A mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) is, for all practical purposes, a wireless service provider that does not own infrastructure. Instead of operating on its own towers, an MVNO licenses network access from another carrier, often at wholesale rates. In turn, the MVNO then re-sells this access to customers using its own billing system, marketing, and employees.
Prepaid services, including those from MVNOs, are different from the traditional postpaid plans and services from the big, tier-one carriers.
For starters, you’ll pay for your services ahead of time; postpaid customers are billed for their usage. And, while it might resemble a traditional rate plan with minutes, messages, and data, there are subtle differences from the establishment of major carriers.
Some will be online-only and not offer retail stores for support. Select providers may dangle discounts for prepaying a few months at a time.