A Comparison of MVNO Cell Phone Providers

mnvo comparisons

For those looking to lower their cell phone bills or for other cell phone options – I thought it might be helpful to get a list / comparison chart of some of the cheaper options out there for users.

Most of the least expensive plans are offered by MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operator). These guys piggy-back off of the major networks by purchasing some of their bandwidth and then reselling to users.

I’ve been with an MVNO since mid-2015 after hearing about Charlie’s experience. While they are not the premium networks – they do get my vote mainly due to the overall cost savings and customized plans (with no contracts!). Since I live in a major metropolitan area – access to WiFi is almost a guarantee wherever I go. That being the case, I really don’t need to be “on-network” very often. In fact, I rarely use more than 200MB’s of data every month.

MVNO’s have their positives and negatives – but if you know what you need from a cell phone and aren’t a globe trotter, it’s likely that you can jump on board a MVNO and be quite pleased.

Deciding what you can live without

A good first step is to determine your current cell phone usage and needs. But even this is not exactly the best gauge as you could be utilizing more services than you actually need because your plan includes it (ie, streaming non-stop because it is available).

When I switched to a MVNO, I knew I would need to cut my roaming data use as well as minutes. This wasn’t a great sacrifice to me because I value being able to save more money every month vs. convenience.

What Tello has that others don’t

Since this article has been brought to you by our friends at Tello—a MVNO that we’ve reviewed at the site—I think it would be fair to tell you what they provide vs other MVNOs. Allow me to break down a few highlights for you:

  • Minimum plan price starting at $5/mo
  • Unmatched customer service
  • Ability to upgrade and downgrade any time
  • Free tethering
  • Mexico and Canada calling included in plans

What others have that Tello doesn’t

One of the biggest differences with Tello is they do not yet offer roaming. So if you travel a lot and need the roaming, you may wish to look elsewhere. Tello has confirmed they are planning to add national roaming in their plans (More details could be found on their coverage page.) It’s important to note that you can use Tello’s My Tello app to call over WiFi where roaming is not available.

MVNO comparison chart

For the purposes of this comparison, I’m going to list out some of the big players in the MVNO arena as it could get quite labor intensive to list all 80+ players in the US.

MVNONetwork UsedPlan Price
(Min. available)
Mexico & Canada Included in PlanCustomer ServicePlan Friendliness
(Ability to uprade / downgrade at will)
Free Tethering
BoostSprint$30 (Unlimited Starter)$5 extraFair1 month noticeNo
Consumer CellularAT&T, T-Mobile$10 (Talk billed per use)International direct dialGoodAnytime-
CricketAT&T$25 (Talk / Text Plan)Smart / Pro Plans onlyFair2x per billing cycleNo
Republic WirelessSprint, T-Mobile$15 (Unlimited talk / text)NoFair (Most CS logged to community)2x per billing cycleYes
TelloSprint$5 (Talk / Text)YesGoodAnytimeYes
TingSprint, T-Mobile$15 (Plans based on what you use). Offers $25 upon signupNoGoodNoNo

While this list is not exhaustive, it does give you a good idea of what you can expect if you decide to go with a lower-cost carrier.

Are you with an MVNO? What do you like / dislike about your provider?

This article has been brought to you by Tello. All opinions expressed are our own.

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2 comments

    • Aaron says:

      Haven’t heard of this one – tried to do just the major players right now. There are more than 85+ out there and list would be fairly exhaustive. :(

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