The wireless industry is changing all the time. The nuances, inheritance, and possibilities keep shifting. Today I made a shift of my own for how I’ll be accessing the internet from this point forward.
I noticed I didn’t get my usual invoice on the first of the month for my leased verizon hotspot line. That got my attention, but I didn’t think too much of it. A few days later, I received an email from the company that runs that service letting me know they were quitting operations. I’m still not 100% sure why, but they were offering to hand off their company to me for basically an $800 transfer fee. At that point, I would inherit 5 grandfathered verizon unlimited lines at a cost of $35 each (presumably plus taxes and fees). In theory, I could keep one or two of them, rent out the rest, and have my connectivity basically pay for itself.
This sounded like a pretty good idea, so last night I attempted to make the transfer happen. Turns out verizon wanted $125/line deposit on the new company account I was setting up, which would have been an extra $600. They also couldn’t guarantee that the lines would actually transfer after setting up the new account either. They were trying really hard to put up every possible roadblock they could to getting the lines transferred, for obvious reason. Truly unlimited data access is something that people want but the networks can’t offer at any kind of reasonable price, and certainly not at $35/month/line. So after fighting with the agent for I-don’t-know-how-long, I gave up on that agent and figured I’d call back and try another agent. By that point, the operations center was closed.
Before I continue, a little education about the current “unlimited” plans offered by Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T. They all deprioritize users after 20-something gigs of data. For tethering, which is what I really need to do my work, Verizon and T-Mobile both start throttling after 10 gigs of use. AT&T doesn’t even allow tethering. All of the carriers don’t let you just buy a hotspot device as your primary line either, they all want you to have a phone first as your primary line, so if you want a hotspot, that’s considered another line, and another fee. To see all this information in a clearer format, maybe bullet points would help:
Verizon & T-Mobile:
- Deprioritize after 20-something gigs
- Tethering drops 3G speed after 10 gig
- Deprioritize after 20-something gigs
- No tethering allowed at all.
So of course I kept digging. Verizon’s 3G speed is abhorrently slow. We’re talking 2mb (megabit) if you’re really lucky. Usually less than that. T-Mobile’s 3G however seems much more reason in the 3-5mb range. If I had a decent T-Mobile signal, I could easily do my work if I had a halfway stable 3mb connection. I was also curious about whether Verizon would let you simply buy more tethered data once you ran out, because I couldn’t see anything about that concept anywhere on their website.
Late this morning I went to a Verizon store to ask about buying extra tethered data. Nope. Not offered, not even a concept (at least on the “unlimited” plan). It wasn’t that long ago that all Verizon lines were more than happy to sell you extra data (at exorbitant prices). So much for that idea.
I then hopped over to the T-Mobile store and had a chat with those guys. Turns out that if you sign up for their “unlimited plus” plan, you get unlimited tethering. They’ll deprioritize you after 29 gig (I think it was 29), but that still sounds like a great deal. In fact, so long as I have T-Mobile signal, this could be a really nice solution. At $95/month, it’s even less than my old verizon hotspot plan. I purchased a brand new 6″ android phone (running version 6.0, aka “Marshmallow”) with a whole bunch of features for $180. That was pretty amazing.
I then swung by the Comcast store to discontinue my residential cable internet service since my 1-year promotional period has expired and I don’t really need it anymore. Not worth the wait today: line was at least a half-dozen long and it didn’t look like anything was moving with any kind of haste. I’ll deal with that tomorrow, or over the phone or something.
So my plan for unlimited internet at this point is to mostly rely on T-Mobile, and if/when service is unavailable, I’ll upgrade my Verizon service to their unlimited plan and watch my tethered data usage as much as I can. If needed, I can activate my old verizon hotspot as an additional line on my existing account (for another $20/month), and that’ll get me another 10 gigs.
There’s basically two kinds of data usage: Video, and everything else. Video uses way more data than everything else put together. One hour of high quality video can use 1 to 3 gigs of data per hour (according to Netflix). That adds up fast if you’re watching an hour or four of video per day. However, there’s also two kinds of metering for data usage: “on-device” and “tethered”. All the major carriers allow unlimited “on-device” usage (subject to deprioritization of course), it’s only the tethering area where they really start adding limits.
For me, while in the RV, my tethered needs are about 1 gig per day. That’s just how much it seems my laptop likes to use in an average day when I’m working. So let’s say that comes out to 30 gigs a month for a nicely-rounded number. If I put 10 gigs on each of my Verizon and T-Mobile accounts, and maybe deal with a bit of slower T-Mobile 3G speeds, it’d pretty much work out. That was my plan anyways.
But then I was surprised with this “unlimited plus” plan by T-Mobile that doesn’t even start deprioritizing until you’re in the upper-20 gigs of data. That seems to fit me pretty well.
This posting may have bit of a ramble, but for people like me that have to have a healthy internet connection and are mobile, it’s vitally important. So, I’ll give myself license to be thorough. Lots of full-time RVers will say that Verizon is the best network (and I agree with them), but they also say it’s good to have some diversity in your connections if possible. I now have that, and I’m glad I do.
Over the next month I’ll be thoroughly testing the T-Mobile connection. In fact, I’m using it right now. I shut off my comcast connection and I set up all the devices in the house to run off the new android phone. Thus far, I’m impressed. It has a stronger signal than my old verizon jetpack and, the packet loss is less, and the ping times are good. I think having a much stronger CPU in this phone compared to the jetpack is really helping.
At this point, I’m also saving money over my previous setup!
- -$60/month (removing comcast connection)
- -$140/month (removing verizon hotspot)
- +95/month (new T-Mobile account)
- -$105/month net
I may need to switch my verizon account to “unlimited”, which would tack on $40/month, but even if I do that, I’m still coming out ahead. I think it’s a pretty good deal.