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Weekend Poll: Major carriers vs MVNOs


Major carriers have something to worry about – MVNOs. Mobile virtual network operators are those smaller carriers that don’t own networks, but are licensed to use other carriers’ networks to offer cellular services. Such service providers can offer much more affordable prices without contracts, but there are still incentives to sign your life away to a major carrier.

MVNOs have become very popular among smartphone users as devices start becoming more affordable. One can purchase a Nexus 4 for as low as $300, for example. This device is far superior to other equally-priced smartphones, and arguably better than even some that double its price. You can take this (or any other compatible device) to a GSM MVNO and just use the big carrier networks with small carrier prices. Or you can opt to buy their own devices, if you would rather make the process easier or the carrier uses a CDMA network.

These small carriers tend to offer great deals. They do have to pay fees to network owners, but they also don’t have to invest in improving networks and keeping towers up-to-date. You can save up to thousands of dollars per year if you opt for one of these pre-paid options.

But with all these great and affordable options, why are we sticking with major manufacturers? Well, there are many benefits, the main one being convenience. Though we end up paying more in the long run, there are many benefits to being with one of the big 4.

For one, it is possible to sign a contract and get a phone at a much discounted price. Most users don’t have $600 to $700 to pull out and spend on a good, high-end device out-of-contract. And the good devices you can find at a lower price can be rare. The most expensive on-contract devices cost around $300, which is much easier to swallow.

Major carriers also tend to be more reliable in terms of customer service. Of course, they have the resources to help out more… even if you have to sign your wallet away for 2 years. Not to mention they usually carry the best devices, but that is starting to change.

Hey! There is also the option of going prepaid with one of the 4 major carriers. T-Mobile has some great deals for prepaid customers, an all other carriers have prepaid options. Or maybe you are no longer in contract, but want to keep your older plan (mostly unlimited data customers’ situation).

With all of this in mind, we are wondering at what point MVNOs are. More and more Android users are starting to opt for prepaid MVNO carriers like Straight Talk, Solavei, Virgin Mobile, Boost Mobile and many others. Our audience consists mostly of Android users (of course) so it would give us a great idea of how the market between MVNO and major carrier customers is.

Please participate in the poll and give us your two cents! Do you prefer staying with a traditional carrier or have you moved on to a more flexible mobile world? And why?

[polldaddy poll=6787560]

Edgar Cervantes

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  1. Been with boost for about 2 years

  2. I’m a huge fan of Straight Talk, currently sitting in a treestand in the middle of the woods and I have full bars of H+

    1. That’s what I’m on, with my galaxy note and I love it!

      1. Go big or go home! Note (5+” screen) = phone porn star. I want the biggest in the industry!

        1. Then you need a Note 2 then

          1. Got one, looking at the note3 now

        2. Or you just carry a Nexus 7 tethered to your phone. That is the best way to have the biggest phone. And then you still have a smaller phone for biking, hiking, rainstorms, etc.

    2. If Straight Talk had LTE I’d join up in a heartbeat. Hands down no questions. I’m already tempted now but do love my LTE. I hope they get it soon.

      1. when HSPA+ gets you download speeds of 8mbps, in real world use. LTE becomes non necessary

        1. I’m getting over 25mbps down over LTE. Can’t beat it

          1. It all depends on your location. In Orlando, Florida, a app installed on a Nexus4 registered on T-Mobile’s network, pulled down 21.23Mbps……… and that’s using HSPA+ not LTE. Considering that HSPA+ can be upgraded even further, the possibilities for faster speeds are even better if HSPA+ continues to be developed. I personally think HSPA+ is better if carriers continue to develop and build the most upgraded most advanced version of HSPA+ considering it drains the battery equally as fast as standard 3G. and isn’t such a major battery drain that LTE is.

          2. I used to be a Verizon LTE user and yes the bragging rights over the speedtests I ran couldn’t be beat, i switched to t-mobile hspa+ on a mvno and honestly in real world usage the experience is the same and I don’t have to pay out of the nose for data. I average 7 – 12 mbps and I’m not even in a hspa+42 area, my area is still at hspa+21, it will be even faster once they deploy 42.

  3. I’m with a major carrier because I’m with 5 family members and my Dad pays for it all except the $30 a month for unlimited data. Once I lose unlimited or decide to get my own plan with my girlfriend I will probably go Straight Talk or T-Mobile prepaid!

    1. do yourself a favor and don’t sign a contract with your girlfriend

      1. Unless it’s only two years!

        1. ONLY two years!?

          Dafuqs wrong wit ju?!

      2. Unless you’re engaged. Signing a contract with a fiancee is okay.

  4. Only reason I’m still with Verizon is I have 7 lines between my two businesses and the savings from all lines is better then I could get through a smaller company plus easier
    But if I only had my line to worry about I’d opt for a Nexus4 on the $30 T-Mobile plan (unlimited text and data 5gb 4g and 100min) I would team that up with a Google voice account because I use around 500 min but could easily use voice as my primary number as I live in a very good cell metro area.
    I don’t know why anyone would do anything else . My plan would save the avg person about $65 a month

    1. In my experience where I actually used google voice and a $30 plan the voice quality was awful even in full bar situations and even over wifi sometimes. I and many I suspect would rather pay a little more $50 for unlimited talk and better,reliable voice quality.

  5. That was pretty racist, guy. You definitely just got down voted for that one.

    1. im sure his parents pay for his plan

  6. One of the major reasons I stay with a mainstream carrier is if I lose my phone I have some security of getting a new phone without a high price tag.

    1. over the typical 2 year contract period I’ll save about $1500 by being on Straight Talk instead of Verizon. that’s a lot of money to spend just for the possibility of getting a discounted phone in the unlikely event that I lose mine.

      1. I’m saving $1200 over the course of 2 years because I’m on the $30 month plan. Verizon is $80 a month for the basic unlimited text/minutes with 2GB of data. While I get unlimited text/data/100 minutes (which can be circumvented by using VOIP solutions instead of “minutes”)

        Anyways, if I were on Verizon, I’d get the Galaxy Note 2 which is $300. I bought the Nexus 4 for $300 and I can use it anywhere I want, whenever I want. Seems like a much better deal and on the unlikely event that I lose my phone, I can purchase another for a mere $300. Probably less later on in the year.

        1. Sounds like that almighty T-Mo $30 pre-paid plan. It compliments the N4 so well.

          1. GSM carriers were looking at the Nexus 4 as a huge disappointment when they seen it didn’t support LTE. But those who are on prepaid GSM are.looking at this phone as a home run. For the same amount you can buy a watered down phone through a prepaid carrier, you can just snatch up the N4 and pop it in either T-Mob or AT&T and be off and running

    2. If women weren’t as dumb as they are and leaving their phones around they wouldn’t be stolen and flashed to Boost Mobile and sold on Ebay

    3. There is always squaretrade

    4. You can look into companies like squaretrade… That way you get your own insurance coverage.. :-)

    5. Crystal you can get 3rd party insurance that will replace your phone in the case of a problem.

  7. congratulations on displaying the largest amount of stupidity I’ve seen all day.

  8. Dealer line 40 bucks for 4G hotspot tethering 2k minutes and unlimited txt

  9. Right now, I’m trying Straight Talk on my Nexus 4, but still have my RAZR with VZW. If ST doesn’t work, the RAZR will become a hotspot device and I’ll be using Skype/Groove IP for calls.

  10. I just recently left Sprint to go with Metro PCS and I’m extremely happy with the service that I have with Metro. It was a little pricey to buy the GS3 but we’ll worth it. Way better Internet speeds (2 – 6 MBPS being that there is 4G in my area) than Sprint. Best of all is that my monthly bill is only $55 a month for unlimited call, text and Web at 4G speeds.

  11. sprint has best plan for unlimited data since wifi is sometimes slower and less reliable to find away from your home. i used boost for 2 years only changed phones 3 times from old flip phone to samsung prevail to the latest samsung rush but all they offer is the S2 last i checked…. so i switched to sprint and got a galaxy nexus for $90 and pay under $100 a month for unlimited 3/4g with 450 anytime minutes and i only used 66 minutes last month… so you get a huge deal for twice the monthly bill with a better phone, better coverage, insurance, and sprint hooks me up anytime i walk in their store… which is also nice no one at wal mart or whatever can ever help you with their devices from a pre paid device… but at the same time samsung will help you usually…

  12. I’m with a major carrier… but i have SERO Premium!

  13. T-Mobile all day.

    1. $30 5GB/100MIN plan?

      1. I don’t know what plan that user is using but T-Mobile for me as well, unlimited everything including data. I used 20 GB within my first month of having them, and the service is fantastic.

  14. GiffGaff (O2), UK. Samsung Galaxy Nexus.

  15. You just went full retard! Never go full retard.

    1. Lmmfao!

    2. Sean Penn, 2001, “I Am Sam.” Remember? Went full retard, went home empty handed…

    3. Tropic Thunder – Never Go Full Retard

      And yes, unbelievably, that is Robert Downey, Jr.

  16. MVNO’s are always at the mercy of the major carriers. I’d rather be with a company that owns their own network.

    1. They’re getting paid and the MVNO’s have to provide their own tech-support so the carriers are actually making more money per customer. I see no reason why they’d end the agreement.

      1. But watch out if the MVNO appears to be offering a better deal than the owner of the network they’re running on. The people who are switching to MVNO’s for an unlimited data plan might end up disappointed.

        1. I’m running a note 2 (AT&T) on straight talk not a single complaint =)

          1. What up and down speeds are you seeing? Have to be pretty good to not really want some juicy LTE!

          2. T-Mobile HSPA+ I am getting 13mb/s in a good area and 9mb/s in a meh area.

  17. Virgin Mobile $35 per month for Wimax 4G in south bay area. Waiting for Sprint LTE launch

  18. Att 4 lines $200 a month and great service in my opinion. I have a note 2 and a Galaxy nexus as a back up that I may try on straight talk just for fun.

  19. I’m on the Virgin $40 plan with a Moto Triumph right now. Virgin 3g is quite slow and some areas where I live don’t have great reception. I will be switching to the PagePlus $29.95 plan sometime next year. Getting a used Droid X2 from Cowboom.

    Hope PagePlus will allow 4g phones on the network soon without being a major science project. I have flashed a Bionic for a friend so he could use it on PagePlus.

    I would purchase a Galaxy S3 if I could hook it up on PagePlus if I did not have to flash the phone first. Even if I don’t get LTE service I would rather have a newer phone with ICS or higher.

  20. t-mobile on someone else plan so all i pay is my data plan for my s3 well that and the $16/month installment on the phone so $36 less than when i was on boost with their snail like speeds.

  21. its sad how many people upvoted him for this dumb statement but don’t have the balls to come out and say it themselves. Now, if I said Asians shouldn’t be allowed in America, how would you feel?

    1. I thought it was funny because of how blunt and way, WAY out of left field it was. I’m reading along as usual, do dee do dee do, and WHAM! “boost is for black people” WTF!?!?

      1. I was thinking the same thing. As wrong as it was he just tossed it out there without batting an eye. I have to say I did lol

      2. I liked the “never go full retard” comment lol

    2. No sucky sucky five dolla!!

  22. added a line toa family plan on att, cost me 40 a month and I got a LG Optimus G for 50 bucks.

  23. While more people may be moving to MVNOs, this also means that he carriers who own the networks are still making a profit. Maybe more, maybe less, we don’t have those numbers. I am on Straight Talk and I am using an AT&T SIM. AT&T does make a profit from me as Straight Talk pays them. AT&T also now doesn’t have to pay reps and use their resources (reps, money, etc…) to handle me, Straight Talk is whom I would talk to and who has use pay for reps and other resources for my service.

  24. Ting FTW! I bought my phone (samsung TU) in july for $170, paid $28.51 for the first month’s service and haven’t paid a single cent since, and its not like I am not using my phone!

    1. There cheers for another Sprint MVNO!! One of at least 30 straining the network

  25. Congratulations Rich! HUSTLER© magazine just named you A**HOLE OF THE MONTH……….


    1. That sounds pretty damn good right about now. I’d eat the ass end out of a dog if I knew I wouldn’t get e coli again

  26. I was signed up for t-mo for $95 unlimited everything and 5gb data. Then a miracle came last September and now I’m on 500 minutes unlimited text and data without tethering for $60+tax = $69. Couldn’t be any happier. I am staying on postpaid for the upcoming LTE. that’s something MVNO will never get their hands on until newer technology is being deployed. If I were to transfer to a MVNO it would be on $49 unlimited everything Solavei because based on their speed tests, they look like they have complete access on t-Mobile’s HSPA+42 network. Then for prepaid, $30 monthly 4g from t-mo is always there. 100 minutes/unlimited text and 5gb high speed data.

    1. You enjoy that LTE. I was averaging 8-15 with VZW’s LTE since it came out. I now average 4-10 on H+ and get 2x better battery life.

  27. not really something you should go around saying, but boost is generally targeted at a low income, African American audience (not that all black’s are low income). when i first started working for sprint, their “on hold music” was gangster rap, and their customer service reps in india would answer the phone “yo, thank you for calling boos mobile, where you at?”

    1. You’re a Nazi

  28. Major carrier because it is cheaper AND it has family plan!

  29. Um..if your going to go there then unless your on Verizon or AT&T you fit in that category and from your name I can fully understand your dumbass comment amigo!

  30. I’m black and I’m with Verizon with a Galaxy Note 2 SO YOU CAN SUCK IT

    1. I couldn’t help it, sorry … But is the galaxy Note2 flashed to Boost Mobile?

      1. nope but after i was finish f******* your mom last night she told me that her phone was on boost mobile………………….

        1. Again, her phone isn’t your flashed note2. What level is your shrinkage at? …I’ll just ask my mom, seeing that she’s paying for it, right?

          1. hmmm if u are asian can i ask how many car accidents u have caused in the last month is it 30 or 50?

          2. Are you sure you want to ask me and not ax me a question? I would say about half as many B&Es you’ve commited

          3. then i guess your at 0

          4. omfg

            I almost burned down my teepee laughing at this Asian vs Black racist battle.

          5. Are you the Indian with the feathers or the dot?

          6. both

          7. Race wars

  31. on on a VZW share everything plan and i hate it. as soon as the contract’s run it s course (sadly, it’ll be a while) i’m ditching that craphole for straight talk

  32. I’m on Straight Talk with my Nexus 4!

  33. Verizon all the way.
    SG3, Droid DNA & GNexus

  34. Sprint postpaid

    5 lines, 1500 landline/roaming minutes, unlimited cell-cell minutes, free roaming, unlimited texts and most importantly FULL ON UNADULTERATED UNLIMITED DATA!

    $270 a month or about $54 a line!

  35. Got a Samsung Galaxy Prevail with Boost Mobile and only paying $35 a month but my service sucks. Hopefully when Sprint starts farming their Iden network over to 3g/4g it helps those of us on the others as it will get people pff the current bands. Iden has great service here but the CDMA service sucks I am only getting about a single bar most of the time and I rarely see 3g. 3G pops up about 1% of the time and This is over the course of 18 months. But I rarely need the data and I rarely call anyone I just text most of the time so the service is fine for texting.

  36. You need an option for local (ie.Golden State Cellular) and regional (ie. U.S. Celluar) carriers too.

  37. Stuck on my unlimited Verizon plan… They’ll never take it away!!!

    1. Ditto, and Verizon gives me a 15% discount through my job. They offer discounts to A LOT of places (government employees & many major corporations). Most people I talk to who are eligible don’t even realize these discounts are available.

      1. I heard about that. Verizon has a ton of discounts and if people just ask you can end up paying 50% of your total cost. My friend has 25% off his Verizon bill from lyk 2 different discounts. IDK what they are, but yea.

        1. For the love of God… L.I.K.E. Like. take 2 seconds and not make yourself look LIKE a retard.
          True story bro.

          1. Oh I’m sorry. I usually do that when I’m typing from my phone.

            But if I go to court, I’ll make sure to spell like as “lyk” so they can think I’m a retard and just past me off as innocent. It’ll be the perfect getaway. I’ll use that to my advantage. Thanks for the knowledge that I never knew. I’m glad someone as smart as you came by and told me the full definition of a retard in such few words.

            I also like how you don’t complain that I’m using “IDK” even though this is an online forum. I should be using as much proper grammar as possible. It’s as if you’re being discriminative against my spelling of “like”. I’m sure it’s just me over thinking things though.

            Anything else you’d like to add? =.D

          2. IDK = acronym
            Lyk = just plain lazy

            It’s cool though, why even bother to try? :)
            Have a great day.

          3. LoL!! You got me there. =.P

          4. lol fair enough.
            Now we celebrate with a beer, join forces and rip on other people!

  38. I have 2 lines one with tmobile on a valued plan and one with straight talk, you save some money with straight talk but boy pray that you don’t have to call customer service!! oh man!! they must have the worst and i mean the worst customer service ever, but if you don’t have to call them after you set your account up you will save lots of money.

  39. Ok, serious question…. what I want to know is this : How does Straight Talk coverage and speeds compare to Tmo and At&t? I know there is no lte, but otherwise, how do they match up?

  40. 2 year device discount, warranty coverage, customer service people, family plans vs individual pricing, and 4G signal. No mvno has all of the above benefits.

  41. Love Straight Talk. I tried T-Mobile Prepaid, but the coverage is too spotty in my small city. If their coverage ever gets better in the suburbs or rural areas, I’ll definitely go T-mobile again. There speeds are insane! For now, I’ll stick with Straight Talk Unlimited with my Nexus 4 and AT&T SIM.

  42. Loving Solavei! Great service, great customer support & it pays me to use it!

  43. I’m with T-Mobile. Contracts kinda suck, but Sprint and T-Mobile have both been such great companies I will probably always be under a contract with my phone. Both have good customer service, much better than Verizon’s or AT&T’s customer service, and T-Mobile has a great network here where I am and my Internet is always super fast.

  44. I have a G2 on T-Mobile monthly 4g unlimited voice and texts and data for
    70$.my g2 is brand new running ICS.

  45. I cant believe nobody mentioned Voyager Mobile. The are the only MVNO with 4g-LTE and there pricing are as follows $17, $19 and $39 for unlimited everything. They are based of Sprints network so there LTE is not everywhere yet but they also offer Wimax. On top of all that they now have Bill shrinkage if you stay with them for a certain amount of time your bill will shrink..Google Voyager mobile and check it out.

  46. I use a major carrier in Japan (docomo), but I want to use an MVNO. When I got my last phone, though, the only way to use the most popular second tier, tethering-oriented carrier (eMobile) was to use their phones, and there were only three decent choices. The most popular MVNO here (bMobile) is still largely oriented toward short-term visitors. The phone choices are open for bMobile, though.

  47. with my corporate discount, I pay $123 per month (after taxes), for 2 phone lines with unlimited minutes, unlimited texting, and unlimited HSPA+ “4G” Internet speeds (no data caps no throttling) on T-Mobile’s value plans.

  48. Virgin mobile and boost mobile FTW. IMO sprint is the best I never have any issues. I have their prepaid vm. And in Q1 2013 both boost and Virgin are getting sprint 4G LTE and sprint is expanding their 3G coverage which they need to. 3g so spotty.

  49. Although Verizon gets a bad rap, I will gladly pay a bit more for quality customer service and the best most reliable network in the country. I travel extensively all over the US for business and have used the top 4 cell companies (AT&T, Sprint, T-Mo & Verizon) and NONE of them can beat Verizon in coverage, customer service or 4G service. There are certain things in life where you “get what you pay for”……Verizon Wireless is one of them. Plus, I get a 23% discount on my phone bill AND all phones and accessories.
    Verizon FTW!

  50. I tried really hard to switch from Verizon to save money. Metro offered very good value for the money and also the S3. But customer service did them in, so I went to Tmobile. Again, good value for the money. Great download speeds. But again, customer service just blows. So after 3 months I went back to Verizon. At east I know when I have an issue, I will be assisted by a knowledgeable rep who will comprehend and correct my issue. So in the end, you really do get what you pay for. I can’t see myself switching again. Oh and did I mention Straight talk? I pay for my brothers phone on that network and their customers service makes postal workers seem customer friendly. They dont even pretend to care about their customers.

  51. $40/month text/voice/data unlimited with SimpleMobile – the same coverage as Tmobile

  52. I’ve been with T-Mobile for nearly a decade now. Overall quite happy. Right now I have 4 lines on a family plan all on different schedules so switching would be rather expensive (which is exactly what T-Mobile wants), but right now I don’t have any special desire to switch. If anything, I’d just want to adjust my specific plan.

    That said, no, virtual carriers are no threat to the big carriers. If they were, the law would change so that they couldn’t compete fairly and they’d go out of business. The big incumbent players have enough lobbyists to ensure that virtual carriers are never a threat to their bottom line, even if they had to screw over the entire country to do so. Which they would in a heartbeat (T-Mobile included).

  53. Solavei MVNO, best deal for a t-mobile mvno if you actually use a good amount of voice minutes. unlimited talk/text and 4GB of data at 4G, then throttled like a standard t-mobile plan.
    includes roaming and conditional call forwarding. Much better than Straight Talk, which I had before with included no roaming. no conditional call forwarding on T-mobile and had very vague data terms, they called and threatened me with disconnection after 3.5GB, some in less congested areas get more some less, but I’d much rather have a known amount of data and throttling after rather than an unknown amount after which they threaten to disconnect you and you could lose your number.

    subsidized phones are the biggest lie told to american cell phone owners, they don’t subside them, they simply charge you more for your contract over the term, and continue charging you more well after you’ve paid for the device, it’s a scam that other countries which have more inter operable networks don’t fall for.

    the average contract plan costs a minimum of $20 more a month than a comparable prepaid plan from the carrier itself. 20 x 24 = $480 + $200 – $300 for the high end devices = $680 – $780 for the phone. I rarely spend more than $300 – $400 for a cell phone. either buying a nexus phone or a lightly used mint condition phone from ebay ( you can’t get this deal on day one, but after a few months you can save hundreds )

    Myself I went from paying $90/month for Verizon to $49 for Solavei, that’s a difference of $41 a month, with those savings I could buy the new nexus every year and still come out better than the price i used to pay just for service on Verizon. (completely omitting the 200 – 300 price I would have to pay for devices up front and I’d only be able to upgrade once every two years instead of once a year.

    If you can’t afford the full price of a cell phone, put it on a credit card and pay it off over several months, even with moderate interest you’ll still come out ahead. T-mobile also has financing options on their value plans, though you have to sign a contract which sucks.

  54. I am in the process of switching to prepaid after 18 yrs of Sprint. Most people know why a contract is literally worth nothing with the big 4. Right? Well, Sprint is actually not the greatest example but I still think that in 2 yrs or so max, Sprint will be closer to the top. However, I base this on them not lying to their customers for the past year about every issue we throw at them, and refusing to provide any credits or acknowledgement of what us customers deal with.

    Anyway, I still have my Sprint account and will be asking them to itemize every single charge before i pay another penny. I will then lower the plan for me and my wife tio the lowest plan possible while I experiment with MVNO’s for 6-9 month. Also, after “FIVE” defective Samsung Epic 4G Touch phones, I am asking for a Free upgrade to an SIII, since I seriously could not use my SII for 3-5 days/month for 13 months.,… I DONT Back Down .

    After much research I purchased a New (refurb) Unlocked ATT Galaxy SII from someone, I was amazed at how different the phone felt compared to Sprint’s version. As expected I noticed the way better signal than I ever had with the 5 SG II’s on Sprint and for the first 6 days- 6_14 MB downloads in SF(Plenty fast for most people and negates the need for LTE in a restrictiva data plan such as those from ATT).


    I bought a “new”/refurbished Galaxy S II from a guy at the ATT store who had received it as a warranty replacement that day and his wife wanted an iPhone. Anyway, In think I paid $260.00 with extras for it. The first six days were awesome and i was getting 6-10 Megs down and 2-3 Up in San Francisco and San Mateo. Day 6 it turned to crap. To make it short I WILL get to the bottom of this and post PUBLICLY about those sorta “hidden 2 GB max, no streaming, etc.” clauses that Net10, StraightTalk and even the TracFone umbrella brand apparently have in their TOS. At the same time there are people on thi board and other who state that they clearly break the TOS and have not had any problem. Therefore it seems “arbitrary” which is just driving me insane. I guess if someone were to ask me what the biggest disadvantage of having an MVNO vs the Big 4 , I would say the “EXTREME” inability to get a straight answer, regardless of who you talk to on the phone or the Net10 Community….. Otherwise, the saving grace is that I can stop at the end of the month, buy a T-Mob or ….. MVNO’s DIM and try their service without buy a new phone. Also, of course, thanks to Google Voice I never have to worry about porting my # :)

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