Mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) are "alternative carriers" that lease coverage and network access from the major carriers (T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T) and can offer similar levels of service at a lower cost. T-Mobile has a ton of MVNOs that operate on its network thanks to its strong coverage and its GSM network that supports most unlocked phones. This makes it easy to switch and get set up.
You can also check out some of the best MVNOs that use T-Mobile's network.
To make sure your phone will work as well as possible on T-Mobile's network it should support the following frequencies.
3G: 1900MHz, 1700/2100MHz AWS
4G LTE: 600MHz, 700MHz, 850MHz, 1900MHz, 1700/2100MHz AWS
5G: 600MHz, 2.5GHz, 28GHz, 39GHz
These are the MVNOs that run on T-Mobile's network.
Best Cellular provides service on one of three networks including Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon and plans are available for both basic phones and smartphones. The basic phone plans start at $15 per month with 500 minutes, 100 texts, and 100MB of data. If you need more, you can upgrade to the $19 or $35 plan with the latter offering unlimited talk and text as well as 500MB of data.
The smartphone plans all come with unlimited talk and text with data amounts from 1.5GB, $3GB, 4GB, and 10GB at $40, $50, $55, and $60 per month respectively. The strongest feature of Best Cellular is being able to choose whichever network works best for you so you can be sure you have coverage.
Boom Mobile operates on three different networks. For T-Mobile's service, you'll want to stick with service on the Boom Purple network. That's close enough to magenta.
Plans start at $19 per month with unlimited talk and text plus 1GB of data. You can also bump up to 30GB for $49 per month. There are more plans available including shared data plans for multiple lines as well as three-month bundles.
Boost Mobile is now owned by Dish and offers plans on both the Sprint and T-Mobile networks. If you're looking for coverage on T-Mobile, you'll need to choose one of the plans available for Boost's Expanded Network.
Plans start as low as 1GB of data for $10 per month and increase in size and price up to 35GB. All plans come with hotspot functionality and unlimited talk and text. If you choose the 15Gb plan, you can save $10 per month by making six consecutive payments on time.
Consumer Cellular is relatively run-of-the-mill when it comes to MVNOs: it aims to save you money on your monthly phone bill. However, it's been recognized twice by J.D. Power and Associates for its excellent customer service. You can also score a 5% discount if you are an AARP member.
You can build your own plan with one to three lines, choosing from 250 minutes or unlimited, as well as data in 500MB, 3GB, 10GB, 15GB, and unlimited plans depending on your needs. There's also the option of skipping texting and data altogether if you want a plan that keeps things simple.
Eco's a great carrier if you're looking for great rates on international calling, with unlimited international calling available for free on plans of $30/month and up.
Plans start at $20 for unlimited talk, text, and 100MB of data. 2GB of data, unlimited talk, text, 2G data, and international calling is $30/month. All plans get voicemail, caller ID, call waiting, three-way calling, MMS (picture and video messaging), and domestic calling.
EcoMobile offers service on three of the major carrier's networks, including T-Mobile. Thanks to this you should be able to bring nearly any unlocked device. Smartphones, tablets, and data hotspots are all supported.
In the U.S. Google Fi makes use of three different carriers to build its coverage. With towers from Sprint, T-Mobile, and US Cellular. Google Fi can put together a strong network with these carriers and with a few specific phones, such as the Google Pixel lineup, can automatically switch between all three. You can also bring your own unlocked phone and it will run on the T-Mobile network.
Google Fi has a $70 unlimited plan as well as a flexible plan that starts at $20 for calls and texts with data coming in at $10 per GB. You can also save money by bringing more lines. When it comes down to it, you're better off using one of the phones that can automatically switch carriers but most GSM phones should work well.
GoSmart mobile sells data plans in five different sizes with unlimited talk, text, and Facebook data on all plans. For all other data, you'll have to tap into the amount included with your plan.
Starting at $15 per month, you get 250MB of data which is slowed to 2G speeds when you run out. At $25 you get 1GB, $30 with autopay, you get 5GB. At $45 per month, you can get 20GB and for $55 you get a completely unlimited plan though you are limited to 3G speeds only.
While not a traditional MVNO, KidsConnect is worth mentioning because it offers a solution to a problem that is becoming more and more pressing for parenting in modern times: How to keep in touch and track your child via smartphone technology, but without just handing your young child untethered access to a smartphone.
The solution is the KidsConnect KC2, a $130 GPS tracker with built-in speed dialing features for up to four numbers. This device offers real-time tracking, as well as location history. If there's ever any trouble, the child can press the SOS button, which sends texts to up to three cell phone numbers, then starts auto-dialing each number until one is answered. T-Mobile plans range from $15 per month with 50 minutes and 100 texts up to $24 per month with unlimited everything.
Lycamobile focuses on international calling and texting with even the entry-level $19 per month plan coming with unlimited international calling and texting. This includes 1GB of high-speed data as well as unlimited slower data.
You can upgrade your Lycamobile plan to include more data as well as more calling credits to more countries. Lycamobile is a great choice from someone that wants to stay connected internationally without having to use a VoIP app.
Mango is an MVNO with a focus on global callings and texting with all of its plans including global service to 10 different numbers. The entry-level plan comes in at $15 per month and comes with 500 minutes of talk time and 1GB of LTE speed data. All plans come with unlimited global texting. The largest data plan only comes with 2GB of high-speed data though the larger plans do come with more international calling. You can save money by buying up to 12 months at once.
Metro by T-Mobile
Metro by T-Mobile is a prepaid carrier operated by T-Mobile that offers a ton of data on every plan. The smallest plan offers 2GB of data for $30 per month with the next plan up offering 10GB at $40. You also get unlimited music streaming on this plan. The top two plans offer unlimited data at $50 and $60 per month. The more expensive plan offers more hotspot data, 15GB instead of 5GB, and Amazon Prime service. If you already pay for Amazon Prime, this alone is worth the upgrade.
With Metro by T-Mobile, you also can get a discount for each additional line you add up to 5 lines. 5G connectivity is also confirmed if you have a phone that supports it.
Mint Mobile is unique among MVNOs as it doesn't operate with traditional contracts. You pay upfront for your term, which can be 3 months, 6 months, or 12 months, with "buying in bulk" saving you more money in the long run.
All Mint Mobile plans come with unlimited talk and text in the U.S. as well as calling to Mexico and Canada. Data comes in 3GB, 8GB, and 12GB packages and all plans come with hotspot enabled. You also upgrade your data amount mid-cycle if you find you didn't buy enough. There's also an unlimited plan that comes with up to 35GB of high-speed data and 5GB of hotspot data.
Mint Mobile lets you bring your phone as long as it's compatible with T-Mobile's network.
Net10, owned by TracFone, uses all of the Big Four's towers to help with coverage, which means you get solid coverage for a little less than you'd spend going with one of the biggies. The nice thing is that, because Net10 uses everyone, you get to bring pretty much any phone onto the network.
All smartphone plans come with unlimited talk, text, and 2G data. $20/month gets you 2GB of 4G LTE, with more plans available at 5GB, 10GB, 30GB, 40GB, and even 50GB. The smaller plans are great values but the larger data amounts aren't as good as some other carriers. The network flexibility still makes Net10 Wireless a welcome option.
Red Pocket Mobile
Red Pocket uses all of the big carriers and has two basic plans to choose from. The first plan is $10/month and gets you 500 minutes, 500 texts, and 500MB of 4G LTE. You can then buy extra texts, minutes, and LTE. The second plan is $15/month and gets you 1000 minutes and unlimited texts, with 1GB of 4G LTE. At $20 per month, calling and texting are unlimited with 3GB of LTE data.
The $30, $40, and $60 plans have unlimited talk and text with 7GB, 15GB, and unlimited LTE data. These data plans also get unlimited 2G data once you run out of high-speed data.
Low-cost plans starting at just $15 a month. For that, you get unlimited talk and text, but you will have to rely on Wi-Fi for data. Plans with cell data start at $20 a month with 1GB at LTE speeds. More data can be added for $5 per GB with a max of 15GB.
Paying by the GB can get expensive but you can still save some money with Republic Wireless if you are willing to pay for the whole year upfront. This brings the $15 monthly cost down to just $12.50 per month.
Simple Mobile lives up to its name by offering easy-to-understand, no-contract wireless plans that let you bring your phone and keep your old phone number.
Simple Mobile has five main monthly plans with 3GB, 5GB, 15GB, and unlimited options. The 3GB plan comes in at $25 per month while 5GB and 15Gb will cost you $30 and $40 respectively. A $50 plan comes with unlimited data and a 5GB hotspot. For $10 per month, you can up your hotspot data to 15GB with 50GB of cloud storage included.
You must re-up with Simple Mobile after every cycle, or you can save some money and sign up to auto-renew your plan on select plans.
SpeedTalk Mobile offers prepaid, no-contract mobile plans marketed towards seniors that don't use their phones too often, with pricing that starts as low $5 a month. For $5 you get 100 minutes, 100 texts, and 100MB of data for 30 days. You can go as high as 4GB of high-speed data with 2GB at 2G speeds and unlimited talk and text for $35.
You can also save money by buying up to one year. Finally, if you don't want any sort of commitment, you can opt to pay by the minute, text, or MB for $0.02 for each one.
Straight Talk has a plan for just about any need, starting at 1,500 minutes with 100MB of data for $30 and working up to unlimited data for $55. There is also an unlimited international plan available for $60.
Data plans are available at 3GB and 25GB with 2G speeds after and more high-speed data can be added. You can also buy plans at three, six, or 12-month intervals.
TelCel is a Mexican wireless telecommunications company that offers affordable plans that work in the U.S. and Mexico.
Plans start as low as $25 a month for call and text only, but your best deal is the $60 a month deal that comes with unlimited 4G LTE data. All plans come with unlimited calls and text messages. It also offers a $20 travel plan that gives you 2GB of data over 7 days.
If you want to bring your device to TelCel you can buy a SIM card as long as your phone is compatible with its network. This carrier is especially convenient for anyone who frequently visits Mexico.
Teltik is only for businesses with competitive data plans starting with 2GB of data and unlimited talk and text for $20 per month. The plans go up to unlimited everything at $40 per month, however, hotspot speeds are limited to 3G speeds. You can continue to go higher with more hotspot data.
Tetik also has data solutions for tablets and hotspots at several different sizes. No matter what your business needs, Teltik likely has a solution for you.
Tempo wireless plans are available by the minute, pay-as-you-go, and unlimited plans, The unlimited plans are your best bet for data plans with unlimited 2G speed data. The smallest 250MB plan starts at $45 per month with a 1GB and 2.5GB plan available for $50 and $60 respectively.
Tempo Wireless offers service on both the T-Mobile and Sprint networks. Tempo also offers Lifeline wireless plans for those that qualify for government assistance.
Ting doesn't have phone plans in a traditional sense. You only pay for what you use with a $6 starting price for the first line. If you don't use any minutes, texts, or data, you don't have to pay any more than that.
Data can be inexpensive under 2GB with a maximum cost of $20 but once you go over that, data comes in at $10 per GB. This can get expensive quickly. If you are looking for simple phone service with little waste for a light user, Ting can be a great way to save money.
TracFone has been around since 1996 and owns multiple MVNOs, which it operates on various networks.
Its cheapest data plan is $20 per month for 1GB of 4G LTE and unlimited talk and text. You can increase your data amount for $5 more each month per additional gigabyte. One nice feature is Unlimited Carryover so you don't lose your unused data. This means you can build up a pool of data that you can use if you need to.
TracFone also has plenty of options for different intervals such as 30, 60, and 90-day terms. TracFone is perfect for folks who constantly travel to the U.S. and don't want to buy a local SIM or pay outrageous roaming fees.
Ultra Mobile is a great MVNO option for those who value staying connected with friends or family overseas. All of Ultra Mobile's plans include unlimited talk to international destinations, along with unlimited international texting. Plans start as low as $19, with 1GB of high-speed data. Unlimited is available at $39 per month with 2GB through 15GB plans in the middle. You can save money by buying plans in 3, 6, or 12 month stretches similar to Mint Mobile which is part of the same company.
Cell phones from nearly every manufacturer will work on the Ultra Mobile network as long as they are GSM-compatible and use a SIM card, which includes any unlocked T-Mobile phones you may have.
US Mobile believes mobile providers should offer plans that are simple and offer great value. As such, you're able to build your plan based on your specific usage needs. Barely use your phone to talk? Minutes start at just $2 for 75 minutes. It's an ideal choice for those who want to be in full control of their mobile plan.
US Mobile offers nearly any combination of minutes, texts, and data including an unlimited plan at $40 per month. You can upgrade your unlimited plan to high-speed data with hotspot connectivity for $10 more per month. With the unlimited plan, you can add lines at a reduced rate up to four lines.
Walmart Family Mobile
If you've shopped at Walmart recently, you will have noticed that it, too, offers its mobile plans using T-Mobile's network. Its plans start at $25 a month for unlimited talk and text with 2GB of high-speed data. You can go all the way up to a $50 plan with unlimited everything. As the name implies, Walmart Family Mobile offers great plans targeted at families looking to save on their wireless bills. Prices for additional lines at just $25 for all additional lines including the unlimited plan.
Walmart has phones for sale, but you can also buy a SIM card kit for $25 and bring your own compatible, unlocked device — any T-Mobile phone should work just fine.
Alternative carriers (MVNOS)
- What is an alternative mobile carrier?
- What are the advantages of going with an alternative carrier?
- How to make sure your phone works on a prepaid alternative carrier
- 8 Important Considerations When Switching To An MVNO
- These are the cheapest data plans you can buy in the U.S.
- Mint SIM vs. Cricket Wireless: Which is better for you?
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