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What Carriers Use T-Mobile’s Network?
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T-Mobile has plenty to offer mobile customers: super-fast data, 5G infrastructure, and strong nationwide coverage. But you don’t actually have to sign up for a traditional T-Mobile plan to get onto the T-Mobile network.
There are many different prepaid providers that run on T-Mobile’s network. You’ve probably heard of some of these providers—like Metro and Mint—but others are more obscure.
All of these prepaid carriers, also known as mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs), have something special to offer. We’ll review each one in this article.
Our picks for the best T-Mobile alternatives
There are a ton of carriers on the T-Mobile network. So we’re going to highlight a few of our favorites up top for the TL;DR crowd:
- Best value: Mint Mobile has some amazing deals on mid-level data plans that should be perfect for casual phone users.
- Best for budget: Red Pocket has talk, text, and data plans that start at just $10.
- Best for high-data users: Metro by T-Mobile offers tons of high-speed data and access to a 5G connection (where available).
- Best for low-data users: Consumer Cellular is a great carrier for older adults and younger kids who just need a phone for its more basic functions, like calling and texting.
Of course, this is just our opinion. You can decide for yourself by checking out the plans and reviews below.
If you want to see what the prepaid carriers on AT&T and Verizon are like, then check out our MVNO reviews.
Or if you're trying to decide between T-Mobile and the other major carriers, we've put them all to the test in our AT&T vs. T-Mobile review, and Verizon vs. T-Mobile review.
How good is T-Mobile’s network?
According to our research, T-Mobile is the fastest network in the industry for download and upload speeds.
T-Mobile is a formidable network that will work great for most people, but its weakness might be coverage (depending on where you live).
Here’s a closer look T-Mobile’s coverage, data speeds, and other metrics.
If you’re in the United States you’re probably a stone’s throw away from a T-Mobile tower. The exceptions are some areas like Idaho, Wyoming, and Nebraska (but every network has dead spots in those areas).
Here’s a coverage map that will show you the 62% of the country gets 4G coverage from T-Mobile:
T-Mobile coverage map
T-Mobile data speeds
Download speeds are probably the most important metric to look at when determining overall data speeds. Your download speed will determine how well you can stream, scroll, browse, and game on your device.
Just how fast are download speeds of 54.1 Mbps? It’s the best! It'll be plenty for casual Netflix viewing, Instagram posting, and hotspot tethering. In fact, it might be faster than your home broadband connection.
T-Mobile takes home the gold medal in the download speed olympics. That’s respectable. But what's truly impressive are the upload speeds, which are more important now as more people work from home. T-Mobile is tops in both categories.
Most of these discount MVNO carriers come with a risk of data deprioritization. This happens when the network owner (like T-Mobile) decides to prioritize the data speeds of its own customers over those on prepaid plans.
Deprioritization can be frustrating when you’re trying to stream, post, or download content, but it’s not going to be a constant problem. Deprioritization is more likely when the network is congested during times of heavy use.
All right, that’s enough about T-Mobile’s network. Let’s take a look at the many MVNOs that actually use this network.
Metro by T-Mobile
- Robust unlimited data plan
- Cheaper than traditional plans
- Limited-data plans are pricey
- High startup fee
Metro by T-Mobile is, as the name suggests, T-Mobile’s very own prepaid provider. While this may sound like the mobile version of inside trading, it’s still a great way to get onto T-Mobile’s network for less.
Here’s a peak at Metro’s offerings:
Metro by T-Mobile cell phone plans
Metro’s $50 Unlimited Plan is a pretty great deal if you want oodles of high-speed data for streaming, gaming, and browsing. At 35 GB, its data cap is higher than many other discount providers. It also gives those with 5G-capable phones access to T-Mobile’s 5G network.
But Metro’s lower-tier plans, like the $30 5 GB plan, are less budget-friendly. This is especially true when you consider the $30 startup fee.
- Cheap limited-data plans
- Great international perks
- Pricier unlimited data plan
Ultra Mobile has caused a bit of a stir in the prepaid mobile scene by offering cheap plans with huge international benefits.
All of Ultra’s plans will get you unlimited talk and text to 80+ countries. These plans also come with the “call me free” program, which means that people in other countries only have to pay their local rate to call you.
But it’s not just the international perks that are ultra (sorry, we had to). This MVNO’s limited-data plans are a pretty great deal, especially if you don’t need a ton of data. Take a look at Ultra’s prices for yourself:
Ultra Mobile plans by popularity
Ultra Mobile should definitely be on your list of MVNOs to check out (we’ve put it in our lineup of the best cell phone plans under $50).
- Great deals on limited-data plans
- No overage charges
- Poor streaming quality with unlimited data plans
There’s a reason that Mint Mobile took home the prize for best value in our review of the best cell phone plans under $30. This company, which–fun fact–is owned by Ryan Reynolds, offers some of the best deals in the entire mobile industry.
Do you want unlimited talk and text, but just a little bit of data for using Google Maps and Facebook Messenger every once in a while? Mint’s 4GB plan will give it to you for a piddling $15 a month. Do you want unlimited data for streaming and gaming? Check out the Unlimited plan for just $30 a month:
Mint Mobile cell phone plans
If you go over your data cap on Mint Mobile, you won’t be charged extra (but Ryan Reynolds will send you a passive aggressive text). But your data will just be throttled to painfully slow speeds. And Mint's Unlimited plan streams videos at 480p. So all you true data lovers out there will probably want to take your business elsewhere.
- Customizable plans
- Mobile hotspot option
- T-Mobile and Verizon networks
- Full-speed data costs extra
US Mobile prides itself on its customizability. You can make a plan with 300 minutes, 1,000 texts, and 2 GB of data. Or you can make one with unlimited everything. Do you, go wild, express yourself.
It’s up to you how you mix and match things, but here’s some insight into the most popular plans that others have chosen from US Mobile:
US Mobile plans by popularity
As you can see, there’s a wide variety of plans—and prices—from US Mobile. You can pay $4 or $40 a month. You can get 0 GB of data or unlimited “ludicrous” data. So what plans are actually worth signing up for?
We think that US Mobile makes the most sense for two kinds of customers: those who want really cheap plans with few minutes and data, and those who want an unlimited plan. The former can find plans for under $10 a month. The latter can get a perfectly good unlimited data plan for about $45 a month.
Sure, we all love data. But do you love it enough to spend $40+ a month on an unlimited plan? Figure out exactly how much data you actually need using our handy guide.
- Free basic service
- Unlimited data option
- Advertisements on free plan
TextNow’s biggest draw is the free phone service. Yes, free, as in $0, no money, zilch, zippo, nada. The catch is that you have to watch some ads and if you want to text and make calls when you’re not connected to Wi-Fi, you will have to purchase a TextNow SIM card for $4.99.
You can also pay for your phone service, if you’re into that sort of thing. TextNow offers four plan options, ranging from 1 GB for $8.99/mo., to $27.99/mo. for 5 GB.
TextNow’s highest plan has a high-speed data cap of 5 GB. That’s higher than some other prepaid plans, but it’s still far below the data caps of traditional plans from major carriers. The 2GB LTE Plan costs the same as Mint Mobile’s “medium” plan but offers just a quarter of the data.
So, in our estimation, TextNow makes sense for those who want a free plan and are willing to watch a few ads for Xarelto and Old Spice. For everyone else, there’s probably a better carrier on the T-Mobile network out there.
- Tons of plans to choose from
- Decent low-data plan pricing
- Higher-data plans are pricey
Consumer Cellular is one of those MVNOs with about a million different plans. This can be a bit overwhelming, so we’ll make it easier by just saying this up front: the lower-data plans are a better deal.
Consumer Cellular plans by popularity
Consumer Cellular’s lower-data plans, like the Unlimited Talk & Text + 3GB Data plan, will be perfect for many seniors who aren’t streaming The Witcher on their phone during their lunch break.
If you do sign up for one of these low-data plans, be sure to track your data usage carefully. Consumer Cellular will automatically upgrade your plan to the next tier (and charge you for it) if you exceed your data limit.
- Pay for what you use plans
- International calls included
- Data can be very pricey
Ting Mobile is another T-Mobile MVNO with an unconventional plan structure. Most of Ting’s plans are designed so that you only pay for the minutes, texts, and data that you actually use. Isn’t that refreshing?
Here’s a look at a few different plan possibilities from Ting.
Ting plans by popularity
As you can see, there are plenty of ways to spend less than $30 a month with Ting. Can we get a “woohoo!” from the penny-pinchers in the crowd?
Yes, there are some downsides to using Ting. The biggest one is probably the high data costs. We played around on Ting’s website for a minute and let’s just say that your costs can add up pretty fast when you add data.
Image source: screenshot from Ting’s website
- Lots of plans to choose from
- Longer pay periods available
- Not ideal for heavy data users
Tracfone is a true OG in the mobile industry. But the company has kept its business going by offering niche plans that will work well for older customers, young kids, and others who just need a simple device that can call and text.
Tracfone plans by popularity
Tracfone is a great option for someone who rarely uses their phone, not so much for everyone else. For example, their 1,500 Minutes Smartphone Plan is $125. Why in the world is it $125? Because you pay for it by the year. That’s unique.
Like many of Tracfone’s offerings, this 1,500 minute, 1.5 GB plan seems geared towards customers who want the simplest, easiest, and cheapest plan available. If you’re one of these customers, Tracfone is awesome.
But if you want data to fuel your PUBG Mobile game or your Instagram addiction, you should probably go with another carrier on the T-Mobile network.
- Decent mid-level plans
- Choose your network
- Low high-speed data caps
Net10 Wireless, like the other carriers in this article, works on the T-Mobile network. But that’s not all.
Net10 can plug you into any one of the “big three” networks, depending on which one has the best service in your area. That’s a pretty great perk for those who live in rural areas that tend to be blank on the coverage maps.
And its plans aren’t too bad either:
Net10 plans by popularity
Net10’s lower-tiered plans, like the $20 “unlimited” plan will be perfect for casual users who don’t post on TikTok and stream Netflix on their phone all day.
But don’t be tricked into thinking these are actually unlimited data plans. It’s true that once you run out of high-speed data, you can continue to use low-speed data. This low-speed data might be helpful in a pinch, but it won’t work well for most activities, like streaming, gaming, browsing, and posting.
- Decently priced data plans
- Good international benefits
- Unlimited data plans are pricey
Simple Mobile prides itself on being, well, simple. The company offers a relatively slim selection of plans. Each plan comes with unlimited talk and text, and a certain amount of data. While that seems simple enough, we do take issue with Simple’s use of the word “unlimited.”
Simple calls all of its plans “unlimited” because, technically, you can use as much data as you want. But with most of its plans your data will have a hard cap, anywhere from 3–15 GB. Any data you use beyond that will be at significantly reduced speeds.
When you look at these plans, pay attention to the “full speed” section in the middle column.
Simple Mobile cell phone plans
Simple Mobile could still be a good fit for certain people—like low-data users—but those who want a truly unlimited data plan should check out other carriers, like Metro by T-Mobile.
One final thing we’ll mention about Simple is its decent international perks. Simple’s plans work in Mexico and a few other Latin American countries, plus you’ll get unlimited international calling to landlines in over 60 countries.
Red Pocket Mobile
- Cheap limited data plans
- Free international calling to 70+ countries
- Plans only work with certain phones
When it comes to MVNOs, there’s cheap, and then there’s super cheap. Red Pocket Mobile fits into that latter category. This carrier has plans with talk, text, and data starting at just $15.
Take a look at some of the most popular Red Pocket plans:
Red Pocket plans by popularity
This $15/month plan will get you unlimited national minutes, unlimited texts, and 3 GB of data. It will also let you choose your network. So you can stick with T-Mobile, or you can hop onto Verizon’s network if you find that the coverage is actually better where you are.
As with many of the MVNOs in this article, Red Pocket’s plans get less interesting and more expensive as you add data. The company’s $50 unlimited plan is nothing to write (or call) home about.
If you do go with Red Pocket, just make sure that you’re signing up for a plan that works with your particular iPhone, Galaxy, or other device.
- Cheap no-data options
- Adjustable plans
- No unlimited data plans
Republic Wireless offers customizable and adjustable cell phone plans. That means you can build a plan that has just the minutes, texts, and data that you need. And if your needs change from month to month, your plan can too. That’s pretty cool.
Here are some of the most popular talk, text, and data combinations that Republic offers:
Republic Wireless plans
You probably won’t be surprised to learn that Republic’s higher-data plans are less easy on the pocketbook. And this T-Mobile alternative doesn’t even offer an unlimited data plan. So Republic probably only makes sense for low-data users who want a customizable and flexible plan.
- Free international talk and text
- Cheap low-data plans
- Pricey unlimited data plans
Google Fi is Google’s attempt to get a slice of the huge mobile industry. Much like Google’s foray into the internet service, Fi is a useful and flexible service, but also somewhat limited.
You can see Google Fi’s limits reflected in its plan offerings. Each plan comes with unlimited talk and text, and then some amount of data. But at $10 a GB, the data can add up really fast.
Google Fi cell phone plans
One nice thing about Google Fi is that you can use your minutes, texts, and data almost anywhere in the world. You can also use your phone as a mobile hotspot at no extra cost (using the data that you’ve already paid for, of course).
So, if you want a flexible plan with great international benefits, and you don’t mind paying a bit extra, then you might want to go with Google Fi.
Recap: Which prepaid T-Mobile carrier is best for you?
That was a lot of information to take in, so we’re going to make this recap quick and simple.
We think that Metro from T-Mobile offers the best unlimited plan, Mint Mobile has the best value for midlevel data plans, and Red Pocket is the best choice for those who want a dirt-cheap plan.
Here’s a little bit more information about each T-Mobile MVNO and a link to sign up:
- Metro by T-Mobile: Metro probably has the most robust unlimited data plan of any of the carriers on this list, but it comes at a steep price.
- Ultra Mobile: Ultra’s international perks make it a great choice for those who often travel or talk with family abroad.
- Mint Mobile: Mint Mobile offers the best deal—hands down—on midlevel data plans.
- US Mobile: US Mobile is great for two kinds of people: low-data users and high-data users. Everyone else in-between should look elsewhere.
- TextNow: TextNow will give you free—yes, free—service if you’re willing to watch some ads. It’s not the best cell phone carrier, but it might be the cheapest.
- Consumer Cellular: Consumer Cellular offers up some cheap plans for low-data users (like maybe your parents or grandparents).
- Ting: You can get a Ting plan for super-cheap if you use the Whistle Out discount (and if you don’t need much data).
- Tracfone: Tracfone is a classic carrier that stays relevant by offering long-term payment periods on low-data plans.
- Net10 Wireless: Net10 Wireless lets you choose your network. Just be sure to read the fine print on those “unlimited” plans.
- Simple Mobile: Simple Mobile has some decent midtier data plans for folks who don’t need all the bells and whistles.
- Red Pocket Mobile: Red Pocket is great for all you budget-minded customers. It will also let you choose which network you want to use.
- Republic Wireless: Republic will let you customize your own plan and change it when you need to because life happens.
- Google Fi: Google’s foray into the mobile industry will be welcomed by those who want a flexible, low-data plan that works all over the globe.