Home How To’s & Guides Want AT&T’s service on the cheap? Consider an AT&T MVNO instead

Want AT&T’s service on the cheap? Consider an AT&T MVNO instead

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Want AT&T’s service on the cheap? Consider an AT&T MVNO instead

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Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

AT&T has seen a lot of increased competition in recent years. Not only is T-Mobile giving it a run for its money, but there’s also Verizon and plenty of prepaid carriers attempting to steal customers as well. While AT&T has a fairly extensive network, it is also one of the more expensive carriers. The good news is that an AT&T MNVO can provide you access to the same network but at a much cheaper price.

In this guide, we explain what an AT&T MNVO is, why you might want to consider one, and finally, we take a brief look at the best carriers on AT&T’s network.

What is an AT&T MVNO?

AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile are the three main networks in the United States. In addition to selling their own plans and services, carriers like AT&T also sell network capacity in bulk to other companies. This gives AT&T an instant cash infusion, so they are willing to part with the capacity for less than they’d typically charge individuals on its network.

These companies can then resell the service back to consumers for a discounted rate. That’s why these carriers are called mobile virtual network operators, or MVNOs. They are operating a network, but it’s technically piggybacking off another carrier. 

Most MVNOs operate on a prepaid model, meaning you pay for services ahead of each month instead of receiving a bill later for charges. Although they don’t own the network, an MVNO is still responsible for all customer service, marketing, promotions, phone hardware, and more. You can learn more in our guide to MVNOs.

The pros and cons of using an AT&T MVNO

As we already mentioned, the main advantage of an AT&T MNVO is the savings. Prepaid carriers can often cost anywhere from 20-50% cheaper than postpaid services on the same network. You also don’t need good credit to qualify for a plan. In fact, they’ll only run your credit score if you want to add a device payment plan (for MVNOs that offer this.) 

Another big advantage is that it’s much easier to switch carriers as there aren’t any commitments or contracts. If you have an eSIM slot, it’s possible to switch to a new carrier in just minutes, literally. 

Of course, nothing is perfect. There are several reasons why you might not be interested in an AT&T MVNO:

  • You want extras. Postpaid carriers tend to offer more extras, including better international and domestic roaming. They also often have better sales and promotions. 
  • You value customer service. Although some prepaid carriers like Cricket offer brick-and-mortar customer service, most don’t. On top of that, they often have longer wait times and just lower satisfaction scores when it comes to customer service. There are some exceptions, but in most cases AT&T’s in-house customer service is going to be superior. 
  • You want the fastest speeds. The truth is that all MVNOs are going to be at least slightly deprioritized over postpaid plans on AT&T’s network during times of major congestion, such as peak hours in big cities. The actual deprioritization will vary from prepaid carrier to carrier. Sometimes it’s such a small difference you won’t be able to tell. Still, it’s an important distinction.
  • You’ll get better roaming arrangements from AT&T’s post-paid plans. Most prepaid carriers will either have zero roaming agreements or very limited options.

It’s also worth mentioning devices. AT&T is going to have the most extensive list of options, though some prepaid carriers come close. AT&T also offers device financing, something only some prepaid carriers can match. Still, if you want to save money and don’t mind a little bit of sacrifice, an AT&T MNVO can save you a ton and come close enough to the service you’re familiar with that you’ll barely notice. 

Consider Cricket Wireless

Cricket Wireless stock photo 2

Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

Cricket isn’t actually an MVNO at all. Instead, it is owned by AT&T directly but operates (semi-)independently. While Cricket used to have its own limited selection of towers, these days, it uses the AT&T network. It includes great customer service, including hundreds of brick-and-mortar locations across the country. There are also device payment plans, big discounts on phones for loyal customers, and some of the best family plan options in the prepaid space. 

Here are more details on what you get with Cricket:

5GB 10GB Cricket Unlimited Cricket Unlimited + 15GB hotspot

Cost

5GB

$30 per month

10GB

$40 for one line
$70 for two lines
$90 for three lines
$110 for four lines

Cricket Unlimited

$55 for one line
$80 for two lines
$90 for three lines
$100 for four lines

Cricket Unlimited + 15GB hotspot

$60 for one line
$90 for two lines
$110 for three lines
$130 for four lines

Talk and Text

5GB

Unlimited
HD Voice and Wi-Fi Calling

10GB

Unlimited
HD Voice and Wi-Fi Calling

Cricket Unlimited

Unlimited
HD Voice and Wi-Fi Calling

Cricket Unlimited + 15GB hotspot

Unlimited
HD Voice and Wi-Fi Calling

Data

5GB

5GB of 4G LTE or 5G data

10GB

10GB of 4G LTE or 5G data

Cricket Unlimited

Unlimited high-speed 4G LTE or 5G data

Cricket Unlimited + 15GB hotspot

Unlimited 4G LTE or 5G data

Streaming

5GB

Standard Definition 480p

10GB

Standard Definition 480p

Cricket Unlimited

Standard Definition 480p

Cricket Unlimited + 15GB hotspot

Hotspot

5GB

Not available

10GB

Not available

Cricket Unlimited

For $10 extra

Cricket Unlimited + 15GB hotspot

15GB included

International

5GB

Not available

10GB

Available

Cricket Unlimited

Texts to 37 countries
Canada and Mexico usage (must not exceed 50%)

Cricket Unlimited + 15GB hotspot

Texts to 37 countries
Canada and Mexico usage (must not exceed 50%)

Perks

5GB

None

10GB

None

Cricket Unlimited

None

Cricket Unlimited + 15GB hotspot

Ad-supported Max subscription
150GB Cloud Storage

As you can see, the best deals are going to be unlimited plans for multiple users. For most, the base Cricket Unlimited should fit the bill, but you can upgrade for $5 more a month to a plan that includes 15GB of hotspot use. It’s also worth noting that the most expensive plan includes Max with ads, something that even standard AT&T no longer offers. 

The best AT&T MVNOs at a glance

Honestly, there aren’t nearly as many AT&T MNVOs anymore, and most are actually hybrids meaning they offer other carrier network options in addition to AT&T (you have to pick one.) In most cases, we’d recommend just going with Cricket Wireless if you really want AT&T service for less. 

Looking for alternatives? We’ll quickly highlight a few other AT&T alternatives that could be worth it: 

Consumer Cellular

1GB plan 5GB plan 10GB plan Unlimited plan

Cost

1GB plan

$20 for one line
$35 for two lines
$50 for three lines

5GB plan

$25 for one line
$40 for two lines
$55 for three lines

10GB plan

$35 for one line
$50 for two lines
$65 for three lines

Unlimited plan

$50 for one line
$65 for two lines
$80 for three lines

Talk & Text

1GB plan

Unlimited

5GB plan

Unlimited

10GB plan

Unlimited

Unlimited plan

Unlimited

Data

1GB plan

1GB (5G/LTE)

5GB plan

5GB (5G/LTE)

10GB plan

10GB (5G/LTE)

Unlimited plan

Unlimited 5G/LTE
(Reduced speeds of 1.5Mbps after 50GB usage)

Hotspot

1GB plan

Yes

5GB plan

Yes

10GB plan

Yes

Unlimited plan

Yes

International Service

1GB plan

None

5GB plan

None

10GB plan

None

Unlimited plan

None

Consumer Cellular is a good choice for those looking for solid customer service as well as solid pricing. Single users will pay between $20 to $50 a month for Consumer Cellular, depending on the plan. While the unlimited plan isn’t necessarily that well-priced for a single user, it gets much better for those with multiple lines. Families will pay between $50-$80 a month for three lines, again depending on the plan. That makes the unlimited plan cost the equivalent of $26.60 per user. 

H20 Wireless

3GB + 2GB hotspot plan 10GB + 5GB hotspot plan 20GB + 5GB hotspot plan Unlimited + 5GB hotspot plan Unlimited XL

Cost

3GB + 2GB hotspot plan

$18 a month with autopay
($10 first month)

10GB + 5GB hotspot plan

$27 a month with autopay
($15 first month)

20GB + 5GB hotspot plan

$36 a month with autopay
($20 first month)

Unlimited + 5GB hotspot plan

$45 a month with autopay
($25 first month)

Unlimited XL

$54 a month with autopay
($30 first month)

Talk & Text

3GB + 2GB hotspot plan

Unlimited

10GB + 5GB hotspot plan

Unlimited

20GB + 5GB hotspot plan

Unlimited

Unlimited + 5GB hotspot plan

Unlimited

Unlimited XL

Unlimited

Data

3GB + 2GB hotspot plan 10GB + 5GB hotspot plan 20GB + 5GB hotspot plan Unlimited + 5GB hotspot plan

Unlimited LTE/5G
(Throttled to 256Kbps after 40GB)
Unlimited XL

Unlimited LTE/5G
(Throttled to 256Kbps after 60GB)

Hotspot

3GB + 2GB hotspot plan

2GB additional for hotspot

10GB + 5GB hotspot plan

5GB additional for hotspot

20GB + 5GB hotspot plan

5GB additional for hotspot

Unlimited + 5GB hotspot plan

5GB additional for hotspot

Unlimited XL

20GB additional for hotspot

International Service

3GB + 2GB hotspot plan

Unlimited calling to 70+ countries

10GB + 5GB hotspot plan

Unlimited calling to 70+ countries

20GB + 5GB hotspot plan

Unlimited calling to 70+ countries

Unlimited + 5GB hotspot plan

Unlimited calling to 70+ countries

Unlimited XL

Unlimited calling to 70+ countries

While we wouldn’t recommend H20 Wireless for its unlimited plans, the limited plans are actually pretty solidly priced. If you only use 3GB of data on average a month, you’ll get unlimited talk and text and 3GB for just $18 a month. You even get a bonus of 2GB for hotspot use. From there, the plan prices get higher and make other options like Cricket a better choice. Still, if you want something basic, this could fit the bill. 

3GB + 2GB hotspot plan 10GB + 5GB hotspot plan 20GB + 5GB hotspot plan Unlimited + 5GB hotspot plan Unlimited XL

Cost

3GB + 2GB hotspot plan

$18 a month with autopay
($10 first month)

10GB + 5GB hotspot plan

$27 a month with autopay
($15 first month)

20GB + 5GB hotspot plan

$36 a month with autopay
($20 first month)

Unlimited + 5GB hotspot plan

$45 a month with autopay
($25 first month)

Unlimited XL

$54 a month with autopay
($30 first month)

Talk & Text

3GB + 2GB hotspot plan

Unlimited

10GB + 5GB hotspot plan

Unlimited

20GB + 5GB hotspot plan

Unlimited

Unlimited + 5GB hotspot plan

Unlimited

Unlimited XL

Unlimited

Data

3GB + 2GB hotspot plan 10GB + 5GB hotspot plan 20GB + 5GB hotspot plan Unlimited + 5GB hotspot plan

Unlimited LTE/5G
(Throttled to 256Kbps after 40GB)
Unlimited XL

Unlimited LTE/5G
(Throttled to 256Kbps after 60GB)

Hotspot

3GB + 2GB hotspot plan

2GB additional for hotspot

10GB + 5GB hotspot plan

5GB additional for hotspot

20GB + 5GB hotspot plan

5GB additional for hotspot

Unlimited + 5GB hotspot plan

5GB additional for hotspot

Unlimited XL

20GB additional for hotspot

International Service

3GB + 2GB hotspot plan

Unlimited calling to 70+ countries

10GB + 5GB hotspot plan

Unlimited calling to 70+ countries

20GB + 5GB hotspot plan

Unlimited calling to 70+ countries

Unlimited + 5GB hotspot plan

Unlimited calling to 70+ countries

Unlimited XL

Unlimited calling to 70+ countries

“>Check out H20 Wireless

Boost Mobile

1GB Yearly Plan 5GB Plan Unlimited Unlimited Plus

Cost

1GB Yearly Plan

$100/yearly ($8.33/monthly)

5GB Plan

$15 per month

Unlimited

$25 a month

Unlimited Plus

$60 a month

Talk and Text

1GB Yearly Plan

Unlimited

5GB Plan

Unlimited

Unlimited

Unlimited

Unlimited Plus

Unlimited

Data

1GB Yearly Plan

1GB per month

5GB Plan

5GB 4G LTE

Unlimited

Unlimited

Unlimited Plus

Unlimited

Hotspot

1GB Yearly Plan

Included up to data cap

5GB Plan

Included up to data cap

Unlimited

None

Unlimited Plus

30GB included

International

1GB Yearly Plan

Todo Mexico Plus available for $5 per month
5GB Plan

Todo Mexico Plus available for $5 per month

Unlimited

Todo Mexico Plus available for $5 per month
International

Unlimited Plus

Todo Mexico included

Special terms

1GB Yearly Plan

New customers only

5GB Plan

Available to new customers only

Unlimited

$15 add-on gets you 12GB hotspot data

Unlimited Plus

None

Want cheap unlimited service? Boost delivers in spades. For just $25 you’ll get unlimited talk, text, and data. While there isn’t hotspot access, you can upgrade to a plan that includes 12GB of hotspot data for $15 more a month. This is hands down the cheapest way to get unlimited on AT&T’s network for a single user. Of course, the cheaper unlimited plan comes with a catch: throttling. During times of congestion, you’ll be the first to see throttling. If you want better priority, you’ll have to get the Plus plan, which costs significantly more at $60 a month.  

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Harmony Evans is an award-winning author of Harlequin Kimani Romance, African-American romance, and so on. Harmony Evans is an award-winning author for Harlequin Kimani Romance, the leading publisher of African-American romance. Her 2nd novel, STEALING KISSES, will be released in November 2013. Harmony is a single mom to a beautiful, too-smart-for-her-own-good daughter, who makes her grateful for life daily. Her hobbies include cooking, baking, knitting, reading, and of course, napping and also review some of the best-selling and popular brands and services in the market and also write comprehensive blogs.

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