Mint Mobile, Xfinity Mobile, Google Fi, Visible: Which Wireless Networks Do Smaller Providers Use?

When it comes to choosing a wireless service provider, there are plenty of options other than AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon. Your cable provider — especially if you have Optimum, Comcast’s Xfinity, or Charter’s Spectrum — has probably tried to switch you to their mobile service in the past year. You also have smaller players like Mint Mobile, Visible, Boost Mobile and others.

Here’s the not-so-secret twist: These providers don’t actually run their own cellular networks, for the most part. Instead, most are what are called MVNOs (or Mobile Virtual Network Operators) that partner with the larger carriers and piggyback on their networks. Let’s see who is partnering with whom and whether features like 5G are included.

Mint Mobile uses T-Mobile

mint mobile logo on phone

Sarah Tew/CNET

Ryan Reynolds’ cellular carrier currently uses T-Mobile’s service for its network.

Is 5G included? Mint has access to T-Mobile’s 5G network, and like T-Mobile, Mint also includes 5G access with all plans as long as you have a 5G phone.

Google Fi uses T-Mobile and US Cellular

google fi logo on phone

Sarah Tew/CNET

Google’s mobile phone service uses a fusion of different networks to provide the service. Now that T-Mobile and Sprint have merged, it largely only uses T-Mobile as well as US Cellular, the latter being more of a Midwestern brand.

Is 5G included? 5G is included with all Fi plans, but you’ll need to make sure your phone works with T-Mobile’s 5G network. At the moment, this list includes a variety of Android phones, namely the recent Samsung Galaxy and Google Pixel devices as well as the Motorola One Ace 5G. Google Fi does not yet allow the iPhone 12 or iPhone 13 to access 5G on its network.

Visible uses Verizon

logo visible on phone

Sarah Tew/CNET

Visible is a sub-brand of Verizon and as such operates on its network.

Is 5G included? Visible plans include access to Verizon’s 5G network. This includes Verizon’s national low-band network as well as its fastest millimeter wave service available in parts of select cities. Speeds, even on the faster version of 5G, will be capped at 200 Mbps.

Boost Mobile uses AT&T and T-Mobile (for now)

boost mobile and parabolic wireless logos on phones

Sarah Tew/CNET

Boost Mobile, which was transferred to Dish by Sprint as part of the T-Mobile/Sprint merger last year, works on AT&T and T-Mobile networks. Dish is building its own 5G network and will begin transitioning users in these areas to its service as soon as it becomes available.

The first city, Las Vegas, is now live, and the company has listed 100 additional cities which he plans to expand next. As part of the merger, Dish gained the ability to continue using T-Mobile’s network for seven years as it builds its own network.

While T-Mobile was to be the roaming network, last July Dish announced a new contract with AT&T which will let him wander on the latter’s wireless network for 10 years. While he can still access T-Mobile for part of that time, expect to use AT&T’s network when he’s not alone at Dish.

Is 5G included? Boost does not charge extra to access 5G.

US Mobile uses T-Mobile and Verizon

us mobile tmobile and verizon logos on phones

Sarah Tew/CNET

US Mobile, a new player in the wireless game, uses a combination of T-Mobile and Verizon.

Is 5G included? US Mobile includes 5G with all of its plans, but whether you connect to Verizon or T-Mobile isn’t as simple as an option like Google Fi. While this service will automatically switch you to the network with the best coverage, US Mobile actually has two different SIM cards: the black SIM card is for Verizon (what the company calls Warp 5G), while the white SIM card is for T-Mobile (which the company calls GSM). The company’s starter kit includes both SIM cards and either can connect to 5G.

Spectrum Mobile uses Verizon

verizon mobile logo and spectrum on phone

Sarah Tew/CNET

Charter’s Spectrum Mobile uses Verizon’s network for coverage.

Is 5G included? Spectrum Mobile includes access to Verizon’s 5G networks. Data speeds aren’t capped, but according to company information, your data can be slowed down in busy areas with heavy network congestion. The company states, however, that once the congestion “relieves”, “your speed will return to normal”.

Xfinity Mobile uses Verizon

xfinity mobile and verizon logos on phones

Sarah Tew/CNET

Comcast’s Xfinity Mobile uses Verizon’s network for its coverage.

Is 5G included? Like Spectrum Mobile, Comcast’s offering has access to Verizon’s 5G networks. As with this service, data speeds are not capped, but Comcast notes in its disclosure that in high traffic areas where Verizon’s network may be congested, Xfinity Mobile customers may see their data slowed down until the congestion disappears.

Optimum Mobile (formerly Altice) uses T-Mobile

t-mobile-and-optimum-mobile logo on phones

Sarah Tew/CNET

Optimum Mobile (formerly known as Altice Mobile), which is offered to Optimum and Suddenlink users, uses T-Mobile’s network.

Is 5G included? Optimum Mobile includes 5G with all of its plans, but if you go over your monthly data limit for its 1GB or 3GB plans, you’ll be “throttled down to 2G speeds” for the rest of your billing cycle. If you have the company’s “Unlimited” or “Unlimited Max” plans, your data will slow down to “3G speeds” after using 20GB or 50GB, respectively.


Now Playing:
Look at this:

T-Mobile Home Internet Service Test


7:29

Comments are closed.