You’ve heard of AT&T, the mobile giant that sports the fastest network in the industry. But you may not have heard of H2O Wireless, FreeUp Mobile, and the eight other mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) that use AT&T’s network to support their prepaid service.
MVNOs cut deals with the major cellular networks—AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint—to use their cellular towers. This means a prepaid SIM card can get you virtually the same coverage as a traditional plan (but your data speeds may be slower).
In this article we’ll review all of the cell phone carriers that use the AT&T network. There are 10 of them:
Wondering how these AT&T MVNOs compare? We’ll take a deeper dive in the individual reviews in a moment, but first here’s a few highlights of the carriers we like the most.
It’s impossible to say which of these AT&T alternatives is best for everyone. But we do have a few picks for certain kinds of mobile users:
- Best for budgeters: Red Pocket Mobile’s cheapest (and more popular) plan costs just $10 a month. It will get you 500 minutes, 500 texts, and even 500 MB of data. Red Pocket also has cheap unlimited talk and text plans with more data.
- Best for data lovers: Cricket Wireless has a truly unlimited plan that doesn’t cap your high-speed data at 15 or 20 GB, like many other carriers on this list. It also offers a 15 GB mobile hotspot plan.
- Best for international benefits: H2O Wireless offers simple, straightforward plans that are awesome for international callers. You can get unlimited talk and text to 50+ countries with this MVNO.
- Best for pay-as-you-go plans: Pix Wireless’s normal data plans are not the best on this list, but its pay-as-you-go plans will be perfect for those who don’t use their phone much. These plans start at just $5 a month.
Phew, that’s a lot of cell phone plans. Why are so many companies vying to get on AT&T’s cell towers anyway? Let’s take a closer look (feel free to skip to the recap if you just want the TL;DR version).
How good is AT&T’s network?
So, what does it mean for all of these MVNOs that they’re on the AT&T network? In short, it means decent coverage, great data speeds, and a rapidly expanding 5G infrastructure.1
We’ve ranked AT&T’s coverage third overall, behind Verizon and T-Mobile. That translates to 4G LTE coverage in 58% of the country.2 That might not sound like much, but most of the service gaps are in remote parts of Wyoming, Nebraska, and other rural areas.
Check out this interactive service map to see what coverage looks like in your hometown:
A SIM card from any MVNO in this article should get the coverage shown in this map. If that’s still not enough coverage for you, we suggest checking out T-Mobile, Verizon, or one of the many MVNOs that operate on those two networks.
AT&T data speeds
AT&T may take the bronze medal when it comes to coverage, but it takes the gold for download speeds. The network boasts a 27.5 Mbps speed average.1 That’s about as fast as a broadband internet connection.
Check out how AT&T’s speeds stack up against the other major carriers:
Image source: screenshot taken from Opensignal
AT&T’s fast download speeds will help you stream, game, post, scroll, and browse seamlessly. If you like to sneak an episode of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt during your lunch break, this is the network for you.
While download speeds are perhaps the most important speed metric, it’s worth noting that AT&T also ranks number one for latency experience, meaning it’s less likely to lag when you’re in the middle of a PUBG Mobile match.1
All right, enough about AT&T. Let’s dive into this round up of the smaller carriers that operate on its network.