How Can I Bundle Cell Phone and Internet Service?
Save money every month with a cell phone and internet bundle.
Internet service providers (ISPs) everywhere have been launching new cell phone services—including Cox Mobile and Xfinity Mobile. You can bundle these mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) services with your internet or TV plans to consolidate your bills and save money each month.
Are these deals worthwhile? Or should you stick with the name-brand cell phone providers? Whether you’re getting cell phone service for yourself or your entire family, read on for everything you need to know about MVNOs and bundling cell phone service with your internet plan.
What is an MVNO?
If you’ve recently gotten a mailer from an internet provider, you’ve probably seen MVNO services like Xfinity Mobile or Spectrum Mobile. These MVNOs are the brand name for cell phone plans from their affiliated ISP.
If you switch to an MVNO, you’ll still get standard cell phone features (5G access, mobile hotspot service, and large data caps) you’d find on larger providers. In many cases, you’ll get nearly the same level of service—MVNOs use Verizon, AT&T, or T-Mobile’s cell phone networks, so you won’t have to worry about signal drops or coverage problems when you switch to an MVNO.
Cell phone and internet bundle prices
Most ISP-affiliated MVNOs require you to have internet service before you sign up for a cell phone plan. But once you set up your internet and cell phone bundle, you’ll pay less for cell phone service than you would with a larger provider.
For example, let’s compare four basic and premium cell phone plans from Xfinity Mobile and Verizon. Each pair of plans has similar features, but Xfinity Mobile can offer lower rates because it’s exclusive to Xfinity internet customers.
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Cell phone and internet bundle plans
With an MVNO, you pay less for cell phone service. But do you get more? Let’s break down what comes with an MVNO’s cell phone service.
Data caps and “unlimited” data
All MVNO cell phone plans have data caps that work similarly to internet data caps. Every month, your phone gets a set amount of mobile data. Once you hit this monthly cap, you pay a small overage fee or deal with slower mobile internet speeds. Your cell phone uses mobile data whenever you browse the internet without Wi-Fi.
Many MVNOs advertise “unlimited” data plans that aren’t truly unlimited. You typically get a generous 30 GB or 50 GB data cap on these plans. With basic MVNO pay-per-gig plans, you might have a smaller 1 GB or 5 GB data cap before you hit restrictions and overage fees.
There isn’t a gigantic gap between major providers’ and MVNOs’ data caps. Major providers have unlimited plans with similar 50 GB data caps, but they often also offer plans with actually unlimited data for an additional fee. If you simply need cell phone service, a smaller data allotment is fine. But you’ll want an unlimited plan if you’re streaming Spotify or scrolling Instagram daily.
Bringing your cell phone over
Thankfully, you don’t need to trade in and rebuy your family’s cell phones if you switch to an MVNO. MVNOs like Optimum Mobile are compatible with the latest Apple, Google, and Samsung smartphones. If you’re using an older or overseas smartphone, MVNOs have compatibility tools that let you know if your device is compatible with its network.
Traffic priority on MVNOs
MVNOs are competitive with major providers, but traffic prioritization is one of MVNOs’ main disadvantages. Traffic prioritization refers to how cellular carriers like Verizon or T-Mobile direct internet traffic. If a cellular tower experiences high traffic, certain phones stay at the front of the line and get fast download speeds, while lower-priority phones temporarily slow down.
Unfortunately, MVNO traffic generally falls into the second category. Some MVNOs allow you to increase your traffic priority for an extra fee, but you’ll be subject to lower prioritization in most cases. Even worse, MVNOs are often cagey about their prioritization policies. They typically say your internet speeds may dip if you’re in a crowded arena but won’t outright say their traffic’s deprioritized.
But is traffic prioritization something that should worry you? Well, it depends.
Traffic prioritization depends on the cellular traffic in your area. You likely have consistent internet speeds in a rural or suburban area, but if you attend basketball games or go to the airport in a major city, you’re more likely to experience prioritization issues. Plus, traffic prioritization policies vary widely between MVNOs.
If budget is your biggest concern, traffic prioritization may be something you can live with. But if you rely on your smartphone daily, make sure you know your MVNO’s traffic prioritization policies before you sign the dotted line.
Cell phone deals
If you’re looking for new Xfinity Mobile or Spectrum Mobile deals, you’re generally not going to have great luck. MVNOs sometimes offer temporary line discounts or small trade-in bonuses, but in most cases, you won’t get much beyond cell phone service.
By comparison, major cellular carriers aggressively gild the lily to bring in customers. Carriers like AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile regularly offer add-ons like $1,000 trade-in bonuses, free streaming service subscriptions, and gift cards. You still pay more for cell phone service on these carriers, but if you’re already paying for streaming services or interested in add-ons, these carrier deals could move the needle.
Cell phone and internet bundles are ISPs’ latest gambit to keep customers around, and there’s a lot to like about MVNOs. MVNOs don’t have all the bells and whistles that major providers have, but they do one thing extremely well: offer basic phone service at an affordable price.
If you’re interested in cheaper cell phone service and already use an ISP with cell phone plans, we recommend giving cell phone with internet bundles a second look. Check out our best cell phone and internet bundles guide to learn more about providers like Xfinity Mobile, Spectrum Mobile, and Optimum Mobile.