Verizon's newest competitor is a startup backed by the wireless giant

Verizon has quietly launched a startup offering low-cost wireless services.

The company, called Visible, is offering U.S. customers unlimited data, messages and minutes for $40 a month service, well below the $73 monthly charge that the average consumer pays for mobile service.

Unlike other carriers, Visible also won't throttle the service of users based on data usage, which has long been a sore subject for consumers. And the company will provide nonprofit startups with financial, networking and phone connections. As for pricing, many carriers offer $40 per month unlimited plans if several people join as part of a family plan.

For now, the service is limited in scale -- users need to get an invitation from a current Visible member to be able to access the company's app. The service, which launched last week, also is available only for unlocked iPhones that aren't tied to a particular carrier. 

According to Visible, it plans to eventually open access to Android users and may eventually work with phone companies to provide devices geared to its service, which runs on Verizon's 4G LTE network.

"We have been really, really happy with the customer interest so far," said Visible CEO Miguel Quiroga in an interview, while declining to offer details on how many people have signed up. The phones "can certainly be an opportunity in the future, but it's still early."

The maturity of the U.S. wireless market means that carriers mostly grow by picking off each other's consumers. Thats's why Verizon's rivals have long touted their budget offerings. AT&T's Cricket service, for instance, has plans starting at $25 a month. T-Mobile's One plan charges $40 per line per month for four lines and includes a subscription to Netflix. Sprint's Boost Mobile service starts at $35 a month. 

Verizon is the U.S. wireless market's largest player with 150.1 million customers, followed by AT&T (142 million), T-Mobile (73 million) and Sprint (54 million).  Earlier this month, Sprint announced a $26.5 billion all-stock deal to acquire T-Mobile.  

"Verizon is not typically first with these kinds of programs," said Jeff Kagan, an independent telecommunications analyst. "Typically, Verizon joins the industry when a technology is proven to be something that customers want. … Sure, it's late to the game, but that never hurt Verizon before."

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    Jonathan Berr is an award-winning journalist and podcaster based in New Jersey whose main focus is on business and economic issues.