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 and comparison of MVNOs chart of some of the cheaper options out there for users.
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.
MVNO Network Used Plan Price
Calls to Mexico & Canada Included in Plan Customer Service Plan Friendliness
(Ability to uprade / downgrade at will)
Free Tethering Boost Sprint $35 (Unlimited / 3GB data) $5 extra Fair 1 month notice No Consumer Cellular AT&T, T-Mobile $15 (250 min / no data) AARP members can get 15% discount. International direct dial Good Anytime – Cricket AT&T $25 (Unlimited Talk / Text Plan) Smart / Pro Plans only Fair 2x per billing cycle No Gen Mobile Sprint $5 (Unlimited text) Yes (over 101 countries) Good Yes Yes Republic Wireless Sprint, T-Mobile $15 (Unlimited talk / text), + $5/GB No Fair (Most CS logged to community) 2x per billing cycle Yes Straight Talk Wireless AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, Verizon $35 (Unlimited text/talk + 2GB) Add-on Good Anytime No Tello Sprint $5 (100 min / Unlimited text) Yes (texts and MMS only) Good Anytime Yes Ting Sprint, T-Mobile $15 (100 min / MB / text. Plans based on what you use). Offers $50 credit upon signup Yes Good Okay Yes TracFone Verizon Wireless, AT&T, T-Mobile US, Sprint Corporation, and U.S. Cellular $14.25 for auto-renew (200 min / 500 texts / 500mb) No Fair Okay No Twigby Sprint, Verizon $9.00 (Text + 300min + WiFi only) Yes (and China) Good Yes Yes UNREAL Sprint $10 (Unlimited text + talk + data – up to 1GB) No Fair Yes No Visible Verizon (Visible is not considered a traditional MVNO) $40 (unlimited talk,text and data) No Good Only one plan offered Yes
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.
Choosing a discount mobile service provider
Most of the least expensive plans are offered by MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) such as these. 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.
Are you with an MVNO? What do you like / dislike about your provider?