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Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) are gaining popularity as an alternative to traditional big-name wireless network providers.

If you've heard the term "MVNO" being thrown around, know that you aren't alone. But what exactly is an MVNO, and how does it differ from traditional wireless service providers?

In this article, we'll break down the basics of MVNOs. Find out about popular MVNOs and the best tips on how to compare MVNOs.

We'll explore everything you need to know to decide which MVNO is right for you.

What is a Mobile Virtual Network Operator?

A mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) is a cell phone carrier that doesn't own its own wireless network.

They use the network infrastructure of the big three networks to provide mobile phone services to their own customers.

Known as Mobile Network Operators (MNOs), these companies include AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon. This group of wireless providers is also known as the big three carriers.

MVNO companies enter into a business agreement with a mobile network provider. They use the network infrastructure built and maintained by these bigger operators to provide service to their own customers.

They purchase wholesale access to the network provider's wireless service and resell that access to their own customers at retail prices.

Because MVNOs don't carry the cost of building and owning their own network, they are able to offer cell phone plans at a fraction of the price.

In essence, an MVNO is a middleman between you and the major carrier, offering the same mobile service and coverage but at a lower cost. So basically you're getting retail service at wholesale rates.

How does an MVNO work?

When you sign up with an MVNO, you'll receive a prepaid SIM card that you'll insert into your cell phone. If you don't have that little wire thingy that came with your phone, don't fret. You can simply use a paperclip to help you access the SIM card slot.

SIM cards let you connect to the network of the mobile network operator that the MVNO has partnered with. So once the SIM card is inserted into your mobile phone you should be able to call the MVNO to continue setting up your network connection.

When you use your phone, you'll be using the network of the MNO, but you'll be paying the MVNO for your service.

The MVNO, in turn, pays a fee to the major carrier for the use of its network.

Advantages of MVNOs

Cost Saving

One of the main benefits for MVNO customers is cost savings.

Because these alternative carriers don't have the same overhead costs as the major carriers, they can often secure service at a lower cost.

For example, MVNOs don't have brick-and-mortar buildings to build, run, and maintain. This cuts operating costs that can then be passed along to the consumers.


MVNOs also typically offer more flexible plans, including no annual contracts, no credit checks, and no hidden fees.

Also, because there are so many different MVNOs to choose from, you can find one that best suits your needs in terms of price, features, and data usage.

Additionally, many MVNOs don't require long-term contracts, which means you can switch to a different provider if you're not satisfied with your current one.

Disadvantages of MVNOs

While MVNOs seem too good to be true, we'd be remiss if we didn't also discuss some of the downsides of MNVOs.


The quality of service may not be as reliable as it is with a major carrier. This is because MVNOs are reliant on the networks of the MNOs they partner with, and these networks can become congested in certain areas or during peak usage times.

Customer support

Additionally, some MVNOs may have limited support options or may not offer the same level of customer service as the major carriers. This can make it more difficult to resolve any issues that arise with your service.

Some MNOs typically work with multiple MVNOs, providing them with the resources they need to offer their own mobile services without having to invest in building their own network infrastructure.

A mobile virtual network enabler is a company that provides the infrastructure, technology, and support services necessary for an MVNO to operate. This can include things like access to multiple networks, billing systems, customer support services, and other technical support.

What are the best MVNOs?

Here's a list of MVNOs currently available:

T-Mobile MVNOs

  • Mint Mobile
  • Tello
  • Lycamobile
  • Reach Mobile
  • Ultra Mobile

Check out our review of the best T-Mobile MVNOs


  • Boost Mobile
  • Red Pocket Mobile
  • Boost Infinite

Check out our review of the best AT&T MVNOs

Verizon MVNOs

  • US Mobile
  • Twigby
  • Affinity Cellular

Check out our review of the best Verizon MVNOs

How to compare MVNOs

When comparing MVNOs for mobile phones, it's essential to take into account the following factors:

  • Coverage: Make sure you check the coverage map to ensure you will have good service in the areas where you need it.
  • Plans and pricing: Compare the plans and pricing of different MVNOs to see which one offers the best value for your needs.
  • Features: Some MVNOs may offer additional services such as unlimited mobile data, international calling, or roaming. These value-added services may impact your decision.
  • Customer service: Look for MVNOs with a good reputation with customers, so you know you can get great customer care if you need it.
  • Device compatibility: Some MVNOs may not support all types of phones, so make sure your phone is compatible with the MVNO you're considering.
  • Data Plans: Check the data plan, data speed, data limit, internet connection, and family plan options of different MVNOs to see which one offers the best balance of price and performance.



MVNOs are a great option for businesses and consumers looking for added flexibility and cost savings on their mobile phone service.

By renting network space from a big carrier, MVNOs can offer their own customer service, plans, phones, and billing to their customers or your company.

However, it's important to do your research and compare different MVNOs to find the best one for your needs.

So now that you have the background information you needed, go ahead and take a look at the MNVO that will work out the best for your household or your business needs!

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