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Alternative Mobile Carriers: Are They Worth It?

What is an alternative mobile carrier, and why should you be interested in one? Learn about the pros and cons to using an alternative mobile carrier.

There are a few mobile carriers in the U.S. that dominate the market. These include AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint. These providers often require long-term contracts and have higher fees. A basic cell phone plan with many of these companies will usually be more expensive than a plan with an alternative mobile carrier. So, what is an alternative mobile carrier, and why is it a good option to consider?

An alternative mobile carrier offers a low-cost, no-frills option for basic cell phone service. Alternative carriers create a contract with one of the major mobile carriers to buy network space in bulk in order to resell it to customers as a discounted rate. For both carriers and customers, it is a win-win situation: the major carriers are able to sell unused network space, the alternative carrier can profit from selling low-cost plans, and the customer gets a cheaper monthly plan.

Read More: 5 Ways to Keep Your New Phone Working Like Magic

The Pros to Using an Alternative Mobile Carrier

A plan with an alternative carrier will be much cheaper than a plan from AT&T or Verizon. You’ll often have a short-term contract that details how much the plan will cost (sometimes as little as $10-$15), how long the deal is valid for, and what the plan includes.

Two well-known alternative mobile carriers are Cricket Wireless (owned by AT&T) and Boost Mobile (owned by Sprint). These carriers offer cheaper plans while still allowing AT&T and Sprint to retain customers in their network. Google’s Project Fi is another alternative carrier option. In order to use Project Fi, you must have a Google-approved phone, however. If you do, you can then access their service for as little as $10-$20 per month. Project Fi works with many major mobile carriers in order to give you the best possible phone service.

The Cons to Using an Alternative Mobile Carrier

The service that you’ll receive from an alternative carrier will not be as good as the service from one of the major host carriers. If there is a natural disaster or emergency, or even during normal use, the major carriers will prioritize their customers’ service quality over the alternative carrier’s customers. Unlike the major carriers, the alternative carriers are not responsible for service availability or quality.

Most alternative mobile carriers don’t sell phones, and they may only work with select phone models. Still, an alternative carrier might encourage you to buy a phone upfront, which will ultimately save you money over a typical two-year period. If you’re not picky about what type of phone you have, or if you just want a basic phone plan service, then using an alternative mobile carrier would be a good option for you.