Visible, the prepaid carrier owned by Verizon, is adding some new services that make using it just a bit more like subscribing to one of the big wireless carriers. Starting today, Visible now supports activating service via eSIM. It only works with recent, compatible iPhones, but Visible says it will add support for Android devices soon. The company also is offering 5G service (with limits) and free calling and messaging to Canada and Mexico.
Visible customers’ access to Verizon’s 5G network has some important fine print: both Nationwide and Ultra Wideband are included, but data speeds will be capped at 200Mbps. Direct carrier subscribers (AKA Verizon customers) also have priority on the fastest data speeds during times of congestion. That’s also a common practice of MVNOs. While they can offer competitively priced plans, they’re commonly subject to limitations like speed reductions for heavy data users and streaming video at 480p only.
Both Nationwide and Ultra Wideband are included, but data speeds will be capped at 200Mbps
eSIM support makes a lot of sense with Visible’s all-digital ethos: customers with compatible phones can switch to Visible without waiting for a physical SIM card to be mailed. By opting for an embedded rather than removable SIM card, eSIM technology makes it easier to switch carriers using an existing device. That’s also very appealing to MVNOs trying to compete with the big carriers.
Many MVNOs don’t support eSIM yet, but more are coming this year. H2o Wireless and Pure Talk will both offer eSIM support sometime this quarter. But while it makes initially signing on with a new carrier easier, eSIM presents its own drawbacks, including a more complicated process when switching to a new phone.
Visible’s announcement today also includes news about its Party Pay plans, which allow customers to share plan costs while maintaining separate accounts and billing. Previously capped at four people, these plans can now include an unlimited number of lines.
Finally, Visible will no longer charge for calls and texts between the mainland US and Canada, Mexico, US Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. It’s increasingly the norm for US carriers to include calling and SMS from the US to neighboring regions without an extra fee or at low monthly flat rate. All of these features (except for upcoming Android eSIM support) are available starting today.
Update, February 9th: A previous version of this post identified Visible as an “MVNO.” An MVNO is a carrier that does not own the infrastructure is uses to provide service, but instead leases it. Visible is wholly owned by Verizon, so the company prefers not to be referred to as an MVNO.