MNO plans actually are cheaper than the “big” four providers.
An MNO stands for “mobile network operators”. Remember this term because you are going to hear it a lot.
AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile all own their own MNOs. They have multi-million dollar ad campaigns each year to fight over which carrier has the best network.
Prepaid wireless carries, meanwhile, do not own their own network. Instead, they “borrow” the MNO of a larger company, such as Sprint.
In the past, they were second rate carriers because the cellular signal was not as dependable on. It has changed, however, as surprisingly some prepaid carrier borrow not off one, two, but three different networks.
If the signal from one network is weak, it tries another tower to see if it’s any better. Sometimes this provides more reliable coverage (not to mention half the monthly cost) compared to the Big Four.