Many mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) run over T-Mobile’s network while offering service that is far less expensive than service purchased directly from T-Mobile. I share my recommended T-Mobile MVNOs below. After my recommendations, I share a table with a more comprehensive list of T-Mobile MVNOs.
Best T-Mobile MVNOs
Below I list the companies that I believe are the best T-Mobile MVNOs for typical consumers.
#1. Mint Mobile
Mint Mobile offers ridiculously cheap service over T-Mobile’s network. Mint’s plans offer 3-12 gigabytes of high-speed data along with unlimited talk and text. The plans also include some nice features:
- Unlimited data at 128Kbps after allotted high-speed data is used
- Mobile hotspot at no extra charge
- Option to buy additional high-speed data if you run out during a billing cycle
Mint’s prices vary depending on the duration of service that customers pay for upfront. Here are the prices as of 4/21/2019 (accuracy not guaranteed):
- 3 months: $25/mo
- 6 months: $20/mo
- 12 months: $15/mo
- 3 months: $35/mo
- 6 months: $25/mo
- 12 months: $20/mo
- 3 months: $45/mo
- 6 months: $35/mo
- 12 months: $25/mo
Ting is a T-Mobile and Sprint-based MVNO (you get to choose which network) that offers a pay-for-what-you-use structure. In my experience, Ting’s customer service is among the best. Ting’s pricing is a bit hard to explain, so I recommend just checking out Ting’s rates page. Ting may be well-priced for customers who want a family plan and don’t use large amounts of data. Heavy users of data and those looking for single-line plans would probably be better off with Mint.
List of T-Mobile MVNOs
|Red Pocket Mobile||200,000||Weakly|
|NET10 Wireless*||3,000,000||NET10 is part of TracFone|
|TracFone||Additional subscribers may use other carriers that are part of TracFone. An América Móvil (TracFone's parent company) report covering performance in the 4th quarter of 2018 indicates the company had roughly 22 million lines in the U.S.|
|Walmart Family Mobile||1,000,000|
|GoSmart Mobile*||GoSmart Mobile is a TracFone brand.|
|Straight Talk*||9,000,000||Straight Talk is a TracFone brand.|
|Simple Mobile*||1,000,000||Simple Mobile is a TracFone brand.|
|Telcel*||Telcel is a TracFone Brand|
|Clearway Wireless*||Clearway is a TracFone brand. I believe Clearway works with all of the Big Four networks, but I'm not confident.|
|Metro by T-Mobile||19,000,000|
T-Mobile MVNO list notes
Some of these companies offer service over multiple networks, not only T-Mobile. The list includes companies that offer prepaid service over T-Mobile’s network but are not technically MVNOs.
T-Mobile coverage and quality
T-Mobile’s network does not offer coverage as extensive as what Verizon and AT&T offer, but T-Mobile’s coverage is superior to Sprint’s coverage. I discuss nationwide reliability in far more detail in another article.
Where T-Mobile offers coverage, speeds tend to be solid. In Opensignal’s crowdsourced speed tests, T-Mobile tends to do well. For more information about how you can evaluate the quality of T-Mobile’s network in areas where you spend time, see How to Evaluate Wireless Service Quality.
T-Mobile phone compatibility
T-Mobile will work with most recent, unlocked GSM phones and phones that are carrier-locked to T-Mobile. T-Mobile’s LTE service generally operates over bands are 2, 4, 12, 66, and 71. If you’re purchasing a new device, I suggest considering a nearly universal unlocked phone so that you have the freedom to switch between major U.S. networks without having to purchase a new device.
Downsides to T-Mobile MVNOs
Subscribers to T-Mobile-based MVNOs may be prioritized behind some direct T-Mobile subscribers when networks are congested. T-Mobile MVNO subscribers will generally not have the ability to roam onto other networks that T-Mobile’s direct subscribers have.
Potential conflicts of interest
I have financial relationships with many wireless carriers, including Ting and Mint Mobile. Details about the arrangements can be found here.
- This is very slow, but it is still useful if you really need to access something online and don’t have high-speed data left.
- Mobile hotspot data pulls from your alloted high-speed data pool. As far as I know, there hotspot data is not otherwise capped or throttled.
- In April 2019, it cost $10 for an additional gigabye of data or $20 for 3 additional gigabytes of data.
- See Mint Mobile’s plans web page for up-to-date pricing.
- See RootMetrics’ national report.
- I have serious concerns about selection bias that may affect Opensignal’s results. For more details, see my article on Opensignal’s methodology.