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What Towers Does Consumer Cellular Use?

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If you’re a Consumer Cellular customer, it may surprise you to find out that when you get out your cell phone and place a call on Consumer Cellular’s network, you’re not really on Consumer Cellular’s network. In fact, Consumer Cellular doesn’t have its own cell towers or even its own network. 

So what towers does Consumer Cellular use? Consumer Cellular uses AT&T’s cell towers and network. 

Consumer Cellular is a mobile virtual network operator, also known as an MVNO. It’s expensive to build and maintain cell towers, so like Mint Mobile, Boost, Visible, and similar budget carriers, Consumer Cellular saves costs by leasing network capacity from one of the Big Three (T-Mobile, Verizon, or in this case, AT&T). You, as a consumer, get the benefit of those savings.

What does this mean for Consumer Cellular coverage, plan prices, and offers? Read on to find out more.

What Cell Towers Does Consumer Cellular Use?

As we mentioned above, Consumer Cellular piggybacks on AT&T’s cell towers to provide the same great 5G and 4G LTE network coverage as AT&T does for their customers. We’ll talk more about that coverage below.  

Consumer Cellular Coverage

Wondering how good Consumer Cellular’s coverage is? The short answer is that it’s as good as AT&T’s coverage, which is really good. AT&T’s 5G coverage is second nationwide, while the 4G LTE coverage is also in second place. (Note that Consumer Cellular used to lease from T-Mobile networks, but no longer does.)

Don’t be put off by claims that AT&T’s 5G network isn’t that great – while their geographic 5G coverage is “just” 29.52% of the US’s land area, that covers over 295 million people in the US, since most of the US population lives in big cities.

What if you don’t live in that 29.52% of the US that the 5G AT&T network covers? When 5G is not available, AT&T’s 4G network covers nearly 75% of the land area, amounting to coverage for over 99% of Americans.

You should, of course, always check the Consumer Cellular coverage map to make sure that you’re in an area with reliable and good coverage. We also recommend checking with nearby friends and neighbors to get a first-hand opinion of the best coverage nearby.

What Is an MVNO?

If you’ve shopped for cell phone plans before, you’ve likely noted a wide variety of carriers, prices, perks, and more. One of the big differentiators between carriers is whether they’re an MVNO or not. 

The MVNO cell phone carrier model is typically geared toward budget-conscious shoppers. MVNOs save money by leasing network capacity. They pass those savings on to their customers. However, MVNOs are typically less of a premium experience – you usually get less high-speed data, no bundled perks, and less or no hotspot data. Plus, with MVNOs, once you run out of premium data, data speeds typically slow to just a few Mbps (read: very slow). Last, the best phone deals on new phones are typically reserved for the Big Three. 

Basically, if you’re the kind of person who likes to stream YouTube videos on your hour-long commute, you are interested in getting a Netflix or Disney+ membership, and you always want the best price on the latest iPhone, you’ll have better luck with the Big Three. 

However, if you’re not interested in perks, you’re okay with slow data when you run out of premium data, and you don’t mind missing out on the latest phone deals, then you can save money on your cell phone bill by going with an MVNO carrier like Consumer Cellular.

Who Owns Consumer Cellular?

In 2020, a Chicago private equity company called GTCR bought Consumer Cellular for around $2.3 billion, beating out Dish Network, Altice USA, Ultra Mobile, Boost Mobile founder Peter Adderton and others. 

Consumer Cellular Plans

Sound good so far? You may want to learn about the cell phone plans Consumer Cellular offers. While all their cell phone plans include unlimited talk and text as well as unlimited calls to Canada and Mexico, there’s only one plan with unlimited data. This plan provides 50 GB of premium data at high speeds, after which data speeds slow. 

All other cell phone plans are capped, meaning they only offer a set amount of data usage per month. 

Consumer Cellular does provide plenty of affordable plans, but you should make sure that they fit your data needs before choosing this carrier.

Is Consumer Cellular Worth It?

Consumer Cellular plans are pretty standard among other MVNOs – good value, good amount of data, limited perks otherwise – but their real unique selling point is that Consumer Cellular specifically targets the over-50 crowd, and is a preferred provider for AARP members. Consumer Cellular also sells some of the best smartphones for seniors at senior-friendly prices. 

For over 50s, it’s a great carrier to consider. There are AARP-related discounts, deals on phones for seniors, simple and straightforward billing, and great customer service.

What about if you’re under the age of 50? Then we would advise you to consider a Consumer Cellular plan the same way you would any other cell phone plan:

  • Is there good coverage? In this case, check AT&T’s coverage map to make sure you get good cellular service.
  • Is there enough data at a good price for you? 
  • Are there any special deals or offers exclusive to Consumer Cellular that make it worth a switch?
  • How many phone lines do you need? Consumer Cellular has multi-line pricing, meaning each additional line's price decreases. 

If that all checks out, then you should consider Consumer Cellular when you’re thinking about choosing a new cell phone plan. 

The Bottom Line

Consumer Cellular leases network capacity from AT&T, ensuring great coverage for their customers at a lower price than is typically available from the Big Three carriers. While the cell phone plans might only offer limited data in most cases, there is an option for more premium data if you need it.

Want to find the best phone plan deals from other carriers? Check out our free, unbiased Phone Deal Finder. With just a few clicks, we’ll sort through thousands of plan features to find the best options for you based on how much data you want, what perks you care about, and what your budget is. 

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