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What Is an MVNO?

Almost everybody in the U.S has seen an MVNO, or mobile virtual network operator, even if they don’t know it. In plain terms, an MVNO is a communication service provider that doesn’t actually own the network they provide but instead pays to utilize a larger network.

While the biggest mobile network providers in the nation have their own expansive infrastructures that cover the whole country, most of the smaller providers carve their own niche in the system by making deals to utilize these larger networks for their own use.

They are becoming increasingly common due to the lower prices and deals that MVNO’s tend to offer customers. With that in mind, Navi tells you what an MVNO is, and how could it affect you?

How Do MVNO’s Work?

The big three telecommunications companies in the United States are Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T. Each of these companies operates an enormous network infrastructure that covers the entire country and beyond, with decades of expansion making them tech giants without peers.

Competing with these companies as a new provider would be impossible at the infrastructure level, as these three organizations have put a huge amount of wealth into creating the hardware and software necessary to run nationwide networks over the course of decades.

This is where MVNO’s come in: instead of attempting to start from scratch and create their own mobile networks, MVNO’s piggyback off of existing Networks to create their own service. Utilizing this infrastructure, these companies then create their own plans that they provide to the customer.

What Are the Benefits of an MVNO?

One of the main benefits of choosing an MVNO over a large cell carrier is that they tend to come with lower prices. The costs of maintaining the huge nationwide infrastructure of a cell network are immense, and those prices are visible in the costs of phone plans that you’ll see in those big companies.

MVNO’s pay to utilize the network but they don’t own it, nor do they have to worry about maintenance costs. This results in a lower margin required for that company to break even, and that gets passed down to the consumer in the form of lower rates.

What Are Negatives of an MVNO?

On paper, an MVNO offers the same speeds and capacities as its parent network, however, this isn’t always true in practice. When a network is seeing peak usage, a parent network will always take priority over an MVNO, which could lead to slower speeds.

MVNO’s are also usually centralized around providing a mobile network on a budget, which means that they are rarely able to offer the same perks and benefits as larger networks. Many of today’s biggest carriers offer extensive plans involving entertainment subscriptions, extra storage space, and even international data. MVNO’s are much less likely to be providing things like this, instead only providing basic network features even in the most successful companies.

What Is the Best MVNO?

There are a ton of MVNO’s out there, and some of them have made a real splash in the telecommunications field. Dozens of companies are currently utilizing larger networks to provide services to people across the country.

You have probably seen ads for some of the more popular companies, while others are hidden gems with limited marketing but great service options. Here are some of the best MVNO’s you can connect with today.

Mint Mobile

Mint Mobile is one of the most popular MVNO’s out there, with cheap unlimited plans and solid connection capabilities. Mint Mobile runs off of T-Mobile’s network, and it boasts the same speeds and power as that network.

Mint Mobile’s status as an MVNO is readily seen in the low cost of its unlimited plans. For only $30 per month, customers get access to unlimited talk and text plus 35GB of 5G data. If you are willing to pay for a year upfront, that drops to $15 per month for all of the same features.

This is far and away cheaper than any of T-Mobile’s actual unlimited plans, but they come at a fraction of the price. It should be noted that you need to purchase at least three months of coverage to get these prices, but the costs are still very attractive and competitive with other MVNO’s.

Google Fi

Google Fi is a very unique service provider in that it actually utilizes multiple networks. Google Fi’s network is connected to both T-Mobile and U.S. Cellular, and its phones actually switch between the two depending on which one has the stronger signal.

This technology is meant to do away with the disparity that comes from people with different networks dealing with different speeds and signal strengths.

Google Fi is on the pricey side, with its Simply Unlimited plan being $60 for a single line. This goes down significantly if you add lines, but this means that this isn’t built for people trying to get individual coverage.

However, if you get the Unlimited Plus plan for $10 more you get unlimited international data, which is a great perk for an MVNO.

Cricket Wireless

Cricket Wireless runs off of AT&T’s network, and it recently reduced data caps on its plans making it a more attractive option for consumers. Cricket competes with other MVNO’s by providing a ton of perks for people who purchase the more expensive plans. If you buy the $60 per month plan you get unlimited talk and text, unlimited data, and 15GB of mobile hotspot data.

Beyond this, you get 150GB of cloud storage, a subscription to HBO Max, and premium data that will not slow no matter the usage. The plans at Cricket Wireless actually rival other big-name carriers, while the lower prices on its lower-tier plans still keep it competitive with other MVNO’s as well.


MVNO’s are continuing to grow, and some of them offer very competitive deals when compared with the likes of Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile. While there are some technical concerns that come with piggybacking off of another network, these companies generally match the power and speed of their parent networks.

Lower prices and great deals make MVNO’s a great option for people who are on a budget but want reliable service.

The fact that MVNO’s are so varied means that there could be something for everyone. While Mint Mobile prioritizes low prices and high-speed connections, companies like Cricket offer great extra features. MVNO’s are strong competitors in the mobile services market.

Visit Navi for more information on MVNOs.

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