Testing Verizon’s Unlimited Plan for Full-time RVing

In this day and age staying connected is vitally important, and when you’re living on the road it’s not as easy as calling up your local internet provider, or asking your neighbor what cell carrier has the best coverage in the neighborhood. So since I hit the road in 2012 I’ve written periodic updates on what I personally do for phone and mobile internet, and it’s time for another one.

Last summer I made a big change and switched from a 5 gb data plan with Verizon to the Unlimited plan. I’ve long held to the philosophy that life should be lived in the real world instead of online, and been frugal with my data usage – reading is my preferred form of entertainment, I don’t even have a Netflix subscription. But the launch of the IO YouTube channel demanded that I step up my internet game in a big way: one can not regularly upload videos on 5 gb of data!

So I looked into the “new Verizon Plan Unlimited” as it’s officially called.

The plan costs $65, plus $20 per line, and you get $5 off if you set up automatic payments. So for me it’s $80 plus taxes and fees ($3.68 on my bill as of this writing), for a total of $83.68.

It’s not truly unlimited. In the terms of service Verizon states that they hold the right to throttle your speeds in high usage areas after a certain number of gbs, I want to say it’s 22. That doesn’t necessarily mean they will.

In the nine months I’ve been on the plan, I can remember only one month where I noticed how slowly things were loading near the end of my month, and then on my data reset day, speeds magically got faster. When I was in Lubbock, TX late last fall and Borrego Springs, CA earlier this year, my speeds were slow no matter what, because of tower overload. Then there have been months, like this last one, where I went over the limit by the end of the month and was not throttled, probably because I was in a low-population area with low demand.

More importantly to me, the Unlimited plan has a tethering limit.

Tethering is using your phone as a hotspot to get other devices online. So in my case, turning the hotspot feature on my phone, so that I can get online on my computer.

The Verizon Unlimited plan has a tethering data cap of 15 gb, after which you are throttled down to what amounts to 3G speeds. This is a hard cap, I get a notification when I’m nearing the 15 gb limit and it kicks in automatically. And as I’m uploading those big video files on my computer, I regularly (but not always) go over the 15 gb tethering limit.

My boondocking camp here at the Grand Canyon has full signal, see why?

It’s worked out okay so far.

Uploading videos at 3G speeds takes time, but it does work. I keep the length of my videos pretty short (4-7 minutes usually) which makes it easier, and when there’s good WiFi around I’ll use that for uploading videos to save some data. Watching videos on 3G speeds works fine, you may get some buffering before the video starts, but usually once it starts it’s fine. In fact, I still camp in plenty of areas where I force my phone from the LTE network onto 3G network because it’s a stronger signal and I actually get better internet that way.

Overall, this plan has worked out well for me and I’m glad I made the switch.

Before I go, an important note.

I’m not a mobile internet guru and know just enough to make informed decisions based on what works best for my needs. Of course, everyone’s needs are different and there are plenty of other solutions out there. The latest research still suggests that Verizon has the largest network in the US (good for RVers who camp all over the place), with AT&T close behind. Sprint and T-Mobile have smaller networks, but better pricing and data deals.

Most full-time RVers choose Verizon and/or AT&T as their primary carrier. Some choose one of the smaller carriers in addition for the data perks, or go with a smaller carrier if they’re more the snowbird type and know the locations they bounce between all work for that network. See the next section for further info from true experts in the field. If you’re currently RVing, you’re welcome to share your particular solution in the comments.

Lastly, this field moves quickly and plans and prices are always changing, the numbers I’ve listed here will not necessarily be true down the line, so make sure you do your own research when it comes time for you to hit the road!

Learn more

  • Mobile Internet Resource Center – My friends Chris and Cherie of Technomadia have an entire website and group dedicated to mobile internet, keeping on top of the latest developments and offering advice. If you want to learn more about your options for mobile internet, this is the place to go!
  • Getting Lucky with Mobile Internet – My last article on this topic, published in 2015 and updated early 2017. If you want to know more of my long, sordid mobile internet history, you can read it here. Yes, I started out getting online exclusively through campground WiFi. What a different age that was.

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Becky

Forget about what the world tells you your life should be like. At IO I teach people how to ditch the status quo and go full-time RVing before retirement. Included at no additional charge: seizing your dreams, living boldly, and making a difference.

35 Comments

  1. Lewis on May 31, 2018 at 6:00 pm

    Hi Becky I’m looking into Verizon unlimited, is it true they changed the throttled speeds from 3g to 600kbps? (After the 22GB has been used.)



    • Becky on May 31, 2018 at 10:38 pm

      Beats me Lewis, that’s a question for the folks at Mobile Internet Resource Center, listed in the article. As I said, I’ve only ever noticed the throttle once and that was several months ago already. I tend to camp in remote areas where usage isn’t high and I don’t get throttled even if I go over 22 GB.



  2. Sherri Burris on May 24, 2018 at 3:53 pm

    I appreciate the information you have given. As I make plans to travel this summer I did wonder how hard it would be to stay connected. I feel that your post has helped me come to the decision that I may have to change my carrier. Thanks and safe travels



    • Becky on May 25, 2018 at 9:38 pm

      Glad you found this helpful Sherri. Verizon stores can be found in so many cities these days that you can always keep your current carrier when you start out to test it, and switch if you find it isn’t working for you.



  3. The RVgeeks on May 20, 2018 at 7:29 pm

    Great info, Becky! Another trick to keep in your back pocket for when you’ve exceeded your tethering limit… transfer large files from your laptop to your phone and then upload them from the phone! If you have a Mac laptop, then you can use Airdrop to transfer a movie file from your laptop to your iPhone, then upload the file using the YouTube app and it won’t count towards your tethering data. One catch… you can’t have the laptop tethered to the iPhone AND use Airdrop, you need a separate WiFi network to do it. But there are 3rd party apps (like Zapya – http://www.izapya.com, which we’ve used) that will work that way AND that let you send files from a Windows PC to your iPhone/Android/anything.



    • Becky on May 22, 2018 at 5:06 pm

      Thanks for the tips guys! I have a windows PC and will look into Zapya. Supposedly iTunes lets you move files from a windows computer to an iPhone, but I’ve never had any luck with that option.



  4. Melissa Dafnis on May 19, 2018 at 11:35 am

    Thanks Becky, for a great article! I travel and work online from my RV and run into serious problems with throttling. In fact, I got rid of my jetpack because even though I had an unlimited plan for it – since it’s a dedicated hotspot only, I could only use it until the cap of 22 gb. So it was worthless. I do a lot of video coaching on Zoom, upload videos, and work a LOT on my computer – as it’s my mission to help people achieve their dream of living in an RV. Internet connection, at decent speeds, is the most frustrating part of this lifestyle!

    The Verizon unlimited plan is also the best option I’ve come up with so far, as RV park WiFi is an absolute joke. I think we should start a movement to have RV Parks up their Wifi game, as it seems to be something that everyone wants and NEEDS these days!



    • Becky on May 19, 2018 at 1:53 pm

      Thanks for sharing Melissa! I’m glad you enjoyed this article and I’m glad the the Verizon unlimited plan has worked well for you too.

      Being a work-camper and having lived in RV parks for months at a time (especially when I was starting out), I’ve asked the WiFi question before of the places I’ve stayed and their response is almost universally the same: People say they want better Wifi, but they don’t want to pay the higher rates that would go along with better speeds, capacity, and support.



  5. John Taylor on May 17, 2018 at 12:32 pm

    Becky, if you have an Android phone and you use the phone hotspot (not a jetpack) for data, you need to download the third-party hotspot app pdanet+ from the google play store. It has over 5 million users. Go to the website pdanet.co for information. You can try it for free, then pay $7 to unlock the full version. Use pdanet instead of the phone’s internal hotspot, and you get unlimited hotspot use. I’ve been using it for over 6 months now for as much as 30 GB per month to my laptop, and it all works perfectly. You can run it on wifi, via USB cable or bluetooth. Its only runs wifi on the 5GB frequency band, so if your laptop is old like mine, and only has the lower fequency bands, you have to run it via USB cable from the phone to the laptop. My tablet also doesn’t have the 5 GB band, so I use Verizon’s 15 GB of internal hotspot data for wifi to the tablet.

    Google, at Verizon’s behest, used to block third party hotspots, but Google and Verizon lost a class action lawsuit for violating their FCC (Federal Communications Commission) contract by blocking them. See https://www.cnet.com/news/what-verizons-fcc-tethering-settlement-means-to-you-faq/



    • Becky on May 17, 2018 at 5:49 pm

      I have an iPhone but thanks for sharing John, this is useful info for those who do have an Android phone!



  6. Kent on May 17, 2018 at 9:57 am

    Oh! Too, I really like the looks of the new theme and layout.



  7. Kent on May 17, 2018 at 9:55 am

    I have the same plan and have been happy with both the service and coverage. i have not purchased or installed any kind of booster since I have not yet had the need. Speeds can be pretty slow at times due to tower overload I think, but I can compensate by getting on in the early AM. If I have a complaint it would be that unused high-speed data does not carry over.



  8. Beth on May 16, 2018 at 9:55 pm

    Can anyone comment on why go with a Verizon Unlimited “contract plan” versus a “prepaid plan?” The only things I can think of are that the “contract plan” offers a $5 monthly discount for auto-pay and maybe it might not be convenient to load up a “prepaid plan” from month-to-month. But other than that, I think the services offered and basic cost are the same for Verizon Unlimited whether or not it’s a contract or prepaid?



    • Beth on May 17, 2018 at 11:03 am

      I thought prepaid and month-to-month (contract?) we’re the same but after checking it out a little more it looks like video speeds are better with month-to-month and tethering is not allowed on prepaid.



    • Becky on May 17, 2018 at 5:47 pm

      I don’t know much about this, so I’m glad Beth commented. I don’t really have a contract plan, I pay month-to-month (but it’s not pre-paid). I do know the difference between contract and month-to-month is with a contract you’re locked in for a certain period of time, but you get a big discount on your phone. Because I didn’t renew my 2 year contract and just kept paying month-to-month when I got my latest iPhone I had to pay it all out of pocket, which was pricey. But I liked the freedom to be able to switch/cancel my account anytime. Not that I have, but the option is there.



  9. Rick on May 16, 2018 at 12:46 pm

    I do a fair amount of RV traveling that gets combined with work, and I ran into the tethering/throttling issues quite a bit in 2016. Last year, I found a wonderful utility called TripMode (https://www.tripmode.ch), which lets me select which apps on my Mac access the Internet whenever I go into tethering mode. I love it because it can tell the difference between a straight-ahead WiFi connection and tethering with a phone or hotspot, so I can let my Dropbox connection update when I check into a Starbucks. (It also has some great stat reporting.)

    It’s $8, and worth every penny if you go back and forth between connection types while on the road. I would imagine that there are similar utilities out there for Windows.

    Rick



    • Becky on May 17, 2018 at 5:43 pm

      Sounds like a great app Rick, thanks for sharing.



  10. Judy Blinkenberg on May 16, 2018 at 11:55 am

    We have AT&T unlimited and we go over every month! Hubby doesn’t like the bill so we may decrease which will limit us. I wish we had Verizon as it covers a larger area. We will see how it goes. I don’t plan on blogging anymore I’m happy to follow you though!



    • Becky on May 17, 2018 at 5:42 pm

      There are some areas where AT&T does better than Verizon though. Those who absolutely need to have internet everywhere have plans with both so they can cover each other’s weak points. There is no perfect solution!



  11. Steve G on May 16, 2018 at 11:27 am

    How do you force your phone from LTE to 3G?



    • Becky on May 16, 2018 at 11:35 am

      On my iPhone it’s under Settings > Cellular Data Options > Enable LTE. I’m not sure if other phones let you do it or not.



  12. Beth on May 16, 2018 at 11:10 am

    The Verizon website says “plus taxes and fees” with this plan… I’m curious if taxes and fees add much more to the monthly bill? Also they talk about per month charge per line.. Is an additional line just another device with cell capability (ie smart phone or tablet with cell)? If you hotspot your smartphone to a laptop, that’s still only one line, right? Any commemts on lines in general and what is working for you? Just trying to understand. Thanks.



    • Becky on May 16, 2018 at 11:28 am

      Beth, I updated the article to add the taxes and fees, for me it comes to $3.68 a month. And yes, a line is one cellular device, usually you want one line per person, so a couple will have 2 lines so both can use their phone and get online at the same time. When I tether using my phone’s hoptspot the computer basically “borrows” my phone’s line, so it’s just 1 line for my set up. Hope this helps.



      • Beth on May 16, 2018 at 4:17 pm

        That was very helpful, and it’s good to know that taxes and fees didn’t add too much more to the bill.



  13. John on May 16, 2018 at 9:30 am

    I’ve been happy with my T-mobile, but I have lower expectations to go along with my lower bill. If you are uploading videos, I can see why you would need more capacity and reliability.



  14. Bill Maier on May 16, 2018 at 8:44 am

    Thanks for the update. I’ve been using TracFon and have no problem with the hot spot or phone. I have noticed a slow down when the GB are running low. I like the fact that I can reload tine or data on my laptop from most of the places I stay. When I’m getting a book from Amazon I can have the Kindle on and get the job done in one sessions. Works for me. So far, so good. It’s worked for me for some 10 years.



    • Becky on May 16, 2018 at 11:23 am

      Thanks for sharing Bill.



  15. Kevin on May 16, 2018 at 7:19 am

    New Verizon MVNO company called VISABLE just started. Unlimited everything. $40 a month. Am testing it myself. So far it’s as good as any other Verizon MVNO.



    • Becky on May 16, 2018 at 11:23 am

      Thanks for sharing Kevin.



  16. david Swanson on May 16, 2018 at 6:41 am

    My Verizon unlimited has been big for me. No more driving around looking for WiFi or hanging out at mcdonalds. In fact it’s often faster then public WiFi. I was really pissed thought after I upgraded to it in Yuma before I went to Mexico. I was assured it would work great in Mexico by the Verizon sales people, but I never saw better then dial up speeds. When I called to complain they knocked $25 off my bill. I appreciated that but I still don’t trust the slick Verizon sales people. Glad to hear everything is going well for you Becky!



    • Becky on May 16, 2018 at 11:22 am

      I used mine in Vancouver, BC (worked great!), and in Los Algodones near Yuma as well where yeah, speeds were very slow. But I was able to text and make plans with the group I was with which was my biggest need. Thanks for sharing.



  17. Philip Roll on May 16, 2018 at 5:43 am

    I’ve been pretty happy with my Verizon “unlimited” plan. I have a Verizon “Ellipsis Jetpack” in addition to my cellphone. I used to think it was pretty weak and did not use it very much. Then I added a Netgear Mimo antenna ($27.49 on Amazon). Wow! It is like magic. I’m sitting out in the middle of the Manti La Sal forest in Utah, my cellphone says “No Service” and I get near perfect data (3 bars) on the Jetpack. I am a happy camper. There is a reasonable non recurring cost for the Netgear Mimo and the Jetpack, but the monthly cost is minimal. Keep in mind the antenna requires your device to have “2 TS-9 Connectors” which most cellphones don’t have, but the Jetpack does.



    • Becky on May 16, 2018 at 11:19 am

      Thanks for sharing Philip!



  18. JR on May 16, 2018 at 2:53 am

    Just sharing my $.02 with you and your readers… I’ve used The nation’s GSM carrier (ATT) the past year and had exactly similar results. Satisfied with the price, especially when they automatically lowered it by 5 dollars. Obviously the coverage map is going to be less then Verizon’s but that’s reflected with the price as with all smaller subcarriers. …aaand, here is a conspiracy theorists perspective: Getting the furthest from all these land based towers in hopes that it is generally healthier is priority. Using a strict satellite connection (who’s rf frequencies can be blocked by a simple wooden roof) in no cell coverage areas, is how aforementioned conspiracy theorists can achieve this and still maintain a connection. Biggest issue, launching satellites is not that cheap. Truth behind it? Sure I’ll buy into it… I suppose I believe in the possibility of wi-fi allergies. Some may, some may not. *octothorpe* rurallifebenefits



    • Becky on May 16, 2018 at 11:18 am

      Glad to hear AT&T has worked well for you JR.



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