Before I tell you more about Tello – I need to tell-o you about something called a mobile virtual network operator (or MVNO). You may have heard this term before OR know what it is. But for those new to it, it could help you save more on your monthly cell phone bill.
To start, a MVNO is:
a wireless communications services provider that does not own the wireless network infrastructure over which it provides services to its customers. An MVNO enters into a business agreement with a mobile network operator to obtain bulk access to network services at wholesale rates, then sets retail prices independently.
Currently, there are about 300 MVNO’s in the US and over 1,200 worldwide. These guys are smaller players in the market – paying license rights to use the big network’s “lines.” (Think, AT&T, Sprint, ie.). According to Wikipedia, 1 in 10 cell phone user utilizes a MVNO provider.
Some of the better known MVNO’s in the States are, Republic Wireless, Ting, Boost Mobile, Consumer Cellular. Because they are merely “renting” their space on the network – they can pass along the savings to their customers.
Get 15% off any new monthly plan with code 15OFFAFF. Offer ends soon.
Pros and cons of a MVNO
It’s important to note the positive and negatives pertaining to a mobile virtual network operator.
- No contract
- Same native towers, but very few MNVO’s have roaming
- Few or no taxes/fees (administrative fee, etc)
- Same features as postpaid (411, voicemail, call forwarding, etc.)
- Many of the same phones on postpaid networks
- No subsidy (pay full-price for a phone)
- Don’t have retail locations if you need in-person customer service
- Higher ping times on mobile data (higher latency means less priority through the data network)
- Some MVNO’s have a limited selection of phones
In my experience with a MVNO, the pros definitely outweigh the cons – especially by way of cost, flexibility and customer service.
Introduction to Tello
All this leads me to introducing you to another new player in the MVNO market, Tello (You have to admit they have a cool name). When the Tello folks contacted us to help get the word out and also take a look at their offering – we were thrilled. I personally love passing on any news to readers that might help them save more money or lower their existing cell phone bill.
So, let’s take a look at Tello. Here’s what they have to say about themselves:
Tello.com is a telecom provider newly launched on the US market with a strategy focused on low rates, no hidden fees, customizable plans, prepaid services with no contract commitments and great customer care. The company behind Tello is present on the UK market since 2014 serving customers through its Tello.co.uk website. Both Tello.com & Tello.co.uk were designed by KeepCalling, a global telecommunications company registered in 2002 in USA. Presently, KeepCalling has been listed by Inc 5000 as one of the fastest growing companies in the USA for 5 consecutive years.
What differentiates Tello from other MVNO players?
- Nationwide 4G LTE coverage
- Flexible plans
- No predefined phone-plan combos
- Tether away for free
- No ring time charges
One of the things I really like about Tello is their “Build Your Own Plan” offering. Basically YOU choose how you want to set up your plan NOT the provider.
Of course, they do have pre-defined plans for those who don’t want to think too much OR don’t know quite what they need:
Customers can bring their own phone, any eligible unlocked CDMA device, or they can buy a new phone directly from Tello, with prices ranging from $66 to $380. I think this is a great feature, because many MVNO’s do not offer this alternative.
What’s to lose?
Unless you have a lot of money lying around, travel every week OR have a sweet deal on a family plan – switching to a MVNO like Tello is a no-brainer. I’ve been with an MVNO provider for almost two years now – and I won’t go back.
Before I was paying at least $35-50/mo. for my individual portion on a family plan – but now I pay less than $15 every month. This more than meets my needs.
Are you on an MVNO? What are your thoughts?
Update 1/30/17: Since switching to Tello full-time, I have been paying $11.69/mo. ($10 base rate for unlimited text, 100 min. calling and 200 mb data + $1.69 in taxes). It’s been more than I need given that I utilize WiFi much of the time.
Update 5/4/17: To celebrate their one-year birthday, Tello is offering new customers 90% off their first month phone plan of $10 or more when signing up for their service with promo code “BDAY”! Offer is valid from 5/4/17-5/10/17. If you are a current customer of Tello, enter promo code “1BDAY” for 25% off a changed/new/renewed plan of $15 or more between 5/5/17-5/8/17.
Update 6/23/17: Get 70% off for any plan worth $10 or more by using the code: 2HOT between 23-30 June (EDT). The 70% off is only for your first month.
Update 7/18/17: Add a cell phone plan with mixed minutes, texts & data of $10 or more in any combination (that means you can even get a plan with text or minutes only, and still enjoy the free data offering) with code: 1DATAMIX and get any data option free of charge, from 200MB to 5GB. First month only / for new users only.
NEW 7/24/2017: Get 50% off any new monthly plan with code CJ50OFF. Limited time only.
Update 8/18/2017: Get 15% off any new plan with code 15OFFAFF. Offer ends soon.
Update 10/19/2017: Tello just announced they are lowering their rates on all of their plans effective today. Every plan will include unlimited texts, no matter the minutes/data combo customers chose.
Here are some examples of their new lower rates:
unlimited minutes, unlimited texts, 500 MB –> $26 old, new $19
unlimited minutes, unlimited texts, 1GB –> $29 old, new $22
unlimited minutes, unlimited texts, 2GB –> $39 old, new $29
unlimited minutes, unlimited texts, 3GB –> $49 old, new $35
Update 12/4/2017: Tello again announced they are dropping prices on their plans. Here are the updated changes:
unlimited text & talk, 1GB –> $22 old, new $19
unlimited text & talk, 2GB –> $29 old, new $25
unlimited text & talk, 3GB –> $35 old, new $29
Comparison of other MVNOs
|MVNO||Network Used||Plan Price|
|Mexico & Canada Included in Plan||Customer Service||Plan Friendliness|
(Ability to uprade / downgrade at will)
|Boost||Sprint||$35 (Unlimited / 3GB data)||$5 extra||Fair||1 month notice||No|
|Consumer Cellular||AT&T, T-Mobile||$15 (250 min / no data) AARP members can get 15% discount.||International direct dial||Good||Anytime||-|
|Cricket||AT&T||$25 (Talk / Text Plan)||Smart / Pro Plans only||Fair||2x per billing cycle||No|
|Republic Wireless||Sprint, T-Mobile||$15 (Unlimited talk / text)||No||Fair (Most CS logged to community)||2x per billing cycle||Yes|
|Tello||Sprint||$5 (100 min / Text)||Yes (texts and MMS only)||Good||Anytime||Yes|
|Ting||Sprint, T-Mobile||$15 (100 min / MB / text. Plans based on what you use). Offers $25 upon signup||Yes||Good||No||No|
|Twigby||Sprint, Verizon||$9 (Text + 200min + WiFi only)||No||Good||Yes||Yes|
The preceding was brought to you by Tello. All thoughts and opinions expressed are our own. TTG may earn a small commission on plans purchased via this post at no cost to you.