PROS / When you're in the market for the best coverage and quality in the industry, Verizon is the clear victor.
CONS / Per gigabyte, overage fees are three times the cost of regular plans.
VERDICT / Verizon’s prices are higher than the competition’s, but not by much. With the most widespread, reliable network in America and the best mobile hotspot to boot, it’s a smart bet.
With so many parallels between mobile broadband plans and regular smartphone plans, it’s no surprise that Verizon Wireless, our number one cell phone provider, is also our number one mobile internet provider. Its coverage is unbeatable, with coast-to-coast 4G LTE service and the fastest average download speeds in the nation.
What always held Verizon back were its prices – Big Red tends to charge a premium for premium service. When it comes to data-only plans, though, Verizon’s cost is closer to average than you might think, and the company offers more tiered options than almost anyone else in the industry. On the whole, this makes Verizon a smart bet. You might pay slightly more for service, but you get the best coverage around.
Coverage & Quality
What’s the point of paying for a mobile internet plan that gives you web access whenever you need it, only to be caught in an area without service? If you're in the market for a wireless hotspot, you probably care more about connectivity than anything else, and Verizon's network coverage is the best in America.
In its most recent semiannual report on the state of the industry, RootMetrics – the gold standard in independent, rigorous, scientific analysis of network coverage, speed and reliability – saw Verizon take the top spot in virtually every measurement. On average, expect quicker downloads with Verizon than anyone else. In terms of dropped calls and landmass covered, there’s no one better.
Pricing & Fees
Verizon has long been recognized for its excellent service, but it's also well known for charging a premium for that quality; among cellular providers, few are more expensive. Fortunately, the same is not true of its mobile broadband offerings. While Verizon might not be considered a cheap wireless internet provider, it’s not the most expensive, either.
Verizon's fees, on the other hand, can feel extortionate. Expect to pay a one-time $40 activation fee when you buy your new hotspot or modem and a $35 restocking fee if you need to return it. Both USB modems and mobile hotspots can be bought on- or off-contract, but should you buy on-contract, leaving early costs you an early-termination fee of up to $175. That sounds like a lot, but it's reduced every month you're with the company.
When picking a data allocation plan, be sure to overestimate your data needs. Verizon's data tiers are set at 2GB intervals, with each interval costing another $10 – effectively pricing 1GB of data at $5. If you go over your allocation, however, you're charged an additional $15 per gigabyte, three times the usual cost.
Verizon offers both USB modems and standalone mobile hotspots in its online store. If you're specifically looking to bring portable internet to your laptop, USB modems tend to be cheaper alternatives to hotspots. If, on the other hand, you're looking for mobile connectivity for multiple devices, dedicated hotspots are the best option. Verizon offers a number of them, with the highest-end model supporting up to 15 devices at a time.
Help & Support
The customer support team at Big Red is one of the finest in the business. Sure, you might have the occasional issue or troublesome representative – we've had our fair share of positive and negative experiences with every major carrier – but taken as a whole, Verizon doesn't disappoint. Its staff is attentive, helpful and easily reachable, whether you're calling them on the phone, sending them an email, firing off a tweet or chatting with someone online.
Verizon Wireless may not be known for mobile broadband, but with its unmatched cellular infrastructure and superb 4G LTE speeds, it's the best wireless internet provider around. No mobile hotspot can guarantee uptime everywhere, but if that's what you're looking for, Verizon's the closest you can get to a sure thing.