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Some Brief Notes on Wireless Cellular Service Providers

Post Published on June 4, 2021.
Last Updated on July 24, 2021 by davemackey.

I did some research on wireless cellular service providers recently and figured I’d share what I’ve learned.

In looking for a new provider I wanted the following (rough order from most important to least):

  • Great Coverage
  • Significant (Speedy) Data
  • Hotspot Support
  • Comprehensive Support for Smartphones
  • Reasonable Pricing
  • Unlimited Talk and Text

The big three are Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile/Sprint. I picked out some plans and here is where things came in at:

  • Verizon
    • Start Unlimited: $60/mo per line
    • Do More Unlimited: $70/mo per line
    • Likely Total: $130 or $140/mo + Taxes/Fees
  • AT&T
    • Unlimited Starter: $60/mo per line
    • Unlimited Extra: $65/mo per line
    • Likely Total: $120 or $130/mo + Taxes/Fees
  • T-Mobile/Sprint
    • Essentials: $45/mo per line
    • Magenta: $60/mo per line
    • Likely Total: $901Note that this price does not include Taxes/Fees or $120/mo

While T-Mobile/Sprint is the least expensive option I wrote them off my list because of the high importance (to me) of great coverage. I know a lot of people dislike the T-Mobile/Sprint merger, feeling it will make things worse due to reduced competition but I’m actually hopeful that it will result in more robust competition. T-Mobile/Sprint have both always lagged a bit behind Verizon/AT&T imho and I think the combined resources may help T-Mobile to compete on an even footing in the future.2If anyone wants to explain to me why many people are so opposed to the merger I’d love to hear! I’m not informed on this topic and from my naive perspective it seems like a good thing…but I’m probably wrong. 🙂

I looked at a number of other alternatives, most of which are Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs). This means that they operate on the services of another network – e.g. Verizon, AT&T, or T-Mobile. I wrote off those that use only T-Mobile for their underlying network due to my concerns about coverage and focused on those that utilized Verizon or AT&T.

At the end of the day I came up with three additional options:

  • Visible:
    • Unlimited: $40/mo per line
    • Likely Total: $80/mo
  • Straight Talk:
    • Unlimited: $45/mo per line
    • Unlimited Nationwide: $55/mo per line
    • Likely Total: $90 or $110/mo
  • US Mobile:
    • Unlimited: $45/mo per line (but drops to $30/mo per line if you get 2 lines)3Note that US Mobile charges an extra $10/mo for hotspot functionality.
    • Likely Total: $60/mo

I was particularly impressed by the chatter around Visible and US Mobile – people seemed pretty happy with the services. Here is a summary listing of the likely pricing for 2x lines from each of the six companies:

ProviderPrice Range for PlansLess Than Costliest Provider
Verizon$130-$140 + Taxes/Fees$0/mo
AT&T$120-$130 + Taxes/Fees$10-$20/mo
T-Mobile$90-$1204$90 != taxes/fees$20-$40/mo
Straight Talk$90-$1105I’m unsure whether these prices include taxes/fees$20-$50/mo
US Mobile$60 + $10 (hotspot)$70-$80/mo

Photo courtesy of Meghan Schiereck and unsplash.

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