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What is an MVNO?

MVNO stands for "Mobile Virtual Network Operator,"  and being virtual, an MVNO does not own or have its own wireless infrastructure (network towers). Instead, they buy wholesale minutes, data, and text from major carriers such as Verizon, T-mobile, and AT&T, etc to resell to you under their own brand names. So in the simplest of terms possible, an MVNO is simply a third-party provider that grants its customers access to one of the Big 3 carrier networks. Mint Mobile below is one such example of an MVNO.
Talk
Text
Data
Price
Mint Mobile Monthly 3GB
Promoted
Mint Mobile Logo
Unlimited
Unlimited
3GB
$15

Special Features:
  • 3-Months of Wireless Service for $15/mo
  • Unlimited Talk & Text + 3GB/mo of 4G LTE or 5G!
  • Nationwide GSM Coverage
  • Bring Your Own Phone
  • International calling to Mexico and Canada
  • Includes WiFi calling and texting, VoLTE and visual voicemail on iPhones.  WiFi calling and texting, VoLTE also available on Android devices.
Mint Mobile Monthly 35GB
Promoted
Mint Mobile Logo
Unlimited
Unlimited
35GB
$30

Special Features:
  • 3-Months of Wireless Service for $30/mo
  • Unlimited Talk & Text + 35GB/mo of 4G LTE or 5G!
  • Nationwide GSM Coverage
  • Bring Your Own Phone
  • International calling to Mexico and Canada
  • Now includes WiFi calling and texting, VoLTE and visual voicemail on iPhones.  WiFi calling and texting, VoLTE also available on Android devices.

MVNO Subscriber Counts

Almost all prepaid cell phone plans and providers are offered through an MVNO. Some even offer postpaid services.

MVNO subscribers make up a large part of the wireless subscriber base in the USA. The exact number is unknown as most providers don't make their subscriber counts publicly available. But from those that do, we know that number totals well over 40 million. And that number doesn't even include the number of Lifeline MVNO subscribers that there are or the number of carrier-owned prepaid brand subscribers from providers such as Cricket Wireless.

The following table lists the known number of MVNO subscribers from various wireless brands that have publicly stated them at one time or another. It excludes carrier-owned prepaid brands.
Table Of MVNO Subscriber Numbers
MVNOSub. CountReporting DateSource
Altice Mobile169,00012/31/2020Altice
Consumer Cellular4,000,00012/9/2020Consumer Cellular
Tracfone Brands20,918,0007/23/20BestMVNO
Tello100,0005/6/2020BestMVNO
Ting271,7008/3/2020BestMVNO
Boost Mobile9,200,00011/10/2020BestMVNO
H2O Wireless1,000,00011/22/2020BestMVNO
GreatCall Inc900,0008/16/2018BestMVNO
Spectrum Mobile2,400,00012/31/2020Charter
Xfinity Mobile2,800,00012/31/2020Comcast
Total41,758,700

Why Are MVNO's So Cheap?

So now the question for you becomes, why are these MVNO's so much cheaper than the BIG 3 themselves? Well, if you've followed along you can see for starters they don't have any infrastructure to maintain. That is the responsibility of the BIG 3. Another reason is that when you sign up to get a new phone and contract with one of the BIG 3, they hide the cost of that new phone in your monthly bill (previously T-mobile was the only exception, but now all carriers are more transparent through their offerings of no contract cell phones with monthly "installment" plans). That "free phone" you think you are getting may actually cost the BIG 3 $250 to purchase, so that cost gets passed on to you over the course of your contract with them. Often they are charging you much more for the phone than they actually paid for it so it's cheaper for you to buy the phone from a website such as eBay or Amazon and to sign up with a prepaid provider. The third reason why prepaid is cheaper is that major carriers typically don't share their roaming agreements with their MVNO's. What you might not know is that in some areas where a carrier like T-Mobile doesn't have it's own cell phone towers and coverage, T-Mobile pays another carrier so that its customers can "roam" and use its network for coverage. Since most MVNO's don't have roaming privelages, coverage with MVNO's generally isn't as good as it would be if you were a postpaid subscriber on a major wireless network. If you are interested in finding out more about MVNOs and finding one that can help save you money, you may want to start by exploring the MVNO list below or by using the BestMVNO wireless phone plan comparison tool.

This MVNO list contains all the major wireless providers and resellers in the USA. Subscribing to the right MVNO can save you a lot of money on your phone bill. There are dozens upon dozens of MVNOs and resellers in the USA. BestMVNO tries to focus on the larger and what are hopefully more stable brands. See also: MVNO comparison lists of the best Verizon MVNO's, best AT&T MVNO's, and best T-Mobile MVNO's.

MVNO List

Filter By Network:
MVNO/Wireless ProviderNetwork Used
Affinity CellularAffinity CellularVerizon
Airvoice WirelessAirvoiceAT&T
Allvoi Wireless LogoAllvoi WirelessAT&T
Altice Mobile LogoAltice MobileAT&T, Sprint
AT&T Wireless LogoAT&TAT&T
Beast Mobile LogoBeast MobileAT&T, Sprint
Best Cellular Featured Image LogoBest CellularAT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon
Black Wireless Everything You Need To Know Before SubscribingBlack WirelessAT&T
boom! Mobile logoBoom! MobileAT&T, Verizon
Boost Mobile LogoBoost MobileT-Mobile
Boss Revolution Mobile Logo LargeBoss Revolution MobileSprint
Consumer Cellular LogoConsumer CellularAT&T, T-Mobile
Credo Mobile Cell Phone Plans Compared And Things To Know Before SubscribingCredo MobileVerizon
Cricket Wireless LogoCricket WirelessAT&T
Dataxoom LogoDataxoomAT&T, Sprint, Verizon
EasyGo WirelessEasyGoAT&T
ECO Mobile LogoEcoMobileSprint, T-Mobile, Verizon
FreedomPopFreedompop

Read a review
AT&T, Sprint
FreeUP Mobile Logo DarkFreeUP MobileAT&T
Gen MobileGen MobileSprint, T-Mobile
Good2Go Mobile Logo 2019Good2GO Mobile

Read a review
AT&T
Google Project Fi LogoGoogle FiSprint, T-Mobile, US Cellular
GoSmart MobileGoSmart MobileT-Mobile
GreatCall Medium LogoGreatCallVerizon
H2O Wireless LogoH2O Wireless

Read a review
AT&T
Hello Mobile LogoHello MobileSprint, T-Mobile
i3 Mobile Logoi3 MobileAT&T
Karma Go DeviceKarma MobilitySprint
Kroger Wireless LogoKroger WirelessSprint
Lycamobile LogoLycamobileT-Mobile
Mango MobileT-Mobile
MetroPCS LogoMetro By T-MobileT-Mobile
Mint Mobile LogoMint Mobile

Read a review
T-Mobile
Net10 Wireless LogoNet10AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon
NetTALK CONNECT LogonetTALK ConnectT-Mobile
Page Plus Cellular LogoPage Plus CellularVerizon
Patriot Mobile LogoPatriot MobileSprint
Pure TalkAT&T
Reach Mobile LogoReach MobileVerizon
Red Pocket Mobile LogoRed Pocket Mobile

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AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon
Republic Wireless LogoRepublic WirelessSprint, T-Mobile
Selectel WirelessSelectel WirelessVerizon
Simple Mobile LogoSimple MobileT-Mobile
Spectrum Mobile Logo LargeSpectrum MobileVerizon
SpeedTalk Mobile LogoSpeedTalk MobileT-Mobile
Sprint MVNO ComparisonSprintSprint
Straight Talk Wireless LogoStraight TalkAT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon
T-Mobile LogoT-MobileT-Mobile
Telcel America LogoTelcel AmericaT-Mobile
Tello LogoTello

Read a review
Sprint, T-Mobile
Teltik LogoTeltikT-Mobile
TextNow LogoTextNowSprint
Ting LogoTing MobileSprint, T-Mobile, Verizon
Total Wireless LogoTotal Wireless

Read a review
Verizon
Tracfone LogoTracfoneAT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon
Twigby LogoTwigbySprint
Ultra Mobile LogoUltra Mobile

Read a review
T-Mobile
UNREAL MobileUNREAL Mobile

Read a review
AT&T, T-Mobile
US Cellular LogoUS CellularUS Cellular
US Mobile LogoUS MobileT-Mobile, Verizon
Verizon Wireless LogoVerizon WirelessVerizon
Visible LogoVisibleVerizon
Walmart Family MobileWalmart Family MobileT-Mobile
Wing Mobile LogoWingAT&T, Sprint
Xfinity Mobile LogoXfinity MobileVerizon
Yahoo Mobile LogoYahoo MobileVerizon