Mobile phone service providers such as Visible Wireless, Xfinity Mobile, Tello, Mint Mobile, and Ultra Mobile are MVNOs. MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operators) don’t own any cell phone towers or infrastructure. They just lease capacity from the Big Three – Verizon, AT&T, or T-mobile. These MVNOs offer attractive pricing and have millions of customers.
Low monthly bills are great but the MVNOs do come with some disadvantages. Before you switch to an MVNO, you need to consider these disadvantages to avoid disappointment and to avoid having to go through the hassle of switching to another provider.
Disadvantages of MVNOs
When the network traffic is high, MVNO customers are temporarily deprioritized. This means that their speed will be slowed down temporarily. Deprioritization is likely to occur during peak hours but MVNO customers will be fine the rest of the time. Deprioritization may become an issue if you use your phone for business purposes.
No Roaming Coverage
When you sign up for mobile phone service with MVNOs such as Visible, Xfinity, Tello, Mint Mobile, and Ultra Mobile, you don’t get roaming coverage. Your coverage will be limited to areas where the parent company (Verizon, AT&T, or T-Mobile) has cell phone towers. In areas, where these big players have no infrastructure, you will have no cell phone coverage.
If you a direct customer of Verizon, AT&T, or T-Mobile, these companies have relationships with other network operators in rural areas. So these post-paid customers will have mobile phone coverage in these areas whereas MVNO customers won’t.
If you spend a lot of time in rural areas, this is an important factor to consider. You may be better off getting service directly from the big players to get roaming coverage. The other option is to sign up with a smaller cell phone service provider in the rural areas you frequent.
No Good Deals on Phones
The Big Three – Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile offer their existing customers great deals on new phones every 2 years or so. Don’t expect that from MVNOs. You may get a decent deal on a phone when you sign up with an MVNO but after that, you are unlikely to get great deals on phones.
MVNOs also offer a limited selection of phones compared to the Big Three. If you bring your own device (BYOD) to an MVNO, understand that only certain phones are accepted by MVNOs.
Some MVNOs cap data speed (all the time)
Some MVNOs cap the max speed. That means that if network capacity is available, your speed may be capped. Check with the MVNO to find out if it has data speed caps before you sign up.
Poor customer service
Most MVNOs don’t offer great customer service. You may encounter long wait times and run into unhelpful customer service reps who are unable to resolve your problems.
Despite these disadvantages, you can save up to 50% on your cell phone bills by switching to MNVOs. Understand what you are signing up for and set your expectation accordingly. Most cell phone customers won’t notice any difference when they switch to an MVNO.