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What is an MVNO and how can it save you money?

Can you get good cell phone service from an MVNO? Why are MVNOs so cheap? Do MVNOs have the same coverage? These are all common and valid questions if you are considering a switch - especially if you have been a customer of Verizon, AT&T, or T-Mobile/Sprint.

Let us put your mind at ease. Switching to an MVNO is a great way to save money on your cell phone bill while still getting excellent cell phone coverage.

What is an MVNO carrier?

In the United States alone, there are 100 mobile virtual network operators (commonly referred to as MVNOs). Unlike the MNOs (mobile network operators) who own and operate the cellular networks and towers, MVNOs lease the cellular network and package up voice, SMS, and/or data services to consumers.

So, should you switch to an MVNO? Here are 5 reasons to choose an MVNO that’ll help you decide if an alternative to the major cellular providers is right for you.

5 reasons to choose an MVNO

Best_network_icon-1Same networks icon12_get_SIMNo mobile store icon15_save_moneySave money icon13_activation BYOD icon16_customer_careCustomer Service


MVNOs run on the same networks as the big carriers

Every MVNO provides mobile connectivity via the cellular towers owned and operated by a major carrier. MVNOs like Reach Mobile "rent" the network space that provides its customers with mobile service. Depending on the agreement with the carrier, it may not be able to advertise which network(s) its customers ultimately use. In the case of Reach Mobile, we can answer direct questions about the network we use, but we cannot publicly advertise the information. Thanks to social media, bloggers, and forums, you can usually find this information with a simple Google search.

MVNOs may not have a mobile store

Some MVNOs do have stores, however the new wave of digital-only carriers like Reach Mobile do not. The benefit to this is that without stores, the savings of lower overhead costs can be passed along to customers. Some MVNOs sell through major retailers (e.g. Walmart) while others - including Reach Mobile - engage directly with customers online or through an app.

If you're worried about not having a store to visit, research how the MVNO handles customer support. Reach Mobile provides 24/7 chat support and phone support 5 days per week (M-F 9am-9pm) and strives to deliver a personalized and helpful experience. This blog describes our friendly approach to customer success. Our take? No matter how "cool" you make a mobile store, no one enjoys waiting in line there.

MVNOs offer the same network quality at a lower cost

Because MVNOs use the carrier networks, they offer the exact same quality and reliability. The idea that MVNOs are in some way lower quality is simply a misconception - they run on the same networks as the big carriers. Data speeds or potential de-prioritization have more to do with your plan than your carrier. In fact, many cell phone plans marketed as "unlimited" actually throttle or de-prioritize the connection during times of congestion or after a certain amount of data has been used. Check out our blog on The Myth of Unlimited Plans for more info on that.

Tip: Make sure to check cellular coverage of your primary zip code with any mobile service provider (large or small) before opting for a plan with them. Check your coverage

MVNOs let you "BYOD" (bring your own device), which is usually a good thing

BYOD, or bring your own device, means you can keep your existing (unlocked) phone with a new mobile plan. Going this route avoids getting locked into a multi-year contract to get the latest device. If you do need a new phone, selecting an unlocked device offers the freedom to pick and choose your mobile service provider at will. Free phone offers are not free phones… the cost (often plus interest) is simply paid in installments over the course of your service contract. Additionally, some mobile service providers restrict your ability to unlock the device even if you pay it in full. Selling you a phone locked to their network is a de-facto contract. By purchasing an unlocked device, you maintain the freedom to pick and choose your mobile service provider at will. Check out our Device Purchasing Guide and our Recommended Phones page.

Some MVNOs - like Reach Mobile - have better Customer Service

Big banks vs. local credit unions; big box stores vs. boutiques. Smaller companies offer numerous benefits, not the least of which is personal customer service.

Of course, everyone wants a cell phone service that offers reliability, nationwide coverage, and affordable plans. MNVOs have evolved into trusted and oftentimes innovative mobile service providers that offer all the "must-haves" and more. If you could get the same network reliability at a better price and with a better experience, why wouldn't you? 

Introducing the "Boutique" Mobile Service

Here at Reach Mobile, we consider ourselves to be a boutique mobile service. In the shopping world, a boutique offers a curated collection with the most personalized shopping experience. As a mobile service, it means we've combined the most reliable network, thoughtfully constructed plans, and value-adds like personalized customer support and a social impact. We may not own the towers, but we certainly know how to make them work in your favor.



Reach Mobile

Major carriers

Personalized customer service



BYOD (bring your own device)


Maybe, but most advertised plan rates require you to buy a new phone

Budget friendly plans



Best Fit™

Yes! (Some plans)


Mobile stores


Almost always

Premium quality network




Is an MVNO as good as other carriers?

Picking a mobile service is a big decision, and having reliable cell phone coverage is important. Not only can MVNOs help you save money on your cell phone bill while still getting great coverage, they may offer unexpected perks that the big carriers don't. Reach Mobile, for example, prides itself on delivering top-notch customer service, innovative plan discount called Best Fit™, and a Get a plan, Give a plan social impact program. Ready to give boutique mobile service a try? 

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