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Which mobile phone MVNOs (mobile virtual network operators) are best?

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Which mobile phone MVNOs (mobile virtual network operators) are best?

Post by MWmetalhead » Tue Oct 05, 2021 2:56 pm

I would love to hear people's thoughts regarding cellular service MVNOs.

For those unfamiliar with that term, an MVNO is simply a third-party company that provides mobile phone, text & data service by purchasing bandwidth from Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, or in some parts of the country, U.S. Cellular.

Examples of MVNOs include Boost Mobile, Metro by T-Mobile, Cricket Wireless, Mint Mobile, Google Fi, Spectrum Mobile and Xfinity Mobile, among many others.

Nearly all MVNOs are subject to "de-prioritization" by the true network operator, meaning true Verizon subscribers (as an example) will always receive top notch speeds, audio quality and data response times on Verizon's network versus subscribers whose access comes by way of an MVNO intermediary (such as Visible).

Right now, I'm signed up for a free 3-month unlimited trial of Google Fi. Overall, it's been a good experience.

- Good call quality.
- 5G access.
- No apparent coverage gaps; almost continuous 5G access along I-96 & I-696 all the way to Grand Rapids.
- Ability to roam, when needed.
- Spam call blocker is pretty effective (but not perfect). Much better than Verizon's useless spam blocker.
- Very easy account management through the app.
- Free use of Google VPN.
- Wi-Fi calling.

- 5G does drop to 4G LTE at times, particularly indoors. Based on my recent drive along I-96, 5G service seems to generally only be reliable within a mile or at most two miles of each tower. However, as noted above, the towers are so densely packed that it really doesn't matter.
- 5G speeds, unless within a city block or two of the nearest tower, are only about as good as the 4G LTE speeds I enjoyed on my old phone when receiving "priority" access on Verizon's network.
- Pricing: for folks with only 1 or 2 lines on their plan, pricing is higher than many competing MVNOs if using data heavily.
- "Unlimited" data is subject to an extremely restrictive 256 kpbs filter once total data usage for the month reaches 22GB.

The only rural area I've tested the network far away from any freeways was between Wayland, Middleville and Gun Lake. I maintained a 5G signal pretty much the entire time, although it was often only in the ballpark of -100 dBm.

I was supposed to go up north last weekend, but that trip got canceled.

In this part of the country, Google Fi uses T-Mobile's network, Sprint's network and hotspots. If using a Pixel phone, the phone automatically switches between the source that provides the best signal. If using a non-Pixel phone, I believe all users only have access to T-Mobile's network.

Once my free Google Fi trial runs out, I'm contemplating switching to one of the following two Verizon MVNOs:
- Xfinity Mobile
- U.S. Mobile

Visible is more expensive, does not offer roaming, and I believe they also do not permit international calling, unless it is to Canada, Mexico, or a couple areas of the Caribbean. So, they are out of contention.

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Re: Which mobile phone MVNOs (mobile virtual network operators) are best?

Post by thatonedude » Tue Oct 12, 2021 10:05 pm

I've heard good things about Ting, but since Dish swallowed them up I doubt they're as good as they were...

Xfinity Mobile might be best, MW. Pretty sure you can include it with your regular Xfinity bill too.

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Re: Which mobile phone MVNOs (mobile virtual network operators) are best?

Post by Calvert DeForest » Sat Oct 16, 2021 1:10 pm

We use Total Wireless, which is an MVNO off Verizon's towers. Four lines with 100GB shared 4G for $100/month. Great deal compared with Verizon rates and the service meets our needs, no complaints. We rarely hit the data cap (think maybe once or twice in three years), and additional rollover data is $5 for 5GB. I've built it up to 63GB in reserve just in case we need the extra.

Calls and data are pretty much solid within Verizon's footprint (they have their null areas as all carriers do). 4G downloads around 25-30Mbps. Slower than straight Verizon service I'm sure, but still decent. Total also has a points program I've used to redeem add-on data and a couple months of no-charge service. All in all we're satisfied with it.

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Re: Which mobile phone MVNOs (mobile virtual network operators) are best?

Post by km1125 » Sat Oct 16, 2021 2:26 pm

FWIW, the Spectrum and xFinity offerings are no less than the comparable offerings right from Verizon. They are not subject to "deprioritization" or any other impacts that some of those other listed services might. Both those services were part of a structured "rebranding" agreement nearly (over?) a decade ago in exchange for some bandwidth and a "promise not to compete" in the wireless world. Somehow they legally got around the "collusion" aspects but that's basically what it is.

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Re: Which mobile phone MVNOs (mobile virtual network operators) are best?

Post by craig11152 » Sat Oct 16, 2021 7:05 pm

I had Google Fi for a little over 2 years. I was not overly fond of coverage and I didn't like monitoring my data to keep my price down
I switched to Visible 3-4 months ago. We are at $30 a month with 3 phones and should be at $25 soon.
I like the coverage and that each phone on the plan pays separately. If someone doesn't pay it just means my bill goes up $5 for that month.
Roaming and International don't matter to me but I understand if one travels overseas regularly it would matter.

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