Is Visible’s $40 cell plan better than Verizon’s defunct $65 unlimited hotspot deal?
Visible, a relatively new Verizon subsidiary, has been offering a $40 per month (taxes included) unlimited plan for about a year. While the plan’s pricing is great, its usefulness has been potentially limited by a 5mbps speed cap. Today Visible announced that they’re removing this speed cap while keeping the rest of the plan the same. Is this as good as it sounds?
Visible’s $40 per month plan is different from the $65 prepaid unlimited plan Verizon offered until mid-May. First, it’s a phone plan, not a mobile hotspot plan so it includes unlimited calling, texting, and data usage. Because it’s a plan aimed first and foremost at usage on the phone you will get the best performance on the device. So, while Visible has removed the speed cap for on-device internet usage, mobile hotspot usage is limited to 5mpbs, but there’s no limit on how much data can be consumed via the mobile hotspot. Also, though there’s no cap on any data usage and no point at which data speeds will be throttled, all devices are subject to the carrier’s traffic management and streaming video is limited to 480p resolution.
So the big question is: will this be a good fit on a boat? At $40 per month and with 5mbps of throughput for mobile hotspot, I think this could work for many boaters. But, with that 480p cap on video streaming this plan probably isn’t a fit for extensive streaming. 480p is the resolution of a standard DVD. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a way to browse the web, catch up on email, post a blog or two, and maybe sometimes watch a video or two, this plan could be just the ticket for you. And, at $40 it’s a pretty affordable ticket.
There are two main factors that contribute to load times while using your internet connection. The first is throughput, measured in megabits per second while the second is latency, measured in milliseconds. Throughput is how much data can be transmitted at a time while latency is how long it takes for that data to arrive. By their wireless nature, cellular connections have higher latency than wired internet connections. That latency has improved a lot but still averages around 85ms in my observation. So, I used Chrome’s inspect feature to compare the time it takes to load a web page over an unlimited bandwidth 85ms connection and one limited to 5mbps. In my testing with just the latency limit in place it took about 4.5 seconds to load a specific page. Once I turned on the speed limit as well that jumped to about 8 seconds. This is hardly a scientific test but it does give you a good idea of the impact of the speed cap on mobile hotspot use.
I’m going to order up a line and give it a try. At $40 with no contracts there’s not too much ventured and it could be a big improvement over what I’m getting now for quite a bit more per month. I’ve got some questions about restrictions on the account, especially as it might get used on a boat. For instance, can the SIM be inserted directly into a data device? If it can, I’m assuming it would be limited to 5mbps but I’d like to verify that. And, if it is limited to 5mbps will that be the limiting factor for streaming via hotspot or is the 480p stream the cap? Only some hands-on testing will provide firm answers.
Fortunately, my $65 prepaid unlimited plan is grandfathered in so I have that option for as long as I’m willing to pay the monthly cost. But, as others look for new plans that can help support their data use aboard this could be a great fit. Time will tell and I’ll report back here as soon as I know more.
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