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Starlink Premium Announced

Starlink just announced Starlink Premium. The new service will deliver faster speeds and use a different dish than the standard Starlink service. Starlink says the premium service may deliver download speeds between 150 and 500Mbps (roughly double the typical speeds with Starlink’s conventional service). Improvements in latency are not expected.

While the standard Starlink service requires a $500 upfront payment for a dish and $100 per month for service, the new dish costs $2500 and service costs $500 per month. Starlink Premium is available for pre-order now with a $500 deposit.

Timelines & Multiple-Dish Accounts

Here’s what Starlink says on its main webpage about Starlink Premium:

Starlink Premium has more than double the antenna capability of Starlink, delivering faster internet speeds and higher throughput for the highest demand users, including businesses. Order now to reserve, deliveries start in Q2 2022.

There’s a long waitlist for Starlink’s conventional service. The opportunity to skip that waitlist may be a big selling point for potential Premium subscribers.

In an FAQ entry, Starlink mentions that the subscribers with the Premium service may manage several Starlinks from a centralized account:

Starlink Premium delivers the same low latency with higher throughput allocation to serve small offices of 10-20 users, storefronts, and residential locations across the globe. Order as many Starlinks as needed, manage all of your service locations from a single account, and access 24/7 priority customer support.
Image representing idea idea of February & the number 22

Visible Offers $100 Gift Card + 2 Months For $22

6:47pm update: The period of this promo where a $200 gift card is available may be extended slightly. I’ll share a more detailed update later.

Second update: As pointed out by a commenter, BYOP customers are now eligible for just a $50 gift card rather than a $100 gift card.


Until February 24, Verizon’s brand Visible is running what might be the biggest promotion in its history. New customers can purchase two months of service on the carrier’s unlimited plan for just $22 ($11 per month). Two months of service normally costs $80 at full price (or as low as $50 with Visible Party Pay).

Free Gift Card

New subscribers during the promotion may also be eligible for a $100 gift card if they port in a number and bring their own device or purchase a select device during signup. Today only (February 2), the gift card amount is doubled from $100 to $200.

If you’re considering Visible, now might be the best time to give the carrier a try. With the reduced rate on the first two months and $25 per month after that with Visible Party Pay, a $200 gift card essentially works out to nine months of free service. For customers that take advantage of the promo between February 3 and February 24, the $100 gift card is worth enough to cancel out the cost of the first five months of service.

Signup

Visible’s 2For22 deal is one of the best promotions I’ve seen from a prepaid carrier. You can find more details about the promo here. Use the promo code 2FOR22 at checkout.

Terms

The 2For22 promo is only available to new customers. Customers must port in a number from an eligible carrier and make at least three payments to be eligible for the promotional gift card. All the major carriers and most of the bigger MVNOs count as eligible carriers.

The gift card comes as a virtual gift card, and it looks like customers can opt for a card from one of several companies. Gift card options at the moment include Mastercard, Amazon, and several other large retailers.

Here are the full terms from Visible:

Offer disclosure: New members who (1) purchase a qualifying device or bring their own, (2) transfer their existing phone number from an Eligible Carrier within 14 days of transaction , [sic] (3) activate their Visible service, & (4) complete 3 full months’ service payments, are eligible to receive up to a $200 virtual gift card, redeemable via a promo code, which is valid for a select offering on https://www.visibleoffers.com.

Device & promo eligibility is subject to change. Specific gift card values are limited to a devices’ displayed gift card value at time of transaction, as found here. This promotion is fulfilled through a 3rd-party, Blackhawk Network Holdings, Inc., and may be subject to additional policies and terms.

Limit 1 virtual gift card per member per device . [sic] The promo code is itself not a gift card and has no cash value. Promo code and redemption instructions will be emailed to the member after qualification. While supplies last. Limited time offer. Can only be combined with other Visible promos where indicated.

Visible reserves the right to change or terminate this offer at any time. If Visible, in its sole discretion, determines that a member has engaged in abuse, misuse, or gaming in connection with this offer, or that the member intends to do so, Visible reserves the right to disqualify the member from this promotion.

Gift card vendor list is variable and subject to change. Gift Card redemption promotion code is valid for redemption with third-party for 30 days. Valid for up to 12 months; unused funds will forfeit after expiration date. Gift card to be fulfilled digitally; physical cards will not be issued. Gift card vendor-specific terms and conditions may apply; see gift card for additional details.

Eligible Carriers

Almost everyone porting into Visible will be coming from an eligible carrier. Exceptions include subscribers coming from Google Voice or US Mobile. Here’s the list of eligible carriers from Visible’s website:

  • AT&T
  • AT&T Prepaid
  • Boost Mobile
  • Consumer Cellular
  • Cricket Wireless
  • Google Fi
  • MetroPCS
  • Mint Mobile
  • Net10 Wireless
  • Page Plus Cellular
  • Republic Wireless
  • Spectrum Mobile
  • Sprint
  • Straight Talk
  • T-Mobile
  • T-Mobile Prepaid
  • Ting
  • Total Wireless
  • TracFone
  • US Cellular
  • Verizon
  • Virgin Mobile USA
  • Walmart Family Mobile
  • Xfinity Mobile
Photo representing the concept of wireless coverage

C-Band Coverage Maps

Last week, Verizon and AT&T started rolling out service using their recently acquired C-Band spectrum. Up until now, most of Verizon and AT&T’s 5G service hasn’t been particularly fast. With the help of C-Band spectrum, the networks may finally deliver 5G service that lives up to the hype.1

C-Band Spectrum

Last year, the FCC auctioned off a bunch of C-Band spectrum. In the FCC’s auction, the US was divided into 416 regions called Partial Economic Areas (PEAs). These areas weren’t consistent in size or population. I’ve borrowed an FCC Map that shows these areas and added colors to indicate the availability of C-Band spectrum for cellular networks:2

FCC map of PEAs shaded to show where C-Band is available

  • Blue: Some C-Band spectrum now available
  • White: C-Band spectrum to become available by late 2023
  • Red: No C-Band spectrum available

Let’s focus on the blue areas. Those are 46 of the largest PEAs. While these regions make up a minority of the US by land area, about 190 million people live within them (58% of the US population).3 Both Verizon and AT&T hold licenses that allow them to use C-Band spectrum immediately in each of the blue-shaded regions, and these are the only areas where C-Band cell service is permitted right now.4

Verizon’s C-Band Coverage

Verizon claims its Ultra Wideband coverage (which includes both millimeter wave and C-Band 5G) already covers over 90 million people. Since Verizon’s millimeter wave coverage is terrible, it’s safe to assume Verizon estimates roughly 90 million people have C-Band coverage.

I’m not sure, but I think Verizon has rolled out at least a little bit of C-Band in each of the 46 eligible PEAs. Right now, Verizon’s C-Band coverage is probably concentrated within big cities. However, with time, Verizon’s C-Band 5G will cover larger and larger portions of the eligible regions.

C-Band Coverage Maps

Verizon shows Ultra Wideband coverage in dark red on its interactive coverage map. While Verizon’s map doesn’t show whether Ultra Wideband coverage comes from C-Band 5G or millimeter wave 5G, you can usually make the distinction for yourself.

When only roads or outdoor areas show up in dark red, we’re dealing with millimeter wave 5G:

Snapshot showing a part of Denver on Verizon's coverage map. Roads show up in dark red, while a lighter red shades the rest of the area.

In contrast, areas completely shaded in dark red probably have C-Band coverage:5

Snapshot of Verizon's coverage map showing an area of Little Rock that's mostly shaded in dark red.

Based on reports I’ve seen so far, I don’t think Verizon’s C-Band mapping is particularly reliable.6 It should get better over time, though.

Other Carriers Using Verizon’s Network

I expect cell phone carriers that piggyback on Verizon’s network will gradually gain access to Verizon’s C-Band 5G. At the moment, the two other services that I know have access are US Mobile’s Super LTE and Verizon’s low-cost brand, Visible.

AT&T’s C-Band Coverage

While AT&T holds licenses in all 46 PEAs where C-Band spectrum can be deployed immediately, AT&T is starting small. Right now, eight cities have C-Band service from AT&T:

  • Chicago
  • Houston
  • Miami
  • Orlando
  • Detroit
  • Dallas
  • Austin
  • Jacksonville

I expect we’ll see AT&T bring more cities onboard soon.

Decorative, abstract spiral

Moto G Pure Added To Visible’s Swap Program

I’ve been a big fan of Visible’s Swap Program since it launched. Under the program, new Visible subscribers can trade in almost any working phone in exchange for a new phone free of charge. Since the program started, Visible has gradually improved the quality of the phones it offers.

Sometime in the last few months, Visible added the Motorola moto g pure to the Swap Program. The g pure typically costs about $150. While I haven’t tested it myself, I’m a long-time fan of the Motorola g line.

A gavel

FCC Auction 110 Results

I’m covering this late, but the results of the FCC’s Auction 110 were announced on January 14th. The spectrum licenses up for grabs in this auction fell between 3.45 and 3.55 GHz.

Final bids totaled about $22.5 billion. While that amount is far less than the $80+ billion raised in last year’s C-Band Auction, I believe Auction 110 is still the third highest-grossing FCC auction in history (the AWS-3 Auction was the second largest at about $45 billion).

AT&T was the biggest spender in Auction 110 with a final tab of roughly $9 billion. Dish spent over $7 billion, while T-Mobile spent just shy of $3 billion. Verizon didn’t win any licenses—the company likely feels content with its mid-band spectrum holdings after spending around $45 billion in the recent C-Band Auction.

Here’s the full list of the 23 license winners:1

BidderGross Payment
AT&T$9,079,177,491
Dish$7,327,989,290
T-Mobile$2,898,418,995
Three Forty-Five Spectrum, LLC$1,379,489,483
US Cellular$579,646,526
Whitewater Wireless II, L.P.$427,906,975
NewLevel III, L.P.$375,665,956
Cherry Wireless, LLC$235,960,843
N Squared Wireless, LLC$101,852,981
Skylake Wireless II, LLC$52,511,264
Blue Ridge Wireless LLC$11,942,201
Agri-Valley Communications, Inc.$9,508,003
LICT Wireless Broadband Company, LLC$7,742,202
NE Colorado Cellular, Inc.$6,360,008
East Kentucky Network, LLC$5,140,000
Nsight Spectrum, LLC$4,687,882
Carolina West Wireless, Inc.$4,526,920
PVT Networks, Inc.$2,316,030
RSA 1 Limited Partnership$1,737,360
Raptor Wireless LLC$845,700
Horry Telephone Cooperative, Inc.$103,600
PocketiNet Communications, Inc.$70,001
Jones, Anthony L$2,100
Banner with a refresh symbol

Verizon Automatically Updating Customers To New Unlimited Plans

Verizon is automatically switching customers from its old unlimited plans (Start Unlimited, Play More Unlimited, Get More Unlimited, and Do More Unlimited) to the corresponding plans in the company’s revamped plan lineup. I believe the new plans are the same or better than the old plans in all respects.

Here’s a screenshot from an email Verizon sent me yesterday (I’m currently on the Get More Unlimited plan):
Screenshot from an email sent by Verizon

That first bullet point is interesting. Here’s the clarification Verizon includes in the fine print:

*Comparison based on 5G Ultra Wideband speeds to median Verizon 4G LTE speeds.

Early this week, Verizon launched 5G service in some of its recently acquired C-Band spectrum. I expect Verizon got the 10x figure by comparing typical 4G LTE speeds to C-Band 5G speeds. Verizon was already offering an even faster service, millimeter wave 5G, with some of its old plans. The way I see it, that first bullet point is a tacit admission that Verizon does not cover the overwhelming majority of its subscribers with millimeter wave 5G.

Picture representing the concept of a security breach

TracFone Security Breach

TracFone is experiencing a security incident. Some customer data was compromised, and attackers sometimes managed to port out phone numbers. TracFone put up a webpage with details about the incident:

We were recently made aware of bad actors gaining access to a limited number of customer accounts and, in some cases, fraudulently transferring, or porting out, mobile telephone numbers to other carriers. These bad actors may have had access to your name, address, PIN code, account number, secret question (but not answer) and email address to the extent you provided us with such information.

It sounds like TracFone tried to contact affected customers but may have been unable to in cases where numbers were ported out:

We may have made an attempt to contact you, but given the nature of this activity, messages to impacted mobile telephone numbers may no longer be accessible by some customers.

I’m unsure about the scope of the issue. In a brief search, I couldn’t find any direct reports from affected customers. That may suggest the breach was minor. On the other hand, the incident seems serious since it spurred TracFone to run a banner drawing attention to the incident across TracFoneWirelessInc.com:

Screenshot of a banner drawing attention to TracFone's security incident

I don’t know which TracFone brands are affected. I didn’t see a similar banner on the websites for TotalWireless or StraightTalk.


Hat tip to Dennis Bournique, who drew my attention to this story.

eSIM abstract

Visible Launches eSIM Free Trial

Verizon’s flanker brand Visible just launched an eSIM free trial program. The trial offers 15 days of Visible’s standard plan with unlimited minutes, texts, and data. At the moment, it’s only available for recent iPhones (iPhone XR/XS and newer iPhones). No payment information is needed to sign up.

Sign-up Process

The sign-up process took me about ten minutes. I scanned Visible’s QR code, got the Visible app, and followed some straightforward instructions. I had to provide an email, but I wasn’t required to jump through hoops or provide billing information.

Multiple Numbers

Visible assigns a temporary number to each eSIM. If you join Visible after the trial, you can keep the temporary number or port in an existing number.

If you’d like to use multiple numbers in tandem during the trial (e.g., you want to trial Visible but also keep running your normal number and service), it’s easy. During setup, trial users select which SIM card should be used for each of three different services:

  • Regular calls & texts
  • iMessage
  • Data

In most cases, I’d suggest people trialing Visible let their original SIM card handle calls, texts, and iMessage while Visible handles data.

A Preview Of Things To Come?

Visible’s trial highlights how eSIMs could make the market for cell service more consumer-friendly. Potential Visible subscribers often wonder whether a low-price service can really offer good performance. Some people question whether congestion will lead to lousy speeds since Visible doesn’t get high-priority data. Now that Visible has a trial, there’s no need for guesswork.

Eligibility Details

The iPhone XR/XS and more recent iPhones running iOS 14+ are eligible for the free trial. Support for eSIM devices running Android is supposedly coming soon. Here’s how Visible responds to an FAQ entry about eligibility:

Anyone who is not currently a Visible member, or someone that has not participated in the trial in the past 12 months. If you meet these criteria, then all you need is an eligible iPhone device with eSIM capability to participate.

Full List Of Eligible Devices

  • iPhone SE (second generation)
  • iPhone 13
  • iPhone 13 Pro
  • iPhone 13 Pro Max
  • iPhone 13 mini
  • iPhone 12
  • iPhone 12 Pro
  • iPhone 12 Pro Max
  • iPhone 12 mini
  • iPhone 11
  • iPhone 11 Pro
  • iPhone 11 Pro Max
  • iPhone XR
  • iPhone XS
  • iPhone XS Max
Verizon store

Verizon’s Updates: New Plans & C Band

Verizon officially launched the new plans I discussed on Monday. For the most part, the plans are structured as expected. However, the Get More and Do More plans will continue to include a 50% discount on plans for connected devices (e.g., watches, hotspots, tablets).

C Band Launch

Yesterday, Verizon planned to launch service using its recently acquired C-band spectrum. However, Verizon is now delaying for two weeks due to complaints from the Federal Aviation Administration. The complaints stem from the possibility that cellular service in the C band could interfere with airplanes’ radio altimeters.

The dispute has been covered in other places (e.g., The NYT), so I won’t rehash the story myself. I’m not an RF engineer, and I know nothing about radio altimeters. Perhaps that should convince me to keep my mouth shut. But it’s hard for me to watch the ongoing disagreements without suspecting the aviation industry is making arguments in extremely bad faith.

A pipe leaking

Verizon’s New Plans Leak Early

Verizon has been making a big fuss about an announcement scheduled for 1pm ET tomorrow. Among other things, Verizon is expected to announce a revamp to some of its most popular plans.

Right now, Verizon has four postpaid, unlimited plans for the mass market:

  • Start Unlimited
  • Play More Unlimited
  • Do More Unlimited
  • Get More Unlimited

An authentic-looking picture appeared on Reddit and included details about the revamped plans. While I can’t be certain, it looks like the revamped plans will keep their old prices, have “5G” added to their names, and have “unlimited” dropped from their names. That’ll leave us with:

  • 5G Start
  • 5G Play More
  • 5G Do More
  • 5G Get More

For the most part, the changes to the plans look minor. As I see it, here are the most noteworthy changes:

  • Hotspot data increases from 15GB to 25GB on the Play More & Do More plans
  • Hotspot data on the Get More plan increases from 30GB to 50GB
  • (Possibly) Get More & Do More plans lose a discount on connected device plans
  • Get More & Do More subscribers get one free TravelPass each month1
  • Added 50% discount on Verizon Home Internet with all plans expect 5G Start
  • Premium data with the Get More plan turns unlimited (currently 50GB)

Verizon seems to be following T-Mobile’s lead with that last change. In my view, it’s a bad development for most Verizon subscribers. Here’s what I wrote when T-Mobile dropped premium data restrictions on its top-tier plan (Magenta MAX):2

The utility of Premium Data hinges on how much Premium Data is being used by other network users. By including unlimited Premium Data with the Magenta MAX plan, T-Mobile is slightly degrading service quality for tens of millions of users in order to improve service for a tiny fraction of the company’s heaviest data users.

The same can be said for Verizon and the 5G Get More plan.

There’s nothing necessarily wrong with managing networks via things like premium data allotments. Consumers need transparency about network congestion. Dropping premium data limits just passes the buck.


Again, everything is uncertain at this point. I plan to write another post after tomorrow’s announcement.

Hat tip to Josh of PA TECH who drew my attention to the Reddit post.