San Diego County

How You Can Get Your Cell Chatter For Cheaper

NBC 7 Responds looks at the pros and cons of switching to mobile virtual network operators.

Americans are more connected than ever, largely due to the proliferation of mobile devices. Data from Pew Research Center shows that 96 percent of Americans own a cellphone - 81 percent of them own smartphones.

The newfound dependence on mobile devices means that more Americans are paying a substantial amount of money each month for their wireless plans.

And with the top four networks, Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint owning and running networks, the price for average wireless plans are similar between networks, leaving many people uninterested in shopping for a cheaper plan. And, then there’s the time it takes to hunt for savings while making sure your service remains the same.

“It’s time consuming, trying to see the different plans, how many minutes, how much data, and if it works for you,” said Jenny Litchiy, a longtime Sprint user.

But one San Diego County company has offered a helping hand and it could save hundreds of dollars on your annual wireless bill.

Using your bill and data usage, the Encinitas-based company, WhistleOut, searched 40 different wireless providers and 350 wireless plans to find the cheapest for you.

“You basically put everything you need, whether it’s one or two lines, the amount of data you use, how many texts you send and calls you make, and we will give you a list of all the different plans from various carriers,” says Tina Chang, editorial manager for WhistleOut.

Adds Chang, “It surprises me sometimes just how many carriers are out there, with new ones popping up all the time.”

The vast majority of carriers are what are called mobile virtual network operators, or MVNOs. The carriers don’t own the towers and instead lease network space from the larger wireless operators. By renting the network space, the mobile virtual network operators have far less overhead, which could potentially mean savings for consumers.

In the case of Jenny Litchiy, WhistleOut found switching to an MVNO could save her as much as $440 a year. And while the $20 a month plan from Simple Mobile was for a 5GB plan and not the unlimited data plan Litchiy had with Sprint, WhistleOut found that she typically only used 4GB a month.

“You could save about 50 percent of your phone plan by going to an MVNO and they are cheaper just because they have less operating costs compared to the major networks,” said Chang.

But switching to rented network operators does come with some disadvantages. Specifically, the MVNOs rely on other networks so if those networks are overloaded, say at a music festival, or a large sporting event.

Despite that, consumers such as Litchiy appear poised to take the bad with the good.

“I say sign me up,” said Litchiy. “I like saving money...who doesn’t?”

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