS subject to network management once an unlimited customer has used more than 22GB on a line in a month. Once this threshold is reached, Verizon "may prioritize usage behind other customers in the event of network congestion". High speed mobile hotspot is capped at 15GB per month.
  • Grandfathered Unlimited Data Plans - Last offered in 2011, these grandfathered plans offer unthrottled high speed Verizon data that is NOT subject to network management after 22GB of usage but are subject to Verizon's video throttling (new August 2017). The plan supports unlimited mobile hotspot usage too. You can even use this plan inside a Jetpack and share an unlimited connection with other devices. This is still the best plan out there for most RVers seeking a home internet replacement, but you have to jump through a lot of hoops to get one of these rare old plans. We track the options in our Guide to Verizon Unlimited Data Plans. Note though that these plans have no (affordable) support for any international roaming, unlike the new Verizon Unlimited plan.
  • PopData: For those on tiered data plans, Verizon allows the purchase of 30 minute ($2) or 60 minute ($3) sessions of unlimited "PopData" when needed. This is an interesting option for those needing to handle a bulk upload (posting to YouTube), but for most people this is just a gimmick.

Verizon raised prices somewhat when it rolled out the New Verizon plan, so some RVers have been holding on to this generation of plan.

Do be aware that these older plans lack Safety Mode to avoid overage charges, and have no Carryover Data.

Verizon Recommendation:

If you are forced to pick just a single cellular carrier to keep connected via while RVing, Verizon remains the obvious choice for their network - but options for getting plans with a usable amount of data are pricey or difficult. .

But just like it would be foolish to jump out of an airplane without a reserve parachute, it makes sense to keep a secondary cellular plan on board too for the situations where Verizon is lacking.

We recommend a Verizon + T-Mobile or Verizon + AT&T combo, and for those who need more redundancy - nothing beats having all three on board.

Recent Verizon News Stories:

Testing Status: We keep one our phones on Verizon's new Unlimited Data Plan in our testing arsenal, and have in the past activated various other devices on the plan for testing.

 

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Quick Take

If keeping connected is important to you in your travels, this is probably the network to have service on. And if you're only going to have one carrier, this is the one that will give you the widest coverage.

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