What Is Mobile Airtime?

By Stephanie Sigafoos

Mobile airtime is the same for all customers
i man on cell phone image by Cora Reed from Fotolia.com

Among the most frequently asked question for any mobile phone company is the query, "What is airtime?" Mobile airtime is the same for contract, pre-paid or pay-as-you-go cellular customers, and is defined by the amount of time you use your mobile network.


According to Verizon, one of the world's leading wireless phone providers, airtime is defined as the time you are connected to your mobile phone network. This includes making calls, retrieving messages and data use. (See Reference 1.)


Airtime can be used by anyone with a cell phone. You can pay for it through a billing cycle (contract), pre-pay through a plan such as T-Mobile FlexPay, or through cards purchased at merchants around the world. The only downside is that some prepaid minutes expire if not used within a designated time. (See Reference 2.)


According to Fixed & Mobile Private Limited (operating as TransferTo), two-thirds of the world's 4.5 billion mobile phones are prepaid mobile phones. Most of that airtime is purchased through scratch cards or electronic pin numbers, and can be shared with another subscriber of the same mobile service. (See Reference 3.)


Airtime and airtime minutes are not the same thing. Airtime minutes are the talk time used on your phone, but are just a part of the overall airtime charges you can incur from a mobile provider. Some disposable phones now have the ability to talk, text, send MMS (multimedia messages) and browse the web. All of these functions use airtime.