Wireless Service

What is an MVNO? How Small Carriers Can Have a Ton of Perks (and How They Work)

Sara Nuss
November 25, 2022

Getting a new cell phone and switching carriers can cost a lot of money and it can be time consuming trying to find something new to try out. Big carriers, such as Verizon Wireless, AT&T, and T-Mobile can also be extremely expensive even with different promotions and deals that they may offer, but what are your other options for the best service and coverage around?

Have you ever heard of mobile virtual network operators, or MVNOs? While this sounds more complicated than it really is, it’s what small phone carriers are and the way that they get their network coverage. Since they use other big phone carriers' networks, how can they do this and why do their plans tend to be cheaper?

There are a lot of questions to ask in this article, so we’re here to cover what an MVNO is and just how they work, and so much more!

In this article, we plan to talk more about MVNOs and how they operate. We’ll also be talking about topics such as:

  • What is an MVNO?
  • The benefits of switching to an MVNO
  • Is switching to a MVNO right for you?

What is an MVNO?

MVNOs aren’t as complicated as you may think, so here’s everything that you need to know now!

Understanding what an MVNO is can make you want to consider them when it comes to switching your phone plan and carrier. Image courtesy of LetsTalk.com.

Have you ever heard of an MVNO or know what it can entail? Maybe you haven't heard the term MVNO before, but maybe you’ve heard of small phone carriers that cost half of what a phone plan through a big carrier may cost. Knowing what your options are when it comes to phone plans is essential, and MVNOs could be right up your alley.

Want to know a little more about MVNOs? If so, continue reading to get all of the most essential information right away!

What Does MVNO Stand For and What Does it Do?

So what does MVNO actually stand for? MVNO stands for mobile virtual network operators and it’s a type of carrier that doesn’t have its own network coverage and instead uses other carriers’ network instead. Typically these are small carriers that use big carriers, or parent carriers’ coverage, which can be any of the three popular ones, such as Verizon Wireless, AT&T, or T-Mobile.

Using an MVNO can actually help you to save a lot of money so you can put more money into your pocket with the same service and coverage as one of the big carriers without having to spend as much. 

Lots of MVNOs use multiple networks and rely on the use of other carriers’ networks to give you the best coverage possible. For example, Straight Talk is a very popular MVNO, and it uses a combination of T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon’s network, and according to where you live, you will be hooked up to the proper network coverage that will give you the best service possible.

What Parent Carriers Have the Most MVNOs?

There are a ton of different MVNOs to choose from and it’s very important that we go over them and see just how many each parent carrier has in order to get an idea of what is owned by which.

With so many MVNOs to choose from, let’s get to what MVNOs belong to which parent carrier to give you an idea of what you may be looking for if you’re making the switch.

Verizon Wireless:

  • Visible
  • Xfinity Mobile
  • Tello
  • Ting
  • Spectrum Mobile
  • Page Plus
  • Pix Wireless
  • Credo Mobile
  • Reach Mobile 
  • Total Wireless


  • Consumer Cellular
  • Cricket
  • FreedomPop
  • FreeUP Mobile
  • Good2Go Mobile
  • H2O Wireless


  • Mint Mobile
  • Metro
  • Google Fi
  • Boost Mobile
  • Ultra Mobile

There are also a ton of parent carriers that share MVNOs with a bunch of other carriers, which could include anything from:

  • Net10
  • Red Pocket
  • Straight Talk
  • TracFone
  • Ting
  • Twigby
  • US Mobile

How Do You Pick the Right MVNO For You?

The next thing you need to do is try to pick the best MVNO that works the best for you. Since there are so many different kinds to choose from, we understand how it can be tough to try and figure out which one is the best for you, but if you’re considering one, which one is for you?

The first thing to consider when it comes to switching phone plans or carriers is should you make the switch to an MVNO? This is an important thing to consider because there are many reasons why you may want to make the switch. The biggest reason why people switch to MVNOs could be because they are looking to save money, while still getting the same service and coverage. If this sounds like you, then making the switch may be in your best interest.

Picking the right MVNO isn’t easy and the first thing to think about is what parent carrier you prefer to have. If you are currently under a contract with a big carrier, you can always switch to one of their parent carriers. If you currently like the one that you are on, then you can always stick to it and just get an MVNO through them.

Each MVNO is different in regards to how much it costs, what the features are on each plan, and even what parent carrier it is on. Thinking about some of these things can help make it easier to choose which plan is best suited for you. 

Are There Any Downfalls to Using MVNOs over the Parent Carrier?

Utilizing MVNOs have become increasingly popular over the years, and they have helped people save a ton of money in the long run on their phone plan, but you may be wondering if there are any downfalls to using them. With everything in life, there is always something negative because everything can’t be perfect right? Good thing that it’s not as bad as it may seem with MVNOs though.

There is one downfall that can come from using MVNOs and this could be the fact that while you still get the same service and coverage by using the parent carriers’ network, your data and overall service could run a little slower due to the fact that the parent companies will tend to their actual customers first over MVNO users, which when you think about it, is understandable.

The Benefits of Switching to a MVNO

Moving to a MVNO is something a lot of people consider doing, but knowing the reasons why they do is important!

Switching to a MVNO and saving money is one of the best things that you can consider doing and knowing the benefits can greatly help make your decision easier. Image courtesy of Android Central. 

Finding the best phone plan through a carrier that you feel works best for you is extremely important. Getting the best service and coverage for a price that fits for you and your budget is one of the most important things to do in this day and age, and it’s the best thing you can do for yourself.

There are a ton of benefits that can come from switching to a MVNO and it’s important to know what those reasons are and why. If you are considering getting a new phone plan through a carrier where you can get the best service and coverage for half of the price, then consider the benefits of an MVNO plan right away.

Cheaper Monthly Payments

Getting a new phone plan is something that a lot of people do. Switching to a plan that is hopefully cheaper than what they paid for before is extremely important, and who doesn’t like saving a couple bucks? If you are looking for one of the best reasons to switch to a MVNO, then make the number one reason be because they can save you money. 

There are so many different kinds of MVNOs and they can all help you to save money. You can pay as low as $10 a month for some certain MVNOs and they are all on prepaid phone plans which can make it even easier to pay for a plan. 

Say Goodbye to Contracts

If you are looking to get out of your current contract through the phone carrier that you’re with, why would you want to go back to another contract? If you want to ditch contracts when it comes to your phone plan, then make sure to consider getting a phone plan through an MVNO as soon as possible.

With MVNOs, you don’t have to worry about contracts. Most phone plans through a large carrier will lock your phone and have you stuck on a contract that you could potentially hate for two years. Why take that risk or continue to suffer through a plan you hate? Make sure to get an MVNO and leave the contracts in the past. 

Keep Your Current Phone Number

A lot of plans whenever you change over to a new phone plan will want you to switch your phone number, or at least give you the option to do so. The best thing about MVNOs is that you can keep your current phone number so you don’t have to worry about switching it and hooking the new one up to any new accounts.

Keeping your current phone number is extremely important because not only do your current loved ones have it, but so do doctors, veterinarians, and more use it as well. It can also be hooked up to important accounts like your bank account, credit card accounts, and so much more, so keeping the same phone number is essential. 

Continue to Use Your Current Device

Another great reason why you should consider switching to an MVNO is because of the fact that you can continue to keep and use the device that you currently own. Sometimes getting a new phone is something you need to do when signing up for a two-year contract through a large carrier, and they cost a lot of money.

If you are looking to stay away from getting a new phone whenever you switch to a new plan, then you should consider switching to an MVNO plan instead. Not only can you save money on a monthly phone payment, but you can also save money and prevent yourself from having to spend a ton of money on a new phone. If you have a fully paid device, why make the switch?

More Flexible When it Comes to Choosing Plans

There are a ton of different MVNOs to choose from, so choosing the best plan for you is essential. The best thing about MVNO phone plans is just how flexible they really are when it comes to picking and choosing what you want. 

MVNOs allow you to pick the phone plan that works well for you, is in your budget, and you can choose monthly prepaid plans with no hidden fees, so you never have to second guess what you’re being charged for—and that’s a feeling that everyone should be able to experience with their phone plan. 

Is Switching to a MVNO Right For You?

Understanding if this is the right choice for you to make is essential, so stop and think about switching today!

You may be looking into getting a new phone plan, which is a common thing to do, but knowing if you should switch to an MVNO may change the game. Image courtesy of Medical Professionals. 

Have you been thinking about switching your cell phone plan, but you’re not entirely sure which carrier you should consider switching to, or even what plan? There are so many different carriers and plans to choose from, especially when it comes to big cell phone carriers. 

Sometimes switching to a MVNO, or a smaller cell phone carrier may work out in your favor. No matter what financial struggle you have going on in your life, finding a phone plan that first meets your budget is extremely important. If you are on the fence about getting a new phone plan, here is why switching to an MVNO may be the best route for you!

Save More Money Every Month

As we have mentioned before, getting an MVNO can help you to save a lot of money in the long run, but exactly how much money can you save by making the switch? Let’s think about this, instead of making monthly payments, a lot of MVNOs will give you the option to pay for the first three, six, or even first year if you sign up for their cell phone services

This is actually an amazing thing because it can help you to save money on a cheaper plan, and it’s one less payment that you have to worry about every month if you decide to select a prepaid plan that allows you to get that out of the way. 

Don’t Pay For Services That You Don’t Need

One thing about big carrier cell phone plans is that a lot of times, you tend to pay for features that you really don’t need. Big carriers always feature deals to upgrade your cell phone to the latest and best one whenever your current phone could be working just fine, or they could say that you’re getting a new phone for free, whenever there are actually a bunch of activation fees and more that you will have to pay.

There are also a lot of other features that you could potentially pay for that you just don’t need. This could include anything from subscriptions to streaming services, international calling, or even hotspot data that you may not need or even use. Switching to MVNOs can help you save a ton of money instead of throwing money out the window for features you don’t use.

Well, there you have it! Switching to an MVNO, or a smaller phone carrier can be one of the best things that you have ever done, and your wallet will thank you in the long run. Whether you’re looking to save money, or you’re just sick of being in a long-term contract with a phone plan or even with a carrier that you despise, there are a lot of options that you can choose from when it comes to making the switch.

Why not look over more information about what an MVNO is today and make the switch!

Sara Nuss
Sara Nuss is a journalist from Pittsburgh, PA that specializes in wireless, dewi, phone plan advice & blockchain.