Mobile virtual network operators, or MVNOs, are popular choices for wireless customers looking to get service on a budget, without tying themselves down with any long-term contracts or device payment plans. They’re separate companies that operate on major networks, which means they offer the same coverage of some of America’s largest wireless providers for a reduced cost.
US Mobile, an up-and-coming prepaid MVNO that has made news for its à la carte plans that allow you to pick and choose the precise amount of data, texting, and talk time you need, seems to be on the brink of a major partnership with Verizon.
Although the carrier’s website doesn’t specifically name its infrastructure partners, it is widely believed US Mobile uses T-Mobile’s towers — their coverage maps are identical. An update to the site says a launch on “America’s biggest and most dependable 4G LTE network” is coming in the summer, which points to Verizon.
Upon reaching out for clarification, US Mobile could not confirm partnership with either carrier — though the company did relay to Digital Trends that “customers will be on the network that will optimize their coverage depending on where they live and their user habits.”
Many MVNOs that consolidate multiple networks allow devices to switch between them on the fly — so if Verizon has a stronger signal in a given area than T-Mobile, the phone will default to Verizon’s network. And, in this case, US Mobile’s rates aren’t changing. So coverage improves ten-fold, while prices stay the same. In that sense, it’s a win-win.
US Mobile’s plans aren’t necessarily complicated, but they do offer a lot of choices. Customers have the option of anywhere from a paltry 100 MB of data for $2 a month, to 10GB for $30. On top of that, there’s talk and text. For calling, options range from 100 minutes for $3 to 1,500 minutes for $15. When it comes to texting, plans start at 100 messages for $2, and progress up to unlimited for $7.
Add in the $2 monthly service charge, and the highest allotment plan US Mobile offers comes in at $54. Not bad at all — though, as always with third-party prepaid carriers, there are some caveats to be mindful of.
Although MVNOs benefit from major network coverage, they don’t always offer major network speed. For example, some Verizon MVNOs, like StraightTalk and Tracfone, reportedly only deliver a max of 5Mbps download and 2Mbps upload. That’s significantly slower than the more than 30Mbps download some Verizon post-paid customers are now getting in certain parts of the country.
Furthermore, these customers also tend to miss out on some features, like voice over LTE, visual voicemail, and international roaming, depending on the company. US Mobile confirms on its website that it does not currently support the latter two features, though it does offer “competitive” international calling rates.
It is no surprise that you get what you pay for — but if you can live without the fastest speeds and certain features, companies like US Mobile offer reasonable service for rock-bottom prices. Check out our list of the best prepaid carriers you’ve never heard of to learn more.
Article originally published on 05-22-2017 by Adam Ismail. Updated on 05-23-2017: Added statement from a US Mobile representative.