When traveling to the United States, staying connected is crucial for navigating busy streets, discovering fascinating attractions, or capturing great moments. To ensure a seamless connection throughout your trip, choosing the right USA mobile operators is crucial.
In this article, we will share with you the best mobile network operators in the USA.
Now let’s get started!
Table of Contents
I. USA Mobile Internet Insights
1. USA Mobile Internet Speeds
The USA has a median mobile download speed of around 76.71 Mbps, surpassing the global median of approximately 42.92 Mbps. This speed ranks the USA 27th globally in terms of download speeds.
2. USA mobile data prices
The USA’s average price for 1GB of mobile data is approximately $5.62, which is slightly higher than the North American average of $4.98. Comparatively, the global average price for the same amount of data is $3.12. These figures indicate that the cost of data in the USA is relatively higher than both the regional and global averages.
II. List of Mobile Network Operators in the USA
The USA has a dynamic and highly competitive mobile telecommunications market with a diverse range of operators providing services to consumers. The country is served by three major nationwide mobile network operators, along with numerous Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) that offer a variety of plans and services to cater to different customer needs.
1. Main mobile network operators in the USA
There are 3 major mobile network operators in the USA, including Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T.
T-Mobile US, headquartered in Bellevue, Washington, is a prominent USA mobile operator alongside AT&T and Verizon. It offers wireless services, including voice, messaging, and data, under brands like T-Mobile, MetroPCS, and GoSmart Mobile in the United States, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
T-Mobile offers extensive coverage across the United States, serving both urban and rural areas. The company has made significant investments to expand and improve its network coverage, making it one of the major players in the U.S. telecommunications market.
Notably, T-Mobile leads in 5G coverage and boasts the fastest typical 5G download speeds.
Verizon Communications, headquartered in New York, is a prominent U.S. telecommunications operator and one of the top three in the nation, alongside AT&T and T-Mobile US. Verizon’s wireless network, previously known as Verizon Wireless, offers mobile services across the United States to both consumers and businesses.
Verizon offers one of the most extensive and reliable network coverages in the United States. Known for its robust network infrastructure, Verizon’s coverage spans urban, suburban, and rural areas, providing widespread connectivity.
AT&T, headquartered in Dallas, Texas, is a multinational telecommunications company offering services to both consumer and business clients. It holds a prominent position in the United States wireless market alongside Verizon Communications and T-Mobile US.
Focusing on its core strengths, AT&T aims to excel in next-generation networks, with 5G network quality becoming a central battleground. While T-Mobile US has led in 5G coverage and 5G download speeds, AT&T ranked second in 5G coverage in 2022 and third in a 2023 survey of typical 5G download speeds.
AT&T offers a comprehensive and well-established network coverage across the United States. As one of the major wireless network operators, AT&T’s coverage spans both urban and rural areas, providing connectivity to a wide range of locations.
Note: Regarding 5G coverage, T-Mobile’s 5G coverage area is bigger than AT&T and Verizon’s combined.
2. Top MVNOs in the USA
Note: A Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) is a telecommunications company that offers mobile phone services without owning the underlying network infrastructure. Rather than possessing its own network, an MVNO leases network capacity from a primary Mobile Network Operator (MNO) and provides these services to its clientele under its distinctive brand identity.
There are approximately 100 MVNOs in the USA. However, most of them offer postpaid services that tourists like us cannot purchase. Additionally, many MVNOs only provide their SIM cards online and require a US address for purchase.
So, in this list, we focus on MVNOs that offer prepaid SIM plans for tourists and have numerous physical stores, making it convenient for us to visit and obtain SIM cards.
Refer to the table below:
|No||Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO)||Host Network|
|11||Metro by T-Mobile||T-Mobile|
|13||NET10 Wireless||AT&T, T-Mobile, or Verizon|
|14||Red Pocket Mobile||AT&T, T-Mobile, or Verizon|
|16||Straight Talk||AT&T, T-Mobile, or Verizon|
|17||TracFone||AT&T, T-Mobile, or Verizon|
|19||Unreal Mobile||AT&T or T-Mobile|
III. Best USA mobile operator comparisons – Brief Comparison
According to the USA Mobile Network Experience Report published in July 2023 by OpenSignal, each mobile operator in the USA demonstrates its strengths and weaknesses when it comes to mobile network performance.
Let’s explore the detailed comparisons:
1. Download Speed
OpenSignal reports that T-Mobile has the highest average download speed at 97.1 Mbps, well ahead of its rival AT&T (40.1 Mbps) and Verizon(34.3 Mbps).
On the 5G platform, T-Mobile still takes the lead with an average download speed of 195.5 Mbps, well ahead of its competitors, Verizon (96.3 Mbps) and AT&T (80 Mbps).
2. Upload Speed
According to OpenSingal, T-Mobile leads in average upload speed with 11.7 Mbps, followed by Verizon at 8.3 Mbps and AT&T at 6.4 Mbps.
However, on the 5G platform, Verizon tops the charts with an upload speed of 18.5 Mbps, trailed by T-Mobile (18.2 Mbps) and AT&T (12.1 Mbps).
3. Video Experience
Regarding video experience, T-Mobile leads with 61.2 points, followed by Verizon (56.5 points) and AT&T (55.2 points). However, these scores are generally not impressive, stopping at fair and good levels. Users can watch videos at 720p or better resolutions with satisfactory loading times and minimal stalling.
On the 5G platform, video experience has improved, though it still remains at good levels, not yet reaching very good levels (68 points or more).
4. Live Video Experience
In terms of Live Video Experience, T-Mobile leads with 47.3 points, followed by Verizon (45.4 points) and AT&T (41.8 points). However, these scores are not really impressive, stopping at fair and good levels. In general, users are able to stream video at 720p with satisfactory loading times, minimal stalling, and a substantial live offset.
On the 5G platform, live video experience has improved across all 3 operators but remains at good levels, not yet reaching very good or excellent levels.
5. Games Experience
Regarding game experience, T-Mobile leads with 70.4 points, followed by Verizon (68.9 points) and AT&T (63.6 points). However, these scores are not impressive, stopping at fair levels. The majority of users will notice a delay between their actions and the outcomes in the game.
On the 5G platform, the game experience has improved. Verizon leads with 81.1 points, followed by T-Mobile (77.1 points) and AT&T (68.8 points).
6. Voice App Experience
Voice app experience, which measures user experience with mobile voice apps like WhatsApp, Skype, or Facebook Messenger, is considered acceptable (from 74 points to less than 80 points) across all 3 operators.
Verizon leads with 77.4 points, followed closely by T-Mobile (77.3 points) and AT&T (75.5 points).
On the 5G platform, voice app experience has improved across all 3 operators but still remains at good levels, not yet reaching very good or excellent levels.
Verizon leads with 81.7 points, followed closely by T-Mobile (80 points) and AT&T (78.3 points).
Unlike traditional coverage measures, Opensignal’s availability does not measure the network’s geographical extent. Instead, it measures the proportion of time people have an internet connection (3G or more) in the places they visit most frequently.
Accordingly, AT&T takes the lead with 99.4%, followed closely by Verizon (99.2%) and T-Mobile (98.3%).
On the 5G network, however, T-Mobile leads with 57.9%, well ahead of its rivals AT&T (20.7%) and Verizon (9.8%).
8. Consistency Quality
In terms of Consistent Quality, T-Mobile leads with a score of 79.8%, followed by Verizon (76.7%) and AT&T (75.2%).
To recap the comparison, please refer to the two charts below:
Note: Based on the information provided in the two charts, we can conclude the following:
- T-Mobile has the best overall experience and is the fastest mobile operator in the USA based on data speeds.
- Verizon offers the best 5G experience among mobile operators. However, T-Mobile has the fastest 5G download speed.
- AT&T has the best coverage in the USA, indicating a wide network reach. However, T-Mobile has the best 5G coverage.
As you can see, each operator has its own strengths and areas of expertise, making them suitable for different user preferences and needs. T-Mobile excels in overall performance, 5G speed, and 5G coverage, Verizon stands out in providing a good 5G experience, and AT&T offers the advantage of extensive coverage across the country.
It’s essential for users to consider their specific requirements and priorities when choosing a mobile operator that best suits their individual needs.
9. Plans for tourists
Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T don’t offer SIM plans tailored specifically to tourists, but they provide prepaid plans for everyone, including tourists visiting the USA.
For more details, please refer to the table below:
|Operator||Price||Data||Local Minutes||Local SMS||Mobile Hotspot||Price/GB||Validity|
|Verizon||35 USD||N/A||Unlimited||Unlimited||N/A||N/A||30 days|
|45 USD||15GB||Unlimited||Unlimited||Uses plan data allotment||3.00 USD/GB||30 days|
|60 USD||Unlimited||Unlimited||Unlimited||5 GB of 5G Nationwide / 4G LTE data, then speeds up to 600 Kbps the remainder of the month||N/A||30 days|
|70 USD||Unlimited||Unlimited||Unlimited||25 GB premium Mobile Hotspot data, then unlimited lower-speed data||N/A||30 days|
|T-Mobile||10 USD||1GB||1000||1000||N/A||10 USD/GB||30 days|
|15 USD||3.5GB||Unlimited||Unlimited||N/A||4.29 USD/GB||30 days|
|25 USD||6.5GB||Unlimited||Unlimited||N/A||3.85 USD/GB||30 days|
|35 USD||12GB||Unlimited||Unlimited||N/A||2.92 USD/GB||30 days|
|40 USD||10GB||Unlimited||Unlimited||Shared with 10GB handset data||4.00 USD/GB||30 days|
|50 USD||Unlimited||Unlimited||Unlimited||Unlimited at 3G speeds||N/A||30 days|
|60 USD||Unlimited||Unlimited||Unlimited||Up to 10GB high-speed data, then unlimited at 3G speeds||N/A||30 days|
|AT&T||30 USD||5GB||Unlimited||Unlimited||Uses plan data allotment||6.00 USD/GB||30 days|
|40 USD||15GB||Unlimited||Unlimited||Uses plan data allotment||2.67 USD/GB||30 days|
|65 USD||Unlimited||Unlimited||Unlimited||5GB||N/A||30 days|
- Most plans from the three operators include 5G access (excluding the $35 plan from Verizon), and unlimited local calls and texts (excluding the $10 plan from T-Mobile).
- The cheapest SIM plan available costs 10 USD from T-Mobile, providing you with 1GB of data for 30 days. However, in terms of Price/GB, AT&T offers the most attractive plan at just 2.67 USD/GB, providing you with 15GB of data for 30 days.
- If you require a substantial amount of data (over 15GB), consider the unlimited plans offered by the three operators. Keep in mind that operators may slow down your speed during peak network usage or if you exceed a certain data threshold (e.g., > 50GB/month with T-Mobile).
- For those who need to connect multiple devices to the internet, consider plans that include a mobile hotspot feature.
Tip: Before purchasing a SIM card from any operator, it’s important to check if your phone is unlocked and compatible with their networks. All three major operators provide online tools to assist you in this process. To check compatibility, you can visit the official websites of Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T.
IV. Do Mobile Network Operators in the USA support eSIM?
Yes, many mobile operators in the USA support eSIM technology. eSIM (embedded Subscriber Identity Module) is a digital SIM card that is embedded directly into the device, eliminating the need for a physical SIM card. With eSIM, users can switch between carriers and activate new plans without needing a physical SIM card swap.
Major mobile operators like Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile have adopted eSIM support for compatible devices. However, the availability of eSIM support may vary depending on the carrier and the specific device model you are using.
If you have a compatible device, you can check with your mobile operator to see if they offer eSIM support and what the process is for activating an eSIM on your device. It’s essential to ensure that your device is eSIM compatible and that your mobile operator supports eSIM activation before attempting to switch or activate a plan.
V. Where to buy USA SIM/eSIM for tourists?
1. Where to buy USA SIM cards
Tourists visiting the USA have several options for purchasing SIM cards. Here are some common places where you can buy a USA SIM card:
- Airports: Many international airports in the USA have stores that sell SIM cards for tourists. This option may be convenient if you want to get connected as soon as you arrive in the country.
- Mobile operator stores: Major mobile operators like AT&T and T-Mobile have retail stores across the USA. You can visit their stores to purchase a SIM card.
- Third-party retailers: Numerous retail stores and electronics shops across the country offer prepaid SIM cards. Places like Best Buy, Walmart, Target, and electronics stores often have these options.
- Mobile operator websites: Many mobile operators have official websites where you can purchase prepaid SIM cards online and have them delivered to your accommodation in the USA.
- When buying a SIM card, it’s important to have an unlocked phone compatible with mobile operators’ networks in the USA. To check compatibility, you can visit the official websites of Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T.
- Store representatives are usually available to help you set up the SIM and ensure its proper functionality.
- Remember that carrying your passport might be necessary for the registration process.
2. Where to buy USA eSIMs
Main mobile operators like T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T offer eSIMs for travelers to the US. However, you can only buy them from the official stores of these operators.
In addition, you can buy a USA eSIM from online travel eSIM providers such as eSIMUSA.net, Airalo, Alosim, Holafly, Nomad, and others.
The benefit of this is that you can make a purchase completely online, avoiding the need to queue at the airport and show your passport to buy a physical SIM. Moreover, online eSIM providers offer a wider selection of plans to choose from, giving travelers more flexibility in selecting the most suitable option for their needs.
Refer to some USA eSIM plans for tourists:
Tip: Explore more USA eSIM plans to choose the one that suits you best.
VI. FAQs about Mobile Network Operators in the USA
Which are the top mobile network operators in the USA in terms of coverage?
Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile are often regarded as the top mobile network operators in terms of nationwide coverage in the USA.
Which mobile network operators in the USA offer the fastest data speeds?
According to OpenSignal’s report, T-Mobile has the fastest data speeds in the USA, both download and upload.
3. Can I bring my own device (BYOD) to these mobile network operators?
4. Do mobile network operators in the USA offer international roaming services?
Yes, most major operators offer international roaming services, but the availability and costs may vary between plans and operators.
5. Are there any mobile network operators that offer eSIM support?
Yes, all major mobile network operators in the USA, like Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T, support eSIM technology, allowing users to activate plans without a physical SIM card.
VII. Final words
In the ever-competitive world of telecommunications, the USA offers a wide array of mobile operators catering to diverse needs. Whether it’s extensive coverage, fast data speeds, or flexible plans you seek, there’s an operator for you.
As technology evolves, stay informed about the latest offerings to ensure a seamless and empowering mobile experience. Embrace the power of connectivity with the best mobile operator, and make every moment count in this digital age.