PLAN SEARCH TOOL
MVNO stands for Mobile Virtual Network Operator. MVNOs are smaller carriers which use already established networks to offer cell service to customers. MNOs, or Mobile Network Operators, are the big carriers that build and establish the cell towers and cell networks across the U.S. The 5 big MNOs in the U.S. are Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and US Cellular.
The networks built by the MNOs usually never run at full capacity. To make use of the extra bandwidth and create additional revenue, MNOs sell access to their networks to smaller carriers at reduced rates.
These smaller carriers (MVNOs) are then able to transfer the reduced network cost onto their customers with lower mothly prices. MVNOs are able to offer identical coverage as their parent network, but they sometimes have slightly slower data speeds or deprioritized data during times of network congestion.
People (that would be you!) can then buy unlocked cell phones and activate them on the MVNO of their choice. You get the same coverage as the parent network while enjoying lower monthly prices. An unlocked cell phone simply means it is not tied to a specific carrier. You can find affordable unlocked phones on Swappa.com.