Which Networks Are Used for Prepaid Wireless Service?

For example, Boost Mobile uses Sprint and Jitterbug uses Verizon Wireless

Mobile carriers on Russian roulette wheel
Wikimedia Commons

AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless are the big four cell phone carriers. Often called MNOs, they own their networks and compete aggressively on price, plans and phones.

Prepaid wireless carriers, on the other hand, typically price their no-contract plans much lower than the traditional carriers. More often than not, though, prepaid carriers don't have their own network infrastructure and licensed radio spectrum.

Instead, most prepaid carriers are mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) that buy minutes wholesale from the major carriers and resell them to you at retail prices.

Sometimes it's clear which network a prepaid carrier is actually using and sometimes it's not.

Some of us already have opinions about whether or not we like AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile or Verizon Wireless coverage in our particular area.

What if you're sold on one of the major carriers based on their coverage but don't want their brand due to price?

In that case, this article simply lists which network you’re actually using with a lower-cost prepaid wireless carrier. The bolded carriers below own and operate their networks.

  1. AT&T: Owns and operates its own network
  2. Boost Mobile: Uses the Sprint network
  3. Consumer Cellular: Uses the AT&T network
  4. Cricket: Uses the Leap Wireless network
  5. Jitterbug: Uses the Verizon Wireless network
  6. Kajeet: Uses the Sprint network
  1. MetroPCS: Owns and operates its own network
  2. Page Plus Cellular: Uses the Verizon Wireless network
  3. PlatinumTel: Uses the Sprint network
  4. Sprint: Owns and operates its own network
  5. Straight Talk: Uses the Verizon Wireless network
  6. T-Mobile: Owns and operates its own network
  7. TracFone Wireless: Uses AT&T on most Motorola phones, T-Mobile on most LG phones and Verizon Wireless or U.S. Cellular on most phones without SIM cards
  1. U.S. Cellular: Owns and operates its own network
  2. Verizon Wireless: Owns and operates its own network
  3. Virgin Mobile: Uses Sprint in the U.S. and T-Mobile in the United Kingdom