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smirking

macrumors 68040
Original poster
Aug 31, 2003
3,782
3,765
Silicon Valley
I've been a Verizon customer for years now and it made sense when I was traveling to poor service areas more, but I'm not wandering far from home much these days and they're ironically terrible at home for me. Also, the ballooning price for monthly service with Verizon is starting to resemble my health insurance premiums and I'm not a heavy phone user.

I've heard that the third party carriers like Cricket or Boost Mobile actually run on the same network as the big carriers. Is that completely true or only technically true?

If I find a third-party provider that is on Verizon's network, does that mean I can expect to have the same coverage area as if I were a Verizon customer?

Are there any disadvantages to the third-party networks other than not being able to find a company store for service and support on every street corner?
 
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jm31828

macrumors 65816
Sep 28, 2015
1,394
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Bothell, Washington
Great question. I was with Verizon for years as well (along with a short period with AT&T), and was tired of spending so much for what little usage I really have.

I ended up switching to Xfinity Mobile for a dramatic reduction in cost, which is an MVNO that piggy-backs on Verizon's network. I've been with them for 4 years now, and have had no problems. Coverage seems to be just what it was when I was with Verizon. The only thing might be that at very busy times, data is throttled giving preference to true Verizon customers- but I can't speak in great detail on that as I am not a heavy user of the cellular data. When I and my wife have used it when we are out of the house, though, we've had no issues.
 

eyoungren

macrumors Penryn
Aug 31, 2011
28,909
27,060
I've been a Verizon customer for years now and it made sense when I was traveling to poor service areas more, but I'm not wandering far from home much these days and they're ironically terrible at home for me. Also, the ballooning price for monthly service with Verizon is starting to resemble my health insurance premiums and I'm not a heavy phone user.

I've heard that the third party carriers like Cricket or Boost Mobile actually run on the same network as the big carriers. Is that completely true or only technically true?

If I find a third-party provider that is on Verizon's network, does that mean I can expect to have the same coverage area as if I were a Verizon customer?

Are there any disadvantages to the third-party networks other than not being able to find a company store for service and support on every street corner?
Cricket uses AT&T's network and for years Boost used Sprint's network. Boost is now owned by Dish and Dish was finally forced to put up and start building their own network.

You have your major carriers (T-Mobile, Verizon, AT&T), your regional carriers which have smaller networks and then you have your MVNOs. MVNO stands for Mobile Virtual Network Operator. Cricket, Metro, etc are MVNOs because they sell you service but use another carrier's network. Regional carriers are a lot like the majors, but they only operate in specific regions of the country.

As @jm31828 already stated, with MVNOs, your priority is behind the customers of the carrier that the MVNO is using.

Another downside to MVNOs is that typically they are prepaid. You're going to get a great price, but you're also going to be limited in features. For example, my carrier T-Mobile offers an in home coverage device and an in-car WiFi device. MVNOs aren't going to offer you that.

Lastly, we also have the cable companies competing now. @jm31828 mentioned Xfinity. In my area, it's Cox. Only, Cox has spent a considerable amount of money building out their own small cell network. You're likely to see that happen with some of the other cable companies at some point.
 
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kevink2

macrumors 68000
Nov 2, 2008
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Roaming coverage on MVNOs tend to be less than directly with the carrier. But you normally get the full native coverage of the carrier they are running on. (mmWave may be an issue with some).
 
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ecschwarz

macrumors 65816
Jun 28, 2010
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As others have said, generally you get the same coverage as the carrier's native network. In Verizon's case, that sometimes leaves out LTEiRA partners, but they've also been buying them up and incorporating them in their native network. MVNOs that are owned by the big 3/4 carriers generally have the same coverage and device support (maybe not Apple Watches or data-only devices), but on an iPhone, you'd see all features supported sooner than later. These would include Cricket (owned by AT&T), Metro (owned by T-Mobile), Visible/Tracfone/Total/other Tracfone brands (owned by Verizon). They generally have separate billing/account management platforms and stores and are treated at arm's length from their parent company (there's little mention of AT&T on Cricket's site, the others generally at least mention their parent company). Many argue that these are not really MVNOs since they're owned by the carriers themselves, but from a practical standpoint, they work like other MVNOs.

Visible was sort of Verizon's experiment with cloud infrastructure for service, but they've since moved it to their native network and the higher-tier plan rivals their mid-tier offerings (5G UW support, priority data, hotspot, etc.) You give up stores and support other than chat, but they're running specials where it's $35/month right now.

There are MVNOs that are owned by other companies and these may have all the iPhone-specific features, but may not—some of these include US Mobile (VZ/T-Mo), Consumer Cellular (AT&T, used to be AT&T/T-Mo), Red Pocket (all three), Google Fi (T-Mo), cable companies (typically VZ), H2O (AT&T), etc. Mint and Ultra fell into this category, but T-Mobile is in the process of buying them.

Additionally, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon all offer in-house prepaid plans that give you a "closer-to-the-main-carrier" experience, including support in a carrier store. Just with some MVNOs, the plans may have less priority, so if you're in an area with lots of people, you may be deprioritized, but it really depends on the plan.

Dish is building out their offerings, with Boost Infinite being their postpaid brand and Boost Mobile being their prepaid brand, but some of that is in flux with their network being in its infancy. For now, Boost Mobile acts as a T-Mobile/AT&T MVNO in a lot of areas, despite being owned by a large carrier.

tl;dr if you like Verizon's coverage in your area, it may be worth trying Verizon prepaid or a Verizon MVNO if you don't need every feature or financing phones.
 
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