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?

A snippet from Visible’s FAQ section about slowing data speeds

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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Ben Stein

Ben Stein

Publisher of Panbo.com, passionate marine electronics enthusiast, completed the Great Loop in 2017.

12 Responses

  1. Ben Stein Ben Stein says:

    It’s frequently difficult to figure out why cell phone companies offer plans the way they do. This is a great example, as the same plan on Verizon would cost you over $80 a month. But with Visible, a company owned entirely by Verizon, you can get the plan for half that. Like the $65 unlimited hotspot plan it’s likely Verizon will at some point (and quite possibly without any warning) pull the plug on this plan so if you’re interested I wouldn’t wait too long.

  2. Adrian says:

    I have been a Visible customer almost since inception. Their answer was that no, the SIM cannot be used in a data device, in our case a cell modem for boat internet- LTE distribution use among IP devices.

    The other caveat of Visible is that it priorities access to the Verizon network to true Verizon subscribers, which, if you are out on a boat not close to anyone else is no problem but I have encountered dropped calls, or even the inability to make calls nor use cellular data if there are too many Verizon phone users in the area using that same network.

    You pay less, you get less access reliability.

    I have been happy with the performance considering the price tag, and will continue to use them as long as the service limitations do not deteriorate.

  3. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    A few thoughts:

    1. Some boaters don’t seem to realize it, but using a phone as a WiFi hotspot can work fine for supplying internet to onboard laptops, tablets, etc. You may need to keep the phone on a charger much of the time, but that can also work well with a cell booster in areas where the signal is weak (and a Bluetooth headset for phone calls). I’ve been happily using that setup for years.

    2. I’m a longtime and fairly content Verizon user, but I’m a bit disturbed by the Visible marketing. Pretending to be a hip upstart discount cell company is almost amusing, but going out of the way to mock cell phone stores is gross. My wife, for instance, has gotten valuable iPhone help at our local Verizon store. How would you feel as a Verizon representative when the company advertises your unavailability as a feature?

    https://www.adweek.com/digital/verizon-owned-budget-service-provider-debuts-new-anti-store-campaign/

  4. Adrian says:

    Of course Ben, customer service can be crucial, but with technology constantly advancing one has to be able to troubleshoot themselves. Often with halp of the internet, remedies can be found faster than a trip to the store. And how about when you are on the water or in a remote area? No store around

  5. Xavier says:

    Hello Ben,

    I for one don’t take offense at the anti-store campaign. For those of us willing and able to do without store support, the savings can be important, though I recognize this alternative is not for everyone.

    Please consider: suppose you are on the $65 Verizon prepaid plan and you go to the store to resolve an iPhone question twice in the year. That is $780. Now suppose you are on the Visible $40 plan. That is $480; you don’t get to ask any questions, but the difference is $300.

    For $300, one might consider: a (longer) drive to an Apple Store to ask a question (DO make an appointment before getting in the car!), or a few hours of internet searches on DuckDuckGo, Chances are, sort of device failure, a solution will be found. Also, Apple on the telephone is surprisingly willing to consult on the telephone for many day-to-day issues.

    To each his own, I say, and for those able to do it, save $300!

    • Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

      I get it, Xavier, and I’m a potential Visible customer. But I’d respect Verizon more if they simply marketed Visible as a good value in large part because the service doesn’t have the expense of stores, instead of the mockery. I might also trust them more. And side note: it’s hard to put a $ value on not having to mess with my dear wife’s phone 😉

  6. Luis Soltero Luis Soltero says:

    anyone know if this plan works in Canda and/or Mexico? And if so what the terms of use are and any additional costs?

    • Ben Stein Ben Stein says:

      My SIM card arrives tomorrow so I should know more after I get to experiment a little more. But, I do know that Visible is quite clear about there being no roaming being supported. I believe this is both domestic and international, so if you’re out of Verizon service your phone won’t roam to another carrier, even while in the US. For international roaming they suggest WiFi or inserting a SIM from a carrier in the country you’re visiting.

      Ben S.

      • Norm Miller Norm Miller says:

        Ben
        Noticed some SIM card unlimited plans for sale on Ebay, any experience in buying a transferred plan? I have a new Peplink Balance 30 for Quiet Company and it can accept 2 SIMS.
        Hope all is well!
        Norm
        Great Harbour GH47

  7. Anonymous says:

    Following

  1. July 8, 2019

    […] The content for this post was sourced from http://www.panbo.com […]

  2. July 19, 2019

    […] the 5 megabits per second speed cap making their $40 unlimited plan even more interesting. In my entry on the change I promised I would order a line and see how it worked out. The SIM has arrived and testing is well […]

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