They're relatively new but they are growing fast and putting real pressure on the big four operators in the cell phone industry. We're talking about Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) - and they could help you save over 50 percent on your monthly bill.
Thanks to low overhead and marketing costs, MVNOs offer the cheapest cell phone plans around. Better yet, while the big four love to focus on unlimited plans, the low-cost carriers offer customized plans so you only pay for the data you need. And best of all, they lease excellent 4G LTE coverage from the big carrier networks.
In this guide, you'll learn more about T-Mobile-based MVNOs, so you'll be on your way to saving for that vacation you've dreamed of.
In This Guide
Using the T-Mobile Network
T-Mobile MVNOs function by leasing 4G LTE coverage from the actual T-Mobile network towers, so you'll be able to take advantage of T-Mobile coverage without paying T-Mobile prices.
If you're interested in T-Mobile network's overall performance, Rootmetrics' report of Mobile Performance in the US for the second half of 2017 puts T-Mobile in fourth place. Its overall score of 86.8 trails Verizon's 95, AT&T's 92.8 and Sprint's 87.8.
However, a very different perspective is provided by a report from OpenSignal on the fourth quarter of 2017. It places T-Mobile in first place in five of the six metrics it covers, including 4G availability where it awards T-Mobile 93.1%, ahead of Verizon with 92.7%, AT&T with 87.0% and Sprint with 85.6%.
We've made searching for T-Mobile MVNOs easy for you by compiling a list, which you can check out below:
- The People's Operator USA
- Mint Mobile
- US Mobile
- Ultra Mobile
- Straight Talk
- Net10 Wireless
- Red Pocket Mobile
- Republic Wireless
- Simple Mobile
- Consumer Cellular
- Hayai Mobile
- Jaguar Mobile
- Jolt Mobile
- Liberty Wireless
- Speed Talk Mobile
- Telcel America-Tempo Telecom
- Univision Mobile
- Walmart Family Mobile
- Zip SIM
T-Mobile and GSM Technology
Will my phone work on a T-Mobile MVNO?
You'll be happy to know that any phone that is purchased from T-Mobile will work with a T-Mobile MVNO. With all other phones, you will need to check your phone's compatibility with the particular MVNO you're interested in.
It's easy to check. Simply access the MVNO's webpage and either locate a tab with "Bring Your Own Phone" or search directly on the main page for "check your phone's compatibility" or some variation.
From there, you'll be required to input your IMEI number. The IMEI number is located in the phone's "settings" option. Finding the number within the "settings" option will be dependent on the phone's type and operating system. For instance, on Android Marshmallow, you'll locate the IMEI number by heading to "Settings" > "About Phone."
If your phone is compatible, then congrats! All you'll need to do is to obtain a SIM card from the new carrier.
If you're interested in the technology behind this compatibility check, your phone will need to be compatible with the following frequencies:
3G: 1700Mhz/2100Mhz (Band 4)
LTE: 1700Mhz (Band 4), 2100Mhz (Band 66), 1900Mhz (Band 2), 850Mhz (Band 5), 700Mhz (Band 12),
If you have an AT&T phone, you may be able to use it on the T-Mobile network, since AT&T also uses GSM technology, but check with the MVNO first. Bear in mind that most Sprint and Verizon phones are unlikely to work on the T-Mobile network (again, check with the MVNO to be sure).
The better news is that many of the newer phones from the Samsung Galaxy and the Apple iPhone ranges will work on multiple networks. Again, check with the MVNO regarding compatibility before you make the commitment to the T-Mobile MVNO program.
But you may be asking, why should you bring your own phone to a T-Mobile MVNO? We have a quick list that will hopefully steer you into bringing your own phone:
1. Some fantastic carriers, such as Mint Mobile, do not provide phones for purchasing. Essentially, they are BYOP-only.
2. You'll make a small contribution towards preserving the environment.
3. You'll be saving a lot more money in a long-run, as the average price of a new phone has climbed. In fact, some phones have an MSRP of close to $1000! While financing is an option, you're still adding between $10 and $30 extra onto your cell phone bill, and you're tied to the carrier until the phone is paid off.
If you do not have a phone to bring to the carrier, you ought to consider purchasing a used, refurbished phone in excellent condition, which could save you 50 percent or more on the cost of the same phone when new.
Want to save time and even more money? Check out our used cell phone comparison tool.
Best T-Mobile MVNOs
To help narrow down your search, we comment below on our choice of the some of the best available T-Mobile MVNOs:
Mint Mobile is one of the best MVNOs out there, offering you extremely cheap plans with one caveat - you have to purchase these plans in bulk. There are three time-tiers to choose from: 3 months, 6 months, and 12 months. However, the amount of GB you'll be able to take advantage of is suitable for light and medium data users, as well as several heavy data users.
Up to 10GB is offered, and depending on the time-tier you select, you'll only end up paying the equivalent to $25 per month!
Remember, Mint Mobile does not sell phones, so you'll need to bring your own device.
US Mobile is a MVNO that offers some of the most customizable plans on the market. Plans range from 40 minutes, 40 text messages, or 100MB of data to unlimited talk, text, or data (or all three together).
What really earns our vote are the unlimited plans, as there are nine unlimited plans to choose from, depending on the number of minutes and texts you'd like, whether you want a mobile hotspot, and what data speeds you'd like.
TPO Mobile is a cell phone carrier that utilizes T-Mobile's and Sprint's networks. If you looking for a feel-good MVNO, then you should consider TPO Mobile, as 10 percent of your cell phone bill, as well as 25 percent of the company's profits, are donated to charities and organizations in need.
The maximum amount of data offered by TPO Mobile is plentiful for light to medium data users, but heavy LTE data users should stick to MVNOs such as US Mobile, Mint Mobile, and Red Pocket.
Ting is all about simplicity. There are no hidden fees, no overage charges, and no contracts - you only pay for what you need. Ting also supports both GSM and CDMA network compatibility. Ting also notes that the average cell phone user pays a whopping $23 on their cell phone bill, making Ting one of the cheapest MVNOs available. With that being said, if you are a heavy data user, Ting may not be the best MVNO to go with, as you will be charged ridiculously high fees after lots of data usage.
Red Pocket may not feature unlimited data, but its plans are suitable for light, medium, and heavy data users. In fact, depending on your phone's compatibility with GSM or CDMA, you'll be able to adopt a plan with over 10GB of data. Plans range from 500 minutes, 500 texts, and 500MB of data to unlimited calls and texts, as well as over 10GB of data. Best of all, these monthly plans are incredibly affordable.
All phone plans feature international calls to over 70 countries, the ability to transfer your current phone number, English or Spanish customer service, and a 30-day risk-free guarantee.
Other Networks' MVNOs
If you like T-Mobile's network coverage, but are tired of its high prices, you should definitely consider a T-Mobile MVNO.
Fortunately, there is a wide selection of low-cost T-Mobile network carriers to choose from. US Mobile, Mint Mobile, TPO Mobile, Red Pocket, and Ting are just our pick of more than twenty carriers available.
Check out our cell phone plan comparison table. It could help you save hundreds of dollars a year.