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Beware the Overages of March

Ever since Brutus killed Ceasar, the middle of March has been an ominous time of year.

Our Story of Bandwidth Betrayal

We love our Millenicom 20GB 3G/4G Hotspot Plan (which uses Verizon’s unrivaled LTE network), but at LTE speeds – 20GB can go pretty darned fast.

And this is the biggest downside of life with blazing fast 4G LTE wireless speeds – with great speed comes great responsibility. Without careful management, LTE makes it trivially easy to accidentally burn through way more data than you ever imagined possible.

Last October we discovered mid-month by writing to usage@millenicom.com that we had crossed over our 20GB data plan limit – hitting 21GB on October 17th. We knew that we had just had a heavy few weeks of usage, but we were still surprised by the total. Fortunately Millenicom does not charge for overages and they consider the 20GB limit a “soft cap” that can be occasionally crossed over. It was only through careful bandwidth rationing that we were able to get through the rest of the month by offloading much of our usage over to AT&T.

Ever since then we have been even more careful about limiting our LTE cellular usage. Recently we have been handling our big downloads over borrowed WiFi, such as at our park’s hotspot in the front office or at our parent’s places. This hasn’t been a hardship – we’ve been spending most days over with my folks lately anyway.

Just to be on the safe side – we still keep checking in occasionally with Millenicom to avoid any surprises. We dropped them a line this past Saturday (3/16) to check in and make sure we were pacing ourselves.

Big mistake.

Our usage after Millenicom updated our account on Monday evening.

Our usage after Millenicom updated our account on Monday evening.

They responded later that afternoon, telling us we had already used 30.33GB for the month, and they were immediately suspending our account for excessive use until our next billing cycle on April 2.

Our account was disconnected and we were suddenly offline before we had even finished reading their e-mail!

Thanks Millenicom, stab us in the back.

Some thanks for being conscientious long time customers who proactively asked. No warning, no option to add overage data, no offer to investigate the matter further – just cut off and given a firm warning that the next punishment could be total termination.

To add insult to injury, our AT&T Mobile Share plan (for our iPhones) was already within 1GB of reaching our pre-paid bucket of 10GB of data. AT&T is our fallback Internet source, and through some complicated screw-ups on AT&T’s part – they had changed our billing cycle date without telling us. Thinking our bucket reset on the 5th of the month, as usual, we had favored using AT&T to burn though some big downloads (ya know, use it or lose it… will there ever be roll-over data??).

However, the new billing date was now the 25th of the month, so we had been using our allotment at the beginning of the cycle, not the end. GAH!!

Et tu, AT&T?

Thankfully there is no risk of AT&T cutting us off without warning, and AT&T’s overage charges are just $15/GB. Unpleasant, but we can work with that.

At least we could still get online to support our clients in a crisis.

Using my iPad as much as possible as we went into conservation mode.

Using my unlimited data iPad as much as possible as we went into conservation mode. (That’s our Game of Thrones discs serving as my iPad stand.)

We suddenly went from happily surfing, to being in extreme bandwidth conservation mode!

Chris went to work with the folks at WiFiRanger to troubleshoot why we couldn’t keep connected to the nearby WiFi hotspot (only barely reachable thanks to our roof-mounted WiFiRanger Sky, not directly by our laptops) – discovering some complicated routing glitches that made WiFi essentially unusable.

Meanwhile, I went about investigating the Millenicom situation further, using my unlimited grandfathered in AT&T data plan on my iPad (which no, does not offer a viable total solution as hotspotting/tethering was never included on that plan).

I discovered that Millenicom now (at last!) displays usage reports, updated weekly, on our online account management page. Just login, click ‘Products’ at the top and select your device. The last line should be your usage for the month so far, as calculated on the prior Monday from aggregated reports from Verizon that Millenicom downloads.

Our usage as calculate just 4 days prior to being suspended.

Our usage as calculated just 4 days prior to being suspended.

Ours read 7.88 GB as of 3/12.

So from 3/12 to mid-day on 3/16 (4 days!!!) they claim we had used 22.79GB of data.

That’s over 5GB per day, when our daily average until then was under 700MB – well under 1GB per day, and nicely on track to use just 20GB for the month.

To use that much data in such a short span of time, we’d have to be streaming HD content several hours a day. We don’t stream video content while using our Millenicom data (that’s what the unlimited iPad is for) and we seek out unlimited & fast internet sources for our big downloads. We’re vigilant about that.

We also weren’t home much in those four days. My dad had nursing and social worker visits from hospice, and out of town family friends visiting. We took part in all of that, and were spending 8-10 hours a day away from the bus with family, with most of our tech devices off or with us.

Unless Kiki was at home watching some serious HD kitty-porn while we were out, or a neighbor cracked our password to the MiFi and ‘borrowed’ some internet, we can not conceive of having consumed 22GB of data in that 4 day time span.

The only potential bandwidth hog that we can imagine having hit us was syncing some large graphical files to our DropBox backups – but even then that wouldn’t total up to nearly 20GB of data.

We wrote to Millencom multiple times asking for more details, options for getting back online ASAP, and asking them to re-check our usage for some sort of explanation or accounting error that might explain the sudden strange increase.

But though it took them only hours to reply to our usage query by shutting us down, it took 48 hours to get any further reply from Millenicom – and then all they could offer was to encourage us to get the Millenicom “Unlimited” plan. They seemed to have no ability at all to reactivate our current MiFi modem – we even offered to pay! If it had been our only means of connectivity, we would have been in a real lurch.

BTW – though it sounds tempting, Millenicom’s “Unlimited” plan is actually soft-capped at 50GB, and instead of being run on Verizon it is on Sprint’s limited and now orphaned 4G WIMAX network. And in our current location, would have only been 3G speeds. The Sierra Wireless AirCard 250U modem that Millenicom is offering will NOT connect to Sprint’s new LTE network, and there will be no further increases in WIMAX coverage area.

In other words, we had little interest in switching back to that plan.

Our app “Coverage?” is a great tool for tracking what works where.

Thinking Outside our Mobile Box

As frustrated as we were with Millenicom, by the time we heard back from them we already had another solution in the works.

We’re currently parked in a mobile home park that just happens to have RV spots, and we’ll (hopefully) be here a while. We couldn’t help but notice all these black cables strung over our heads.

Oh, wait…  cable!

That’s how our stationary neighbors get online. Duh!

Sometimes us mobile folks just have to think outside our normal limitations.

We asked around with our neighbors and at the office, and yes indeed – we can get cable service!  A quick call to Bright House, and we had a work order to turn on ‘Turbo Internet’ the very next day. 30Mbps down and 2Mbps up with no data caps, no contract, no cancellation fees, only a small $20 install fee, no equipment to purchase and the internet only price was much cheaper than we were paying Millenicom monthly too!

Our own cable installation!

Our own cable installation!

The highly professional internet gods arrived right on time, updated our bus’ pre-wired coax and bandwidth is now flowing out our ears again!

It is ironic that it took nearly 7 years of us being on the road for mobile internet speeds to reach the equivalent of what is available for wired options. And here we are, total digital nomads, plugging in again.

While we could have just gotten the Internet package, we opted to also kill two birds with one cable. We had been bemoaning just finishing watching Season 2 of Game of Thrones and HBO would soon be premiering Season 3. There is no way for a non-HBO customer to legally obtain the episodes until the entire series is released to disc. We didn’t want to wait a year!  So, we splurged and got basic cable and HBO too.

What the heck, right?

Our focus in on family and business right now. And being able to swim in the abundance of internet without worrying about frustrating caps, and also enjoying some mind numbing media distractions – well, we think it’s worthwhile.

It just feels awfully darn ‘stationary’ to be cable subscribers again! Until we next need mobile internet, we have put our Millenicom account on vacation and our AT&T will remain our stand-by.

So the soothsayer has warned.. what’s this mean to you?

Ever since we started sharing our whole Millenicom suspending us saga, we had four typical responses that we’ll address:

1) Other folks have also been suspended this week too.

We have been amazed by how many others are replying that they too got suspension notifications from Millenicom within the past week, all with no prior warning. It seems that Millenicom is definitely starting to enforce their caps, have changed their policies, or are accounting for usage differently all of the sudden.

We have heard from others who have talked directly to Millenicom support that the magic number for getting suspended is now 25GB. At one time in the distant past, we had a support person assure us that they allowed a 50% overage before you were even on their radar. This has obviously changed. (At least there remains some leeway for occasional overage…)

We should also disclose that Millenicom had given us our device (and a couple months of service) for evaluation and review on this blog last summer. Not that we ever expect, or even asked for, special exemption from their new policies because we’re bloggers. But, when we were communicating with them to prepare our blog review last summer and inquired how overages are handled these days, Millenicom told us (and this is a quote from our e-mail exchange in August 2012):

“It is possible (though rare) that an account that goes over the 20 gig limit may be throttled to 3G speeds for 30 days.”

This is clearly no longer the case, and they are now suspending accounts rather than throttling back to slower 3G.

It would be nice (perhaps, required??) if Millenicom had done more to share the details about this change in policy.

Millenicom also claims they have an intention of sending out notification emails when you’re approaching your 20GB limit, however with them only reviewing usage once a week – it is very easy to get caught off guard if you have a sudden spike in usage.

Do you know how many cat treats we had to bribe Kiki with to get this shot???

Do you know how many cat treats we had to bribe Kiki with to get this kitty-porn shot???

Some of the suspended folks we’ve been in communication with also report that they can not account for the usage claimed. Some of them were even using their own usage tracking systems, reporting very different numbers than Millenicom/Verizon is reporting.

As we didn’t track our usage independently, we honestly don’t know if we actually somehow accidentally used a ton of bandwidth or if there’s some usage calculation error somewhere between Millenicom and Verizon.

But it does strike us a oddly curious how many people are getting cut off all of the sudden.

Beware – suspensions are happening. Gone are the days of not having to worry about your usage with Millenicom.

2) Advice on just how to track how much bandwidth you’re using

Ya know, we really haven’t looked into independently tracking our usage too seriously. This is the first time in our many years with Millenicom that we’ve been suspended. When we suspect that we’ve been piggish with our usage, we have dropped them a note to usage@millenicom.com and asked. Now they offer that info, once a week, online in your account under ‘Products’. (Some folks are reporting that theirs is reading zero, we don’t know what is up with that.)

However, obviously, a weekly report is not good enough. With LTE, you can very quickly burn through data without knowing. Stuff just loads faster. And things that would be annoyingly slow on 3G (like buffering streaming video) just go so smoothly on LTE that they can silently suck your data bucket dry.

What would be the most ideal is if Millenicom and/or Verizon officially allowed you to check your live usage anytime you wanted – and while there are hackish ways to do this, it’s not ‘recommended’. Even better would be if the Novatel 4620L MiFi device had an internal auto-reseting usage counter.

MiFi Tethering - Coming Soon!

MiFi Tethering (and more) – Coming Soon in WiFiRanger Firmware 6.6.1!

But lacking that, we now have official word from our contact at WiFiRanger that they are building usage tracking into their router. Coming in the next firmware update:

  • Direct USB tethering to the MiFi device.
  • WiFi Multimedia Bug Squashed – much better video streaming on WiFi.
  • Plug-and-play WFRControl setup (no pairing process needed).
  • Bandwidth tracking by input type – which means if you tether your Millenicom MiFi device via USB, you can track your actual usage yourself!

The release date is projected to be 4/15 – tax day, perfect time for enabling auditing, huh?

There are other ways to track usage, but it gets complicated the more devices that you use online. If you have any favorite tools or techniques, please share in the comments to help others finding this article.

3) Advice for how to minimize your LTE usage

LTE data goes quickly, here’s some tips for minimizing the chances of burning through your data limits:

  • Unless you need the speed, you can force your MiFi to connect via 3G/CDMA instead. Here’s instructions on how to do so.  For a lot of stuff 3G is fine, and the slower speeds will help you minimize your data usage.
  • Be very careful when you load a page with video on it. If it autoplays, it’s very likely caching faster than you can watch it. And in many cases, even if you click ‘Pause’ or ‘Stop’ it still caches in the background.  I avoid loading video pages while on capped bandwidth whenever possible.
  • Make sure you have auto-downloads of system & software updates turned OFF. Save those for when you have unlimited Internet!
  • Pause auto-sycning to your cloud based back-up services – like DropBox. (CrashPlan apparently has features to help with this – Lynne over at Winnie Views did an excellent recent review on it.)
  • If you are subscribed to podcasts, TV series or any other periodical content through programs like iTunes, be extra vigilant that you are not auto-downloading new episodes in the background. iTunes has a habit of conveniently forgetting this setting on occasion (grrr). For best luck, just keep iTunes closed.
  • Run an adblocker in your browser to avoid loading unneeded graphics and promotional video ads.
  • And if you’re not using it, turn your MiFi OFF! Don’t let things connect to it without your conscious intent. Protect your precious bandwidth.

Here’s more of our views on the joys and frustrations of 4G/LTE.

4) Would we still recommend Millenicom?

Millenicom LogoFor getting 20GB of Verizon data (the most widespread network out there, making them ideal for us nomads), Millenicom is still the best deal going. Even Verizon’s own ‘grandfathered in unlimited’ plans out there now actually throttle speeds after using just 2GB (yes.. TWO!) of data in a month, hardly worth it at all.

If you need lots of bandwidth, the Millenicom 4G/3G Hotspot plan is still a great potential part of your arsenal. So no, we’re not withdrawing our recommendation of this service at this time – just updating you with what appears to be a change in policy.

Realize, that 20GB on LTE will not seem to be as much as 20GB on 3G used to feel like. It will be used quicker..  a lot quicker.

In our opinion, with increased speeds – the bandwidth caps also need to be increasing across the entire cellular industry. We’d love to see Millenicom offer a 50+GB data plan under Verizon. Those of us who need that sort of mobile bandwidth are happy to pay a fair price for it, we depend on it to enable our nomadic lifestyle. Right now you have to buy two different devices from them and load balance manually. Awkward and annoying.

We don’t bemoan Millenicom enforcing the limits we agreed to when we signed up – true data hogs do need to be throttled back to keep services operating smoothly for us all. However, if the policy is now going to be immediate suspension with no warning system and no process for extensions or appeal – all while offering no easy way for consumers to keep real-time tabs on their own usage… that’s just not right.

Our biggest disappointment with Millenicom is poor communication and customer service.

The icy pain of sudden net-death, without warning, inflicted from what we had thought of as a trusted friend. Betrayal. That’s what hurts.


March 29 Update: After a week of playing phone and e-mail tag, we had a very positive talk with the owner of Millenicom in response to this post. Here’s our full post with the details and internal staff retraining that this post generated. 

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82 Comments - Still Plenty of Room for Yours!

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  1. I have had a verizon grandfathered unlimited plan since inception and consistently use 18GBs a month and they don’t throttle me. I am not sure where you got that info. As for your usage, all I do is watch YouTube, netflix, surf around and download off itunes and use 18. I can’t imagine what a person would need to do to go over that. Lol I would suggest getting a life if you do use that much. (In a good Christian way of course.)

    • In the past in areas where Verizon’s 3G network was congested, Verizon did indeed throttle back unlimited users. Based on the research I’ve done, Verizon has yet to throttle those with grandfathered unlimited plans who are on the 4G LTE network – but they absolutely retain the right and the capability to do so.

      There is every reason to expect that Verizon will eventually do that sort of throttling with LTE as the network gets more saturated, but for the time being those grandfathered plans are a sweet deal.

      As for 18Gb a month… A single major OS update can burn through nearly that much if you aren’t careful, as can downloading a media rich game. And if you are streaming HD movies, that much data can burn up in just a night or two.

      In other words – there are plenty of reasons to go over 18Gb.

      In fixed home usage, 250Gb/month is often considered “basic” in places where they have started to meter data.

      – Chris

  2. Just wanted to thank you so much for this article. And also, the valuable information, and your responses and attention, in this comment section. Of course, I found your site AFTER I already purchased a plan from Millenicom this evening, so it’s a bit late for me, despite your posting this stuff months ago. :) I don’t think that people who start truly unbiased and informational websites like yours receive enough appreciation for the huge service you do for the rest of us in the world.

    p.s. I explored the rest of your site, and realize that Millenicom is in a tight spot. Regardless, I still thank you for your excellent information. A human life is short enough that everything is transitory, isn’t it? :)

    • Awww… *blush* Comments like yours absolutely make us glow. Thank you for taking the time to express your appreciation. And best wishes with the Millenicom plan, we’re still happy customers of the 20GB one.

  3. In relation to the last comment, and Millenicom in general….

    I was just talking to their customer support about the exact same thing, and to be honest it was not that friendly of a conversation (professional enough though.). I sensed a strong feeling dismay in the rep. I am currently about to hit the road in my converted box van and I need a reliable connection like you guys do, as I run a small business web design and SEO company.

    Should I hold off on ordering from them? Are you (as customers) getting feelings of uncertainty from the company? What would you recommend as alternatives?

    PS. THANK YOU! For your wonderful blog, it is undoubtedly a huge resource for alternative lifestyles that is helping to make the world a better place. I have been lurking around here for quite awhile now, and I really hope we meet some day (soon) when I get on the road full time. You techies are a shining LED in the sky for all potential nomads :-)

    • Awww… thanks.

      Millenicom *just* announced that they and Sprint severed ties, so I would imagine things are a bit in turmoil there this week. We don’t have any information to share on the Verizon plan, and aren’t issuing any statements right now until we learn more and have a better understanding on what went on with the Sprint deal.

    • Ok…

      We have heard from a very reliable ‘in the know’ source that this is the third time that Sprint has fumbled things with Millenicom… and this time was extremely last minute.

      However, there has never has there been a problem with Verizon, and none on the radar. Our communication gives us confidence to continue recommending the ‘Hotspot’ plan on Verizon, and to stay tuned for some future potential exciting developments.

  4. I’m a long time customer of Millenicom on their Sprint network. I just received a email that stated in part:

    “Sprint has discontinued service to our gateway provider, unfortunately
    that means we can no longer provide the Unlimited or BYOD Plan to you.

    We anticipate your plan to be discontinued by Sprint by the end of this

    They suggest a migration path to another company reselling sprint bandwidth. Less data for more money, but I think I’ll take it rather than investing in Verizon equipment and staying with Millenicom. No telling when Verizon may do the same as Sprint and put Millenicom out of bussiness.

    • Yes indeed, Millenicom Sprint customers all got hit with that same e-mail last night. It’s a real bummer. And the BMI.Net option doesn’t look like it offers nearly same level of service. A true shame, especially as Sprint’s network starts to grow.

      Keeping our fingers crossed on the Verizon plan, but you’re absolutely right – it brings to light how fragile these agreements are that we depend on.

  5. This is an explanation, not a justification.

    Based on my experience working in customer service, the person to whom you spoke probably has less technical knowledge than most of the people here. He has strict limits on what he may say even if he has the knowledge you request. The fact is, both Verizon and Millenicom would rather lose a certain calculated number of customers than be open about the details of the operation. That’s standard procedure in corporate America.

  6. However, you are correct. The testaments here and elsewhere are typical of satisfied customers. The prices are the cheapest. I was just thrown back from that conversation…kinda soured me on them.

    I have read good and bad reviews on the hotspot hardware. But that said, since I am looking for a rural home solution, the homefusion has at least as many if not more complaints on the hardware side. Decisions decisions…

  7. How did you learn of this policy? I am assuming someone told you? I could have accepted that answer from them, but instead was told sorry we cant do business. That is a pretty sad image of their CS…

    • In reading your own chat transcript, you’re the one who told them you wouldn’t be signing up… not the other way around.

      I think you’re reading a lot more into their ‘customer service’ than is there. In my read of it, the chat representative gave you as clear as answers as he could given their agreements with their upstream providers.

      We learned about the plan from others, such as on forums, blog posts, etc. Just as you are from this posting and others. If you want the deal, it comes with some drawbacks – like Millenicom not being able to tell you they’re just reselling Verizon service, and not being able to provide real time data usage reports. If you want direct Verizon support, go direct with them and pay their fees. If you’re willing to be a bulk customer, Millenicom is the best deal out there for Verizon data.

      The hotspot included with the plan is troublesome. There are a lot of workarounds out there that are discussed on forums and such, and included in our book.

  8. I can assure you, millenicom is not much for customer service. It almost seems as if they do not even want more customers! Here is how my conversation ended after repeated attempts to ask how their devices connected to the network.

    19:07:48 Visitor: But you can verify that in fact these devices are working off their towers?
    19:10:22 Daniel: Kyle our Hotspot plan runs off of the Verizon network footprint wherever that footprint is you will have service with your device
    19:10:44 Daniel: if you would like i can confirm your address and verify that you will or will not have service through us
    19:11:03 Visitor: Ok, but it just seems vague to me? Are they using the same towers?
    19:11:15 Visitor: Just trying to see how it works?
    19:13:44 Visitor: So?
    19:13:53 Visitor: Your not using their towers?
    19:14:36 Daniel: we are running off of the Verizon network footprint for the Hotspot plan
    19:15:07 Daniel: wherever that footprint is present you will have service
    19:15:22 Visitor: Are you dancing around my question? I dont understand… are you or are you not using their towers? It seems weird you wont answer that?
    19:19:12 Daniel: I have given you all of the information requested to the best of my ability
    19:19:41 Visitor: Daniel… either yes, no, or you dont know?
    19:20:09 Visitor: Im thinking I wont be signing up, just based on the hesitance of this customer service…?
    19:20:31 Daniel: I am sorry we could not do business
    19:20:53 Visitor: Ha
    19:21:10 Operator Daniel left the chat

    This was about the 10th time I asked him about the towers and if the hotspot indeed used LTE(bc their site makes no mention of it). He was extremely shady about the conversation from the word “go”. Its long but I can post it if needed.

    • Millenicom is a MVNO, and part of their agreement with reselling of these services is that they are not allowed to be upfront about who’s service they are reselling. Your service rep actually answered your question more clearly than he probably should have – they are indeed using Verizon’s footprint.

      As us and many other happy Millenicom customers will attest to, the 4G Hostpot Plan is Verizon’s network, and includes their LTE service.

      It’s your choice if you want to trust in that and save money on service.

  9. Hey guys. I just happened upon your blog when looking for reviews of the Millenicom plans. I am preparing to go full-time, and am a remote employee logging in to VPN every day for at least 8 hours a day – and will continue to do so while traveling the US. I’m concerned about usage – and paying out the wazoo — would you still suggest Millenicom and the unlimited plan??? BTW — love your posts — very helpful and informative!

    • Your usage will not be as dependent upon just being logged in via VPN, but more what are you doing once logged in? How much data is being transferred back and forth? Would recommend getting a usage tracker installed and start finding out how much you use.

      We just published an eBook on this subject over at http://www.technomadia.com/internet which will go over all of the options and considerations for mobile internet.

      • So far today, 102MB! I installed NetWorx over the weekend to start monitoring. I’m not the only one online in this house, but even if I only take 1/2 of what the usage it, it seems a lot. On a daily basis via VPN, I am uploading and downloading files, email, inputting data, internal instant messaging . . . Currently have Comcast in sticks and bricks – they have usage data on their site – last 3 months I have averaged about 75GB!! HELP!

      • 102 MB a day is not bad at all. 75GB a month, is quite a bit.. and will be pricey to accommodate out on the road. We have some ideas in our eBook, you should go grab a copy.

  10. I am a regular Verizon user on a 10 gb plan with a jetpack to share the wifi with my laptop. I’ve been good about staying under (can’t use YouTube or stream any music or anything) but middleish of March I had a HUGE data usage spike. Did everything I could to limit my phones data leak but to no avail. After a week of watching my data go out the window, I saved everything to my memory card, took it out and restored back to factory. My phone had a data draining virus and I’m not sure where I got it – might have been an email because everything I do on my phone is safe/secure (I don’t even download anything or go to unsecured sites). Once the leak stopped I made sure to stay under my 10gb for the month (lost almost 3gb)but I still got hit with a $15 overage charge. I’m going to pull my spreadsheet from Verizon tonight and give them a call – it’s much more accurate than the phone measurement. Everyone should keep a close eye on their usage – wouldn’t surprise me if some of these companies came up with data draining sneak ins to make a little extra cash. I’ll be getting millenicom asap and cutting my Verizon plan WAY down.

    • Yikes!

      Are you saying that you suspect a virus on your phone, and not your computer?

      I’ve heard of that sort of nasty malware on Android, but I’ve never run across anyone who had been hit so badly.

      Let us know if you figure out more details of what happened.


      – Chris

  11. If your IPad has unlimited cellular data, why not install Cydia and WyMi and use it as a hotspot? I used to do this while traveling on an IPhone till I could get to broadband. I used up to 5GB in a month this way. Depending on location, I could watch netflix on my laptop. Because of your high data usage, you would probably only want to use this method when you have no other choice.

    • Tethering was specifically not included in the terms of service with the grandfathered in plan, and we don’t want to do anything that could potentially jeopardize that. We are also iOS app developers, and prefer to keep our devices ‘stock’ for testing purposes.

  12. While we are on the subject of Millenicon and the 4620L jetpack. I have been having issues with my jetpack freezing up. Internet connection stop abruptly buy the window on the jetpack shows its connected and happy. When I try to reboot, the 46220L, by holding the top button down but it does nothing. Just looks back at me like all is well. So I have to remove the back cover and battery wait a minute then reassemble and re-start and everything is fine. If this happened once a week I wouldn’t worry about it but it is happening with greater frequency …everyday for the past week and twice this morning already.
    I am calling Millenicon tech today..but wondered if OTHERS are experiencing this issue with the 4620L.

  13. Hi All –

    I use Millenicom and keep of my monthly 20 gigs with the VZAcess dialer Verizon offers. Every time you connect it updates your month to date usage. I asked a Millenicom tech support person about it and she said it was an “approximation”. It was about 250 MB off of what Millenicom showed so it seems pretty workable. You can download VZAccess from Verizon’s website for free.

    • Thanks for chiming in John – are you on the 4G/3G hotspot plan using the 4620L Jetpack? Or the 3G plan using the Novatel USB stick? To the best of my knowledge, the VZAccess dialer would only work with the USB stick, not the MiFi plan that is being discussed in this post.

  14. Hi Cherie,

    For populated areas I believe MetroPCS (now part of T mobile) allows so called unlimited data. Not much use in the boonies, however.

  15. Good stuff as always.

    One way to help preserve data usage is to make downloading Flash objects (ie youtube videos, ads on websites, etc) a opt-in process. You can also whitelist sites if you don’t want to approve every single Flash element on pages you trust or frequent often.

    The FlashControl extension for Chrome is very good at doing this. It puts a place holder where the Flash object is and you can click it to load it up. Has side benefit of preserving your CPU.

  16. Just a reminder that vacation mode for Millenicom is only 3 months and then they automatically turn your service back on without notice. Just happened to us…

  17. Hey Chris/Cherie…I noticed the screen of WFR control page above listed firmware as 6.6.1. and “tethering active”, so I am assuming you guys are beta testing new firmware.
    Can you tell me if the tether goes from the battery charge port of the Millenicom device (where else..duh..) to the USB port of the WFR Home router?
    Does that setup stop the Millenicom jetpack device from transmitting its SSID and basically shut it down from sending data wirelessly…and ONLY sending data by the tether?? Hope that’s clear.

    • Hey guys… we’re actually not beta testing the new firmware, as we have too much on our plate right now. This is just a screen capture we received. So we don’t know the answers to any of this… we’ll just have to wait and see when it’s officially released.

    • Yes, that is how it will connect. The USB cable charges/powers the 4620 from the Go and the data is transferred via the USB cable. I recommend turning off the MiFi SSID so to not het any hit in performance.

  18. I just got suspended a few days ago when i came across this blog. Its good to see that I’m not the only victim of being accused of using more than i actually did. To be very clear I’m not out to get millenicom nor am I sure their responsible for this incorrect data usage. However its still a good idea to use bandiwth monitoring software to make sure and defend yourself if accused. Sorry about the second post but i felt that some things i said could be misconstrued.

    • Hi Mac.. thanks for chiming in. If this is Millenicom’s new policy (immediate suspension), then yes – monitoring your own real time usage becomes essential.

      PS. I merged your two comments into one, and hope it conveys your intent.

  19. We also received a warning email from Millenicom today, stating that we are at 21 GB as of today, and at risk of having our account suspended. We have the 20GB 3G aircard from Millenicom, so not LTE, but we do have a lot of devices, and without cable TV the kids have been watching their favorite History Channel programs online lately. Do you know if there is a way to go back and see usage for past months? I wish they would come up with a way to warn you when you are getting close.

    • Marci – I don’t know if Millenicom offers back records for past months or not. Might be worth contacting them to ask.

      With that many devices & people in your household, you may find that one account/internet source is not going to be meet your needs. Or ration out the capped internet sources amongst the family.

  20. Thanks for blogging about this. I’m keeping track of this topic as I use the service too. I agree with Geekynomads about the coolness-mojo a Linux cloud desktop/or system can give ya if you are mobile- oh and the awesomeness of DD-WRT firmware. I started running all my “extras” (laptop and phone- kindle) over a DD-WRT router with a shared connection from my main PC (that is tracked to the byte) so maybe I will not encounter this problem (since I have lots of logs going on and can track usage of every device). Anyway, thanks for posting news and updates on these Millenicom worries. — –travelfables/Dale

  21. Wow. We’ve been following your blog for a bit now as we prep to start full-timing 1 week from tomorrow (gulp)! In fact, we just Thursday got our Millenicom Jetpack in the mail and tried it out, briefly, and will be setting it up in our Rock Star Bus when we get her out of hock at the factory April 1. We intend to keep VERY CAREFUL track of our usage via Millenicom, but BWMonitor and Hootech Netmeter won’t work for us — we’re Mac. Any suggestions?? BTW, we’ve been blogging for a while on & off when we were part-timers and are now hard at it as we begin our newest adventure full-timing. See Ramblin’ On at https://ramblinon.wordpress.com. Thanks for all your very helpful advice and insights. You guys are great! Lisa & Joe

  22. I use a peplink balance 30 router at home, and will be taking it with me when we go on the road this summer (The house goes on the market in a week). This router is expensive, but it has three WAN ports plus a port for a cellular modem, will load balance across its connections, and you can set the cellular port to only use so much data per month, so it will cut that port off before you have a problem (and it would give you real-time monitoring of upload/download usage). I have not used it on the road yet, but its flexibility and other features sold me on it.

  23. Happy to hear you were able to get cable while parked. I’m waiting for the day when RV parks offering cable TV will be able to easily offer us a cable internet option whether we’re parked for one night or longer. Juggling internet access has been the biggest challenge to our life on the road. As you have, we still find ways to work. Adapt and overcome, yes?!

    • Ah yes.. adaptability is a key skillset for a nomadic lifestyle. As is having multiple ways to get online.

      Cable internet access by the day/week/month, I think, would be a popular feature us digital nomads would appreciate!

  24. I am one of your less tech-capable readers. My field is communication. I have had enough issues with Verizon to let go of anything they handle, and my view is simple. I’ll take your word for it that Millenicom is depending on Verizon (mistake) and I read this as meaning Verizon has decided to get rid of Millenicom. Why Millenicom has either not caught on or not resisted is beyond me. For ordinary people like me, incidents like this among our tech-savvy sources communicate that you’re being cut off at the knees.

  25. Thanks for all of this information re: Millenicom…I hope it all works out…we just recently converted to them. I have had other issues with them but so far not this one…I did email them to find out what my usage has been but so far have not heard back….

  26. You can easily get accurate data usage information from Verizon’s website. Millenicom doesn’t encourage this, but I have been using this for months with great success.

    You need to remove the sim card from the Millenicom mifi device and put it into another LTE device that can receive SMS (text) messages. I have a separate LTE USB card for this. The text message is readable via the Verizon computer app.
    Next create a new user account on Verizon’s website using the phone number of your millenicom account. They will send you a text message to finalize the set up of the online account. After that put the sim card back into your chosen device.
    Now at anytime you can log into Verizon’s website and get an accurate reading of your usage. FYI your account will show up on Verizon as a “Unlimited Account.”

    • Yes, this would be the non-recommended way we alluded to above. :) To the best of our understanding, part of Millenicom’s ability to be a MVNO and get us these bulk discounts is that Verizon is not having to serve us all as individual customer accounts.

      So while it is possible to do this, there is risk that if Verizon sees too many Millenicom accounts turning is on, it could affect us all by Millenicom no longer having negotiating power to get us these deals. We do suggest that folks find alternate ways to track their usage.

    • By the way, Millenicom has updated their FAQs on their website to include this about usage tracking:

      (from: http://millenicom.com/faq/)

      How do I monitor my usage?
      In some cases your connection manager is able to report monthly usage, please note it is not entirely accurate and often takes a day or so to reset at the start of each month.
      Usage information is updated every Monday in your Millenicom members account at millenicom.com. Select “products” then click on the highlighted link. Scroll down to the “usage field”.
      You may also either submit a ticket to “usage” from your members account at millenicom.com or simply email usage@millenicom.com for a weekly update.
      Millenicom does not have an agreement with our upstream carrier to utilize any of their resources other than their national footprint. Please do not attempt to utilize any usage information other than the two methods listed above.

      (Translation: They are specifically requesting that you do NOT setup an account on Verizon to track your usage, as that is not within their agreement with them. If Verizon notices too many Millenicom users setting up accounts to track usage, it could jeopardize Millenicom’s ability to continue to keep these plans in place for us.)
      – Cherie

  27. As a VZW direct customer, I just updated all the notices I get … CYA … have only been over my limit a couple times – and paid the price …

    Thanks for this post~great info about what to watch out for.

  28. aaaahh, “My tongue will tell the anger of my heart” ~WS

    I based my decision to go with Millenicom because of the love in you guy’s hearts. I sure do hope they do right by you…

  29. Also, if you start watching a youtube video and want to stop it, you can right click on the video and select “Stop Download”. Quite handy, and I wish more sites would implement it.

  30. Thanks for the great column packed with insight into Millenicoms workings. An eye opener to be sure.

    We are RVers from Canada and will soon be heading back across the border and putting our Millenicom acct on hold until next November. I hope there won’t be any negative surprises from Millenicom on our return to the US next fall. I will be watching this blog closely for any updates from you guys.
    That being said our traveling back and forth is a juggling act for us with cell phone, sat TV, and internet accts in both country’s. We constantly have to suspend system there when we are here, and here when we are there.
    Its too bad there wasn’t one outfit that could service both sides of the border without all this bother. I would happily pay a premium for that.

    • I really do wish there were easier solutions for moving across borders while keeping online. I know there are international data options on our AT&T account, but it seemed a might bit pricey and limited.

      That’s one of the reasons we’ve not traveled into Canada or Mexico yet – keeping on top of our US based logistics is sometimes too much.

  31. I think Verizon and AT&T are cracking down on MVNOs. I’m trying to find the blogs and forums where I read this. I was thinking about switching my iPhone from AT&T to Straight Talk’s $45 *almost* unlimited plan, and people have been complaining lately of changes to Straight Talk’s service (due to AT&T). I have a friend that works for Sprint and he mentioned that MVNOs are a thorn in Sprint’s side. Which is probably why Millenicom’s Unlimited Sprint service is on their old network, so as not to bother Sprint’s “real” customers. I think major changes are afoot in the cell industry with regards to data, MVNOs and network capacity. But with the FCC too politicized to care, things will probably get worse before they get better.

  32. I wouldn’t be so hasty to blame Millenicom. I would be suspicious of Verizon, perhaps trying to create a reason to oust the MVNO. Verizon is quite nefarious. I personally had to sue Verizon twice for claims of overages, when I was still under contract with them and on 3g. After going round and round unsuccessfully for months with executive account reps, I finally just sued them. I won both times. They had a lawyer. I did not.

    I use both Bandwidth Monitor (www.bwmonitor.com/) and Net Meter (www.hootech.com/NetMeter/). One is free the other has a modest cost. I have no affiliation with either company except as a satisfied user of both programs. Because I had clear evidence in the form of daily, weekly and monthly bandwidth logs from two independent sources to present in court, Verizon had to repay me hundreds of dollars. (I had paid the overage charges because I wanted to keep my contract at the time.) Now that I am on millenicom, I have not had these issues, but I still run both of these programs religiously. NetMeter has a projection log, and I input my usage cap and the due date, so it pops up with a warning, “if usage continues at this pace, you will exceed your bandwidth limit for the month”. I actually have mine set to warn me if upload + download will potentially exceed 5GB in a week. Bandwidth Monitor has the ability to differentiate between device connections and will tell you which device is the culprit. That is why I use both of them. Good luck!

    I will say, however, that your app happy wifi’ed phones could be a culprit. Either disable the wifi on the phones when you aren’t using them or shut the phones off, if that is an option.

    • Bugnutz –

      Great tips on those tracking tools, and it is great to see that you were able to fight Verizon and win. What sort of defense did they put up? Did they offer any sort of reasons to explain why their totals are different than your own?

      I am sure that any data usage that Millenicom is reporting is just being passed on from Verizon, and if there is any over-counting of bits happening inadvertently it is most likely on Verizon’s end. But Millenicom should be looking out for their users since we have no way to poke Verizon directly.

      We are pretty careful with our “app happy” gadgets, and only do software updates on unlimited connections. Most apps are actually pretty conservative in how much bandwidth they use too.

      Thanks for the great info!

      – Chris

      • It was crazy. All they brought for their defense was copies of the bills with their data billing on them and some blah blah about their technology and monitoring. I was able to explain the two programs and their function and output in plain Texanese to the judge. I got concerned when it turned out their rep was the grandson of one of the judge’s childrens’ grade school teachers. Thought for a minute the good oh-boys club struck again, because they sure were getting chummy about family histories. I think he probably thought that, too. But then the judge took a 10 minute break to examine the evidence I had printed out and returned and ruled in my favor. haha!

    • Congrats on the win with Verizon, even though it is disappointing to hear that you had to go to such lengths.

      To be absolutely clear here tho, we are not ‘blaming’ Millenicom for the usage report – we know they are just getting that data from Verizon. But we are upset with them for the non-communication to their customers over the apparent change in policy of how overages are to be handled. When we signed up, they told us they may just throttle customers back to 3G for 30 days, and now apparently they are suspending without warning. Our post is to notify our readers that suspensions are happening and how it may impact them (as many folks have signed up with Millenicom on our past advice.)

      Oh, and our ‘app happy’ phones are hardly ever on WiFi. As noted in the article, we have them a AT&T share plan with their own big data bucket. Most of the first half of the month I was actually connecting my computer online via my iPhone.

      • It’s funny, I sort of accidentally went .13 (point one three) GB over last month on the last day of the month and so far haven’t noticed any repercussions. I knew I was cutting it close, but took a gamble. But most of the time I am way under, so maybe that is why. Too bad they don’t have “roll over data”.

  33. I think it’s unconscionable that devices like mifi do not track your bandwidth accurately. If you convert a router to use DD-WRT firmware, it has a rather nice bandwidth counter in it. I converted 2 old verizon fios routers and I also have a belkin I just got that I setup to autodial on a USB 3g dongle as well. I can just plug it in wherever and bam, instant hotspot, but unlike mifi it has VPN and other stuff built in. DD-WRT tracks your bandwidth month over month and you can see how you are doing. The tip about the cable modem is a good one, and one we almost got until we found out the wifi at the place we are staying is really quite good. An interesting thing to note, if you buy the cable modem online than you can get hooked up at different parks just by calling the local cable co. They probably don’t even have to send anyone out. Often if you move from service area to service area but still have the same provider (like comcast) then you can just plug in the modem and it will just work. So a non-leased cable modem is not a bad thing to have in your arsenal.

    If you work like me, and do a lot of VNC/remote desktop to support clients, those hog huge amounts of bandwidth and turning down the colors helps but ultimately what I found was switching to NX and running a remote desktop on a server I own elsewhere on a fat pipe and doing all of my work on that helps immensely. My active data rate is only like 23KB/sec to do most remote desktop work because the protocol is so good. It’s easy to forget you’re on 3g when you’re using that. Must have some linux experience to implement that and it’s not perfect in other ways.

    Everything in the world is progressing except cell data price per GB. I heard verizon or ATT offers up to 50GB on one of the shared business plans. Only $500/mo! What a steal!

    • Egads.. yes.. we saw that bandwidth package from AT&T too and thought ‘Wow.. what a deal!’.

      Thanks for the tips on better utilizing remote desktop, and the potential of purchasing a cable modem for those who travel between parks with the cable option.

      We don’t do much remote desktop ourselves, but I’m sure someone reading this in the future can benefit from it.

    • 50GB for $500/mo is a steal compared to what that amount of data would have cost a few years ago.

      In 2008, Verizon phased out it’s 3G “Unlimited” plan and changed to a 5GB plan for $70/mo, with a $250/GB overage charge.

      50GB usage on that plan would have cost you $11,320.

      So – things have been progressing. Just not nearly fast enough to keep up with the demands of modern usage!

      – Chris

      PS: Great tips about DD-WRT. I used to run that on my home router back before I went nomadic, and it was a fun and very geeky to play with. But it is definitely not for mainstream users who aren’t comfortable with advanced configuration tweaking.

      • To be fair though, a mainstream user isn’t going to go over the caps if they avoid video.

      • Actually.. we would disagree with that. LTE data is so easy to burn through rapidly without realizing it. A mainstream user is less likely to know to turn off auto-updates and downloads, for instance. We have heard from quite a number of folks over the past several days who would not classify them as ‘geeks’ who have been suspended for overage as well.

  34. This info is worth its weight in gold for all nomads. Thank you for all you do to keep us up to date and enable us to live the lifestyle.

  35. Thanks for sharing your dealings with Mellenicom. Been on the fence until we take off which route to take for service. I’m back to biting the bullet with Verizon. Glad you found a solution for now…and a special thanks for sharing how to save on LTE usage…couple suggestions I had no clue about!

    • Keep in mind that Millenicom is just reselling bulk Verizon service – and I am sure they are just reporting usage that Verizon tells them about.

      Verizon is probably at the root of any over-reported usage, I’d imagine.

      The advantage of going directly with Millenicom is that you get more data, no risk of overage charges (even though you may get cut off), and best of all – no two year contract.

      – Chris

  36. Hi, all!

    I am wondering if this was a Verizon issue. I have a friend who was registering massive data spikes last month even at times when she was asleep. Verizon had no explanation, but charged her amyway. This month, with no change in habits, he data usage is normal. My guess is that Millenicom just goes by Verizon’s numbers.


    • Hi Rick – we have heard from other direct Verizon customers who have reported some massive overage charges recently. So we agree, there could be a usage reporting issue on Verizon’s end, and Millenicom is just the messenger.

      However, we are Millenicom’s customer – and there definitely has been a change of policy in how overages are handled from when we signed up. Our main upset is not so much over the usage claims (although, those should be further investigated), but how the change in policy had not been communicated to their customers until they run into an overage.

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