What Carriers Use AT&T’s Network?
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).
So you may have to be patient when you’re trying to live stream at a big event or download a video in the middle of a work conference. If you need a plan that won’t deprioritize you, check out these premium phone plans.
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.
Straight Talk Wireless
Straight Talk serves up a classic mobile sandwich with talk, text, and data. Hold all the fancy condiments.
- Affordable unlimited data plans
- Robust international plan
- No family plans
The name Straight Talk pretty much says it all. This MVNO offers up a few simple plans without any fancy add-ons. Straight Talk has a 3 GB data plan and several different unlimited data plans. Check ’em out:
Straight Talk plans
While Straight Talk’s plans are definitely cheaper than a standard AT&T or Verizon plan, they can’t beat the low-cost offerings of many other MVNOs. If you’re going to pay $50 or more for an unlimited data plan, you might want to look at these other options.
And sorry mamas and papas, Straight Talk doesn’t offer any family plans.
Pure TalkUSA has more cheap plans than you can shake a stick at.
- Tons of cheap plan options
- No overage charges
- Family plans
- Restrictive data cap
Pure TalkUSA may sound a lot like Straight Talk above, but these two discount cell phone providers are actually quite different. Straight Talk only offers a few plans, while Pure TalkUSA has half a dozen of them, ranging from 1GB of data to unlimited data.
Here’s a look at some of Pure TalkUSA’s plans, ranked by their popularity:
Most popular Pure TalkUSA plans
Pure TalkUSA’s plans all come with unlimited talk and text, and low-speed (128 Kbps) data. So you won’t be charged overage fees for scrolling through Instagram feed too much (the images will just load really slowly after you’ve used up your high-speed data).
One downside to Pure TalkUSA’s service is its full-speed data cap. Pure TalkUSA’s “unlimited” plan only guarantees 22 GB of full-speed data. That’s less than most other companies, including other MVNOs.
So if you’re a big gamer, streamer, or social media user, you might want to find another prepaid cell phone company.
Cricket Wireless can hook you up with tons of data and a mobile hotspot. But you’ll have to pay a startup fee.
- Limited and unlimited data plans
- Mobile hotspot option
- Startup fee
Unlike some other MVNOs on this list, you’ve probably heard of Cricket Wireless before. This discount provider has been around the block once or twice, and it’s learned what people want: lots of data and mobile hotspots.
Here’s a look at all of the plans that Cricket is offering up right now:
Cricket Wireless cell phone plans
That More Unlimited & 15 GB Mobile Hotspot plan is a pretty sweet deal for those who need to work (or just watch a few episodes of Parks and Recreation) while they’re stuck in an airport during a layover. Your data can be deprioritized, of course. But the plan has no hard data cap, which we love.
The most obvious downside to Cricket Wireless is that $10 startup fee. What’s the deal, Cricket? I thought we were old pals.
Pix Wireless has some decent plans, but it’s not enough to stand out in a crowded industry.
- Tons of plans to choose from
- Pay as you go options
- Pricier unlimited data plan
If variety is the spice of life, then Pix Wireless is very spicy. This MVNO has plenty of plans to choose from, including limited, unlimited, and pay-as-you-go data plans. Here’s a peak at the most popular plans from Pix:
Popular Pix Wireless plans
But just because Pix Wireless has a bunch of plans, that doesn’t mean that they’re right for everyone.
In fact, Pix’s plans are on the more expensive side. For instance, its $55 Emerald Monthly Plan is more expensive than unlimited data plans from other providers in this article, but it doesn’t offer any obvious extra benefits.
So, unless you’re really excited about pay as you go plans, you might want to use another provider on this list to get on AT&T’s network.
H2O makes it easy to find the right plan. But that doesn’t mean you can afford it.
- Plenty of straightforward plans
- Good international benefits
- Expensive for an MVNO
H2O Wireless is kind of like the Apple of AT&T MVNOs. It’s got a sleek and simple design. Its products are useful and easy to use. But it’s going to cost you. Check out H2O’s plans below:
H2O Wireless plans
For $20 you can get unlimited talk and text plus 500 MB of data. That’s not an outrageous price, but it’s a bit steep for an MVNO. H2O’s Monthly Unlimited plan will set you back $60 a month, which is more than almost any other plan in this line up.
One thing these higher prices will get you is unlimited talk and text to 50+ countries. If you need to stay in touch with friends and relatives overseas, H2O is a great option.
Red Pocket Mobile
What does Red Pocket’s name mean? We don’t know, but it does offer some cheap plans.
- Cheap limited data plans
- Free international calling to 70+ countries
- Plans only work with certain phones
Is it a Hot Pocket that’s sold at a Redbox? Or maybe it’s a Red Bull that fits perfectly in your back pocket. No, Red Pocket is actually a phone company, and it’s got some pretty awesome deals on limited-data plans.
Take a gander at these plans from Red Pocket, organized by popularity:
Red Pocket plans by popularity
That $10 Monthly Plan is a unique option. For one, it allows you to choose your network. You can get on AT&T like the rest of these MVNOs do, or you can hop onto Verizon’s network if the coverage is actually better. Once you’re signed up you’ll get 500 minutes, 500 texts, and 500 MB of high-speed data.
If you’ve got a bit more to spend on your cell phone plan Red Pocket can hook you up with unlimited talk and text plus 3 GB of data for $19. Not bad, Red Pocket.
Just make sure that you sign up for a Red Pocket plan that works with your specific iPhone, Galaxy, or other device.
Tracfone may be an old school prepaid phone company, but it’s got more to offer than just nostalgia for the ’90s.
- Lots of plans to choose from
- Longer pay periods available
- Not ideal for heavy data users
Tracfone has been in the prepaid phone business for decades. While the company offers data and works with smartphones these days, some of its plans are still pretty retro. For instance, a 1500-minute plan with 1.5 GB of data that’s renewed yearly.
Check out these popular plans from Tracfone:
Tracfone plans by popularity
Tracfone is not going to be everyone’s favorite way to get on the AT&T network. But for those who just need a cell phone to coordinate rides every once in a while—maybe your kids or your parents—it’s a great deal.
Net10 Wireless offers up some decent medium-tier data plans, but its “unlimited” plan is lacking.
- Decent mid-level plans
- Choose your network
- Low data caps
Net10 Wireless has a unique service model. Rather than contracting with just one major carrier, like AT&T, to offer service, Net10 has contracted with all of the “big four” networks. That means Net10 customers get put on whatever network works best in their area and with their device.
So you may or may not get on the AT&T network with Net10. But no matter which network you’re on, Net10 has some decent deals on mid-level data plans. Here’s a breakdown of the most popular plans that the company offers:
Net10 plans by popularity
A $35 Unlimited plan with unlimited talk, text, and 4 GB of full-speed data is going to be perfect for many casual phone users. That 4 GB of data will go pretty far if you just use it for Google Maps, email, and the occasional scroll through Facebook. Plus, Net10 offers unlimited data at 2G speeds, for those who go over their cap.
Speaking of data caps, we’re a bit disappointed to see that Net10’s $60 plan offers only 12 GB of full-speed data. That’s hardly an “unlimited” plan. You might as well go with an unlimited plan from a traditional provider if you’re spending that much.
If you’re looking for cheap, simple phone service, then consider a low-data plan from FreeUp.
- Cheap low-data plans
- Free international talk and text
- No unlimited data plans
FreeUp mobile’s plans are not all that different from other providers in this article. They offer talk and text, plus some limited data, for a relatively cheap price. One bonus with FreeUp is that you’ll get free international talk and text to a bunch of countries.
Look at this sampling of the most popular FreeUp plans:
FreeUp plans by popularity
Those who want unlimited data plans will have to look elsewhere. FreeUp’s most expensive plan offers 15 GB of full-speed data for $45 (which is, ironically, actually more data than what some other MVNOs consider “unlimited”).
This little-known MVNO is offering a limited selection of data plans.
- Unlimited data plan option
- Pricier than other MVNOs
i3 Mobile might sound futuristic, but its actual plans are pretty basic. You’ve got four options: 1 GB, 10 GB, Unlimited, and Unlimited Plus. Each plan comes with unlimited talk and text. Here’s a look at how the prices add up:
i3 Mobile plans by popularity
When you compare these plans to those provided by other MVNOs on the AT&T network, none of them standout as particularly great deals. At $71, the i3 Mobile Unlimited Plus plan costs about as much as AT&T’s Unlimited Extra plan!
Recap: What’s the best MVNO on AT&T’s network?
Alright, that was a lot. So we’re just going to keep this recap short and sweet.
All of you penny-pinchers out there should check out Red Pocket. And all you data-lovers should look at Cricket. But all of these carriers have something to offer. Here are a few words about each one and a link you can use to sign up:
- Straight Talk gives you decent low-data plans with international perks.
- Pure TalkUSA has cheap unlimited data plans, family plans, and no overage charges.
- Cricket Wireless offers deals on hotspot data, but pricier unlimited plans and startup fees.
- Pix Wireless has average prices on data plans, but the pay-as-you-go option may be perfect for some.
- H2O Wireless’s simple plans come with international benefits, but are on the pricey side.
- Red Pocket Mobile has plans for as low as $10 a month.
- Tracfone brings you unconventional low-data plans with longer pay periods.
- Net10 Wireless lets you choose you network and get a mid-level data plan for a good price.
- FreeUp keeps things simple with its low-data plans.
- i3 Mobile doesn’t exactly “wow” us with its limited plan selection and higher prices.
Opensignal, “Mobile Network Experience Report January 2020“