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I'll be honest, I haven't explored the world of MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operators) like Boost Mobile, MetroPCS, and the rest, but last year Mint Mobile was offering a fantastic deal on the Pixel 7 and I took the bait and bought a year of service. And after using it for almost a year now, I can officially say it's been worth it.

Welcome Envelope
Source: CrackBerry

What's an MVNO?

Ok, let's back up just a bit. Smartphones (and dumb phones) work by using radio waves to connect to cell towers which connect those phones to other phones or data centers to make calls and use data for apps and messaging and stuff like that. Access to the different bandwidths of radio waves are auctioned off by the federal government to phone carriers that then turn around and give their customers access to those waves to talk to our friends and family and download our apps.

In the US, we have "the big three" wireless carriers that operate those networks: Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile (Sprint was the fourth until T-Mobile bought them a few years ago). They own all the bandwidth and spectrum allocated by the government for use on wireless phone networks.What that means is that nearly every mobile phone in the US connects to phone and data services through networks owned by one of those three companies.

MVNOs basically work by leasing space on a network owned by one of those three big carriers. There are dozens of MVNOs in the US including Mint Mobile, and they all have their pros and cons.

Got it? Great.

Why MVNOs?

You've seen the commercials: Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile all clamoring over each other to tell you how amazing their network is and show you all the wonderful things you get by being one of their customers. T-Mobile gives their customers free stuff every Tuesday. AT&T gives you deals on things like cable service if you bundle all your stuff with them. Verizon just likes to say their network is so much better than everyone else's that they don't need to give you anything else. And all three are constantly touting their trade in deals for phones.

Sim Card
Source: CrackBerry

MVNOs change things up a bit by basically saying we'll give you the basics like good cell service and fast data, but without all the extra fluff that you most likely aren't going to use anyway. Which means they can usually offer much lower prices than the big guys as well. And since their networks are literally the same ones used by the big carriers, it's still going to be good service and fast data speeds.

So what don't I get with an MVNO?

As with most things in life, there are some compromises when going with an MVNO over one of the big guys. In order to keep costs down, each one forgoes some things that the bigger carriers charge you a whole lot more for. For example, most of them don't have trade-in deals for getting a new phone. Some, like Mint Mobile, don't have any physical stores so you can't go in to talk to someone about a broken phone or to get help with your plan. And most only have a limited selection of phones so you might have to bring your own if you want something different.

Secondly, you might know that aside from the typical monthly carrier plans the big guys all push on you, they also have prepaid plans that are very similar to what MVNOs offer you: lower prices without all the fluff. What they don't tell you is that prepaid customers are given lower priority than the monthly "postpaid" customers.

It basically works like this: if each cell tower a big carrier owns can only handle 100 calls at a time, 75 might be allocated to postpaid customers (the ones paying the insanely high monthly fees) while the rest are allocated to prepaid customers. And if you end up taking space away from a postpaid customer, you might get kicked off the tower to make room.

So while MVNOs may be using the network infrastructure from one of the big boys, their customers will always be given lower priority than the more VIP customers. Typically, this isn't a problem, but it is something to keep in mind if you're considering moving to an MVNO.

Why Mint Mobile?

Mint Mobile Sim Card
Source: CrackBerry

I've been hearing and reading about Mint Mobile for years and while at first I thought it was all just marketing fluff, I kept hearing from friends and colleagues who used it how good it was. They all got the same fast data speeds as T-Mobile customers (Mint Mobile uses T-Mobile's network) and never really had any issues.

So finally, last year, they had a huge sale on the Pixel 7 where you could get the phone for like $200 if you bought a year of service to go with it, and I took the plunge. And I have to say, after using it daily for a year, I'm really impressed.

I've never once had a connection issue and my speeds have been just as fast as on my regular T-Mobile line.

Mint Mobile offers four different plans to choose from:

  • 5GB for $15/month
  • 15GB for $20/month
  • 20GB for $25/month
  • Unlimited for $30/month.
Mint Mobile Fox

Mint Mobile Plans

Mint mobile offers four plans including an unlimited option with the cheapest plan starting at just $15/month.

So yes, if I'm doing my math right (which is always a gamble), you can get an entire year of unlimited 5G data (which drops to 4G LTE after 40GB) for $360. That's an insane bargain. And they almost always have some sort of sale going on so you can find most of the larger plans for even cheaper.

Every Mint Mobile plan also comes with free calling to Mexico and Canada, international calling, eSIM or physical SIM, and free hotspot (which is capped at 10GB on unlimited plans). To put that in context, on my T-Mobile plan where I pay well over $250 a month for my family plan, my hotspot is limited to _3G speeds. _In 2024.

You can also mix and match up to five lines on a single account if you need a family plan.

Oh, and Ryan Reynolds is their owner. Need I say more? (Technically they got bought by T-Mobile last year, but he still runs the company and does all their commercials, which are hilarious).

Overall, I've been quite happy with Mint Mobile and don't see myself leaving anytime soon.

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