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

We take a closer look at your options for AT&T MNVOs.
By

Published onJuly 6, 2023

ATT logo stock image 2
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. Don’t know what an AT&T MVNO is, we have an explainer towards the bottom of this post, which also includes pros and cons. If you understand the concept, keeping reading after the break to take a closer look at the best AT&T MVNOs. 

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:

5GB10GBCricket UnlimitedCricket 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
Standard Definition 480p

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 plan5GB plan10GB planUnlimited 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 plan10GB + 5GB hotspot plan20GB + 5GB hotspot planUnlimited + 5GB hotspot planUnlimited 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
3GB LTE/5G

10GB + 5GB hotspot plan
10GB LTE/5G

20GB + 5GB hotspot plan
20GB LTE/5G

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 plan10GB + 5GB hotspot plan20GB + 5GB hotspot planUnlimited + 5GB hotspot planUnlimited 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
3GB LTE/5G

10GB + 5GB hotspot plan
10GB LTE/5G

20GB + 5GB hotspot plan
20GB LTE/5G

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 Plan5GB PlanUnlimitedUnlimited 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.  

A complete list of other AT&T MVNOs worth considering 

While we’ve taken a look at four of the best options, there are plenty more MVNOs that run on AT&T’s network. Here’s a full list of the rest in alphabetical order:
  • Black Wireless: This MVNO has plenty of different plans available ranging from $15 and up. Keep in mind that even the unlimited plans are actually capped, just you can keep using it at snail’s speed after the cap. 
  • Boost Infinite: Not to be confused with Boost Mobile, Boost Infinite is different from the rest of these MVNOs as it also has its own network via its parent, Dish Network. This carrier uses T-Mobile, AT&T, and Dish’s 5G network to blanket you in coverage. It’s a postpaid option as well, unlike anything else on the list.
  • FreedomPop: This MVNO actually has a truly free plan, though it has a lot of limitations. There are also paid plans at $10 and $30 a month, giving you 1GB or 10GB, respectively. 
  • FreeUp Mobile: This carrier offers 4 packages ranging from $15 to $30 a month. You’ll get either 5GB, 15GB, 20GB, or unlimited service.
  • Good2Go Mobile: This one has plans starting at $10 and ranges up to $45 for 20GB of high-speed data.
  • Pure TalkUSA: Puretalk ranges from $20 to $64 a month, though it adds extra savings for additional lines. 
  • Red Pocket: Like some of the others on the list, Red Pocket uses more than one carrier. In fact, it offers coverage via all three, though what network you use will largely depend on your plan and the phone used. 
  • Unreal Mobile: This carrier offers 10GB, 25GB, or unlimited plans at $20, $40, and $80 respectively. 
  • Wing Alpha: Wing has six plans that range up to as high as 100GB, with its smaller packages starting at $15 a month. There are also savings for additional lines, though the discount is relatively small. 

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.