Which Networks Support Prepaid Wireless Service? (2021)

Discover How Prepaid Wireless Service Can Use Networks for Much Less

AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless are the big three cell phone carriers in the United States. (A fourth major carrier, Sprint, was acquired by T-Mobile in 2020.) Often called mobile network operators (MNOs), they own their networks and compete aggressively on price, plans, and phones.

How Prepaid Carriers Work

Prepaid wireless carriers, on the other hand, typically price their no-contract plans much lower than the MNOs, because these carriers don't maintain their own network infrastructure and licensed radio spectrum.

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

If you're in the market for a new phone plan with better speed, service, or some other feature, plenty of phone plans are available for you to purchase.

Cropped shot of a young attractive woman using a cellphone and commuting with the train
 

Networks Used for Prepaid Service

If you're interested in using a prepaid phone from, say, Cricket, you'd want to know the network on which it operates. Let's say you've been unhappy with AT&T's coverage in your area in the past. In that case, you'd want to avoid Cricket, which uses the AT&T network.

Below is a list of networks that support a lower-cost prepaid wireless carrier. Assess the pros and cons of a prepaid phone plan if you're not sure if pay-as-you-go plans are the right choice for you.

  • AT&T: Owns and operates its own network.
  • Boost Mobile: Uses the T-Mobile network.
  • Consumer Cellular: Uses the AT&T network.
  • Cricket: Uses the AT&T network.
  • Jitterbug: Uses the Verizon Wireless network.
  • Kajeet: Uses the T-Mobile network.
  • Metro by T-Mobile: Uses the T-Mobile network.
  • Page Plus Cellular: Uses the Verizon Wireless network.
  • PlatinumTel: Uses the T-Mobile network.
  • Sprint: Used to own and operate its own network. Now part of T-Mobile.
  • Straight Talk: Uses the Verizon Wireless, AT&T, and T-Mobile networks.
  • T-Mobile: Owns and operates its own network.
  • TracFone Wireless: Uses AT&T on most Motorola phones, T-Mobile on most LG phones, Verizon Wireless or U.S. Cellular on most phones without SIM cards.
  • U.S. Cellular: Owns and operates its own network.
  • Verizon Wireless: Owns and operates its own network.
  • Visible: Uses the Verizon Wireless network.
  • Virgin Mobile: Uses the T-Mobile network.
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