Users have quite a few options when it comes to choosing a wireless carrier. There are the big four nationwide carriers, some smaller regional carriers, and numerous MVNO carriers. Users often look to one of the big four carriers: AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, or Sprint. However, in some cases, an MVNO carrier may be a better option for your specific wireless needs.
What is an MVNO?
MVNO stands for Mobile Virtual Network Operator. When searching for an MVNO, you can find everything from carriers that offer unlimited plans, to carriers that allow you to pay only for what you use. There are some MVNO carriers that simply provide really good rates and some that highlight features such as international calling. But all MVNO carriers all have one thing in common — they operate using the network of one, or more, of the big four wireless carriers.
Which MVNO should you choose?
A good place to start when choosing a carrier is based on network coverage. You want to make sure the network coverage will be good in the area where you live, work, and play. But, while all MVNO carriers operate using the network of one of the big four wireless carriers — they may not all be as forthcoming in saying which network they use.
With so many available options, we can understand your initial search may feel a bit overwhelming, so Swappa is here to help in this search. We are taking a look at the best MVNO carriers using each of the big four wireless carriers. We recently covered T-Mobile and Sprint, and today we’ll be focusing on the best MVNO carriers that use the AT&T network.
Along with network coverage, another good factor to consider when choosing an MVNO carrier is by the feature, or features, that you need. Read on to learn more about the best MVNO carriers using the AT&T network — and the highlight features for each carrier.
Best MVNO carriers using the AT&T network?
Starting first with a basic list — here is a selection of some of the best MVNO carriers that use the AT&T network.
|MVNO Carrier||AT&T||Also uses|
|Net10 Wireless||Yes||T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint|
|Red Pocket Mobile||Yes||T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint|
|Straight Talk Wireless||Yes||T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint|
|Tracfone||Yes||T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint|
MVNO carrier network coverage
At first glance, one may want to choose an MVNO that uses multiple networks. However, while an MVNO carrier may operate on multiple carrier networks — your personal usage may vary depending on which SIM card you have from the carrier, which plan you picked from the carrier, and also by which phone you are using. As we are focusing on AT&T MVNO carriers today — more important is to consider the AT&T coverage in your local area. This can be done by visiting the network coverage page for the MVNO carrier, or carriers, you are considering.
AT&T MVNO carrier features
Consumer Cellular offers some ability to customize a plan to fit your needs. Users have the option to mix a “Talk” plan and a “Connect” plan. The Talk portion is for voice minutes and the connect portion is for data. All Connect plans also include unlimited text messages. With Consumer Cellular you are also able to get a “Talk” only plan if you do not have a smartphone.
- 250 minutes – $15 per month
- Unlimited – $20 per month
- 500 MB – $5 per month
- 3 GB – $10 per month
- 10 GB – $20 per month
- 15 GB – $30 per month
- 25 GB – $40 per month
Consumer Cellular is a BYOP (bring your own phone) carrier, and they also offer some phones for sale. The carrier touts low prices and flexible no-contract monthly plans — with the option to make plan changes at any time. There are discounts for AARP members, and Consumer Cellular aims at a high level for customer support. In fact, Consumer Cellular has been ranked #1 in Customer Service among Non-Contract Value Wireless Providers seven times in a row.
The carrier also promises cellular coverage for 99% of the US, and you can check for coverage in your local area on the Consumer Cellular network coverage page.
Of the seven MVNO carriers we are highlighting — Cricket Wireless is unique in they only use the AT&T network. This is due to AT&T being the parent company of Cricket Wireless. Similar to Consumer Cellular, Cricket Wireless also looks toward customer service and has been named #1 in Customer Service among Non-Contact Full-Service Wireless Providers two times in a row.
As you’ll find with many of the AT&T MVNO carriers, Cricket Wireless touts coverage for 99% of Americans. You can review the Cricket Wireless coverage in your local market on the carriers network coverage page.
Cricket Wireless offers the option for users to purchase a phone, or to bring their own phone. The carrier also has some unlimited options for voice, text, and data. Plan options for Cricket Wireless break down as follows:
- Unlimited & 15 GB Mobile Hotspot – $60 per month
- Unlimited (High-Speed Data) – $55 per month
- Unlimited BYOD (Fastest 4G LTE Speeds) – $40 per month
The Cricket Wireless plans are month-to-month with no contract, no credit checks, and no hidden fees. The taxes are also included, so the price you see is the price you’ll pay. You can also save $5 per month if you set up with AutoPay.
Freedom Pop does not have any contracts, and they do not require any long term commitments. However, the carrier does offer discounts if you prepay for service at 3, 6, or 12-month levels. Freedom Pop plans all include unlimited voice and text messaging. There are then options for 2 GB, 5GB, or 10 GB of LTE data per month.
- 2 GB LTE Unlimited (Unlimited minutes & text, with 2 GB of data) – $24.99 per month
- 5 GB LTE Unlimited (Unlimited minutes & text, with 5 GB of data) – $34.99 per month
- 10 GB LTE Unlimited (Unlimited minutes & text, with 10 GB of data) – $59.99 per month
Using the 2 GB LTE Unlimited plan as the example — your price will drop to $13.99 per month if you prepay for 3 months, or to $11.99 per month if you prepay for 6 months, or to $9.99 per month if you prepay for 12 months.
Other highlights with Freedom Pop include WiFi calling and texting, free unlimited calling and texting with other Freedom Pop users, free international calling, and options to get bonus data by referring friends or completing partner offers.
As with other MVNO carriers, Net10 Wireless operates on a no-contract basis. Users have the option to purchase a device from the carrier or bring their own. Today we’re looking at Net10 Wireless as being one of the best MVNO carriers using the AT&T network, however, the carrier actually makes use of all four of the big four US carriers.
This becomes evident when you get started with Net10 Wireless. If you choose to set up an account with your current device, or a newish device you purchase on Swappa — the first step is to identify which carrier your device is compatible with: AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, or Sprint.
All of the Net10 Wireless plans are described as being unlimited — for talk, text, and data. However, while the data is unlimited, the carrier does make use of a soft-cap which means your speeds may be slowed once you reach a certain level. Net10 Wireless plans are as follows:
- Unlimited Talk, Text & Data (with 1 GB at high-speed) – $20 per month
- Unlimited Talk, Text & Data (with 4 GB at high-speed) – $35 per month
- Unlimited Talk, Text & Data (with 8 GB at high-speed) – $40 per month
- Unlimited Talk, Text & Data (with 10 GB at high-speed) – $50 per month
- Unlimited Talk, Text & Data (with 12 GB at high-speed) – $60 per month
You can also save some money each month by opting to use the auto-refill. The discount will vary from $3.50 to $5.00 per month depending on the plan you have.
Red Pocket Mobile
Similar to Net10 Wireless, Red Pocket Mobile also operates using the networks of each of the big four US carriers. This means you will have the option to choose the network based on your phone. In the case of using the AT&T network with Red Pocket Mobile — you’ll want to have an AT&T compatible phone, or a GSM Unlocked phone.
Highlight features of Red Pocket Mobile include the ability to choose any major US network, free international calling, no contracts, no activation fees, and customer support in English, Spanish, Chinese, and Filipino. Red Pocket Mobile does offer unlimited plans, and they do not charge any overage fees. Instead, the carrier makes use of soft-caps on the data.
Plans begin at $10 per 30 days and go up to $65 per 30 days. Some plans also allow for an auto-pay discount, which ranges from $1 to $5 depending on the plan you choose. The Red Pocket Mobile plans are as follows;
- 500 Minutes, 500 Text Messages, 500 MB of data – $10 per 30 days
- 1000 Minutes, Unlimited Text Messages, 1 GB of data – $15 per 30 days
- Unlimited Minutes, Unlimited Text Messages, 3 GB of data – $20 per 30 days
- Unlimited Minutes, Unlimited Text Messages, 7 GB of data – $35 per 30 days
- Unlimited Minutes, Unlimited Text Messages, 15 GB of data – $45 per 30 days
- Unlimited Minutes, Unlimited Text Messages, Unlimited data – $60 per 30 days
Straight Talk Wireless
Straight Talk is another MVNO carrier that offers service on each of the four major US wireless carriers. The carrier operates on what they refer to as the KYOP basis, with KYOP meaning — Keep Your Own Phone. Of course, you could also shop for a newish phone here on Swappa. When looking to activate service with Straight Talk using the AT&T network you should look to have an AT&T compatible phone or an Unlocked GSM phone. You can also confirm device compatibility on the Straight Talk website.
Another highlight for choosing Straight Talk is the availability. Users can get started on the Straight Talk website, or by purchasing a SIM card at a Walmart retail location. All Straight Talk plans are offered on a 30-day basis, and there are some unlimited options available.
- 30-Days Unlimited Plan – Unlimited Talk & Text, 25 GB of high-speed data – $45
- 30-Days Unlimited Plan – Unlimited Talk & Text, Unlimited high-speed data, 10 GB hotspot data – $45
- 30-Days Unlimited Plan – Unlimited Talk & Text, 3 GB of high-speed data – $35
- Unlimited International Plan – Unlimited Talk & Text, Unlimited Mobile to Mobile to Mexico, China, India, and Canada, Unlimited calls to select International landlines, 25 GB of high-speed data – $60
Along with these plan options, Straight Talk also offers a discounted 2-line unlimited plan for $90 (per 30-days). The 2-line Unlimited plan includes unlimited talk, text, and data (with the potential of seeing slowed data speeds after 60 GB).
Straight Talk also offers discounts for extended service options — such as 2-month, 6-month and 12-month plans. Users can also save a few dollars each month by activating their service with auto-pay.
Tracfone makes use of all four of the major US carriers, which makes it a bit easier in terms of phone compatibility. In terms of using the AT&T network with Tracfone, you will want to ensure you have an AT&T compatible phone or an Unlocked GSM phone. As with other MVNO carriers, Tracfone operates on a prepaid and no-contract basis. However, one key perk with Tracfone is the ease of getting started — you can purchase a Tracfone SIM card online, or in numerous local retail locations. Some of the locations include 7-Eleven, Walgreens, CVS, Family Dollar, Walmart, Staples, Dollar General, and Rent-a-Center.
At present, Tracfone has several unlimited (talk & text) plans available:
- Unlimited Talk & Text, 3 GB of Data – $30 per 30-days
- Unlimited Talk & Text, 2 GB of Data – $25 per 30-days
- Unlimited Talk & Text, 1GB of Data – $20 per 30-days
Tracfone also has a few options for basic (non-smartphone) phones. These plans range in price from $9.99 per month to $199.99 per year — depending on the number of minutes you need. Other perks and highlights for Tracfone include no overages or hidden costs, and Unlimited Carryover, which means any unused data will not expire.
Which phones will work with an AT&T network MVNO?
When possible, it is a good idea to check compatibility with the carrier. However, when the MVNO carrier is offering service using the AT&T network — you’ll want to get started by looking for an AT&T compatible phone. Alternatively, you can also look for an Unlocked GSM phone. If you are in the market for an AT&T compatible phone — you can find your newish phone right here on Swappa by clicking the green button below.