Coverage can also suffer. Very few prepaid carriers own their own networks, which typically means that they’re leasing it from one of the big guys, like AT&T, Verizon, Sprint or T-Mobile. And the only carriers that manage their own networks – MetroPCS and Cricket – aren’t as expansive in terms of coverage areas as the majors. (Headed to Virginia, Alabama or Florida with Cricket? Don’t plan on making any calls.)
Even going with a prepaid plan from a company like AT&T won’t get you the same level of coverage as postpaid AT&T customers. “With contract plans, a lot of those carriers have roaming agreements: You’re roaming off network, technically, but it’s built into your plan that you’re allowed to do that,” explains Pawlikowski. “With prepaid, you’re only working with the primary network.” The result: Many people keep their carrier and switch from postpaid to prepaid, then experience inferior coverage because they were forced to use other companies’ towers without even knowing it.