Tello Review: A Look at This New No-Fee Cell Phone Provider

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.

Plans starting at $5/mo at Tello

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)
  • Cheaper
  • Same features as postpaid (411, voicemail, call forwarding, etc.)
  • Many of the same phones on postpaid networks
  • Can make calls to Canada, China (new) and Mexico


  • 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: 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 website. Both & 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
  • Transparency
  • 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.

build your own cell phone plan
Tello’s BYOP is great for those looking into flexibility

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:
predefined cell plans

Before you decide to sign-up with Tello, you’ll want to be sure that the coverage is good in your area. They have a handy coverage map on their site  and you can plug in your home address to see if the 3G or 4G will be sufficient in your ‘hood.

A look at Tello's 3G coverage
A look at Tello’s 3G coverage

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?

Plans starting at $5/mo at Tello

Get 15% off any new monthly plan with code 15OFFAFF.

Update 1/30/17: Since switching to Tello full-time, I have been paying $11.69/mo. $11.39/mo. ($10 base rate for unlimited text, 200 min. calling and 300 mb data + $1.39 in taxes). It’s been more than I need given that I utilize WiFi much of the time.

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

Update 2/15/2018: Get 30% off your first 3 months with Tello using code 3XFUN. New customers only. Keep the same plan for the 2nd & 3rd month to keep your 30% discount. Offer ends 2/28.

Update 3/6/2018: They’re at it again! Tello has permanently lowered their plan prices by as much as 35% for some plans. This is their third price decrease in less than 6 months to stay competitive in the MVNO market. New and existing customers will benefit from these rate decreases.

For instance, if the customers want a plan including unlimited minutes & text plus 1GB of data, they can have it now at only $14/mo., instead of $19. If they need more data, they can choose 2GB instead of 1GB to the same combo and they’ll end up paying only $19 for what used to be $25/month. 

Comparison of other MVNOs

MVNONetwork UsedPlan Price
(Min. available)
Mexico & Canada Included in PlanCustomer ServicePlan Friendliness
(Ability to uprade / downgrade at will)
Free Tethering
BoostSprint$35 (Unlimited / 3GB data)$5 extraFair1 month noticeNo
Consumer CellularAT&T, T-Mobile$15 (250 min / no data) AARP members can get 15% discount.International direct dialGoodAnytime-
CricketAT&T$25 (Talk / Text Plan)Smart / Pro Plans onlyFair2x per billing cycleNo
Republic WirelessSprint, T-Mobile$15 (Unlimited talk / text)NoFair (Most CS logged to community)2x per billing cycleYes
TelloSprint$5 (100 min / Unlimited text)Yes (texts and MMS only)GoodAnytimeYes
TingSprint, T-Mobile$15 (100 min / MB / text. Plans based on what you use). Offers $25 upon signupYesGoodOkayNo
TracFoneVerizon Wireless, AT&T, T-Mobile US, Sprint Corporation, and U.S. Cellular$14.25 for auto-renew (200 min / 500 texts / 500mb)NoFairOkayNo
TwigbySprint, Verizon$4.50 (Text + 200min + WiFi only)NoGoodYesYes

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. Thanks for helping to support our site.

Tello Mobile

Tello Mobile

Ease of use

9.0 /10


9.0 /10

Customer Service

9.5 /10


7.5 /10


8.0 /10


  • Low cost
  • Unlimited text / data while on WiFi
  • App available
  • Build your own plan
  • BYOP


  • No roaming
  • No international service
  • Piggybacks off big providers

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  1. Steve says:


    You say in the review that all MVNO’s offer Call Forwarding. This is not correct. Republic for one does not. There are others but I’m not remembering which ones I’ve run across in my searching. Tello does offer it and so does Mint. I’m currently with Cricket but need to downgrade service as I move overseas but want to maintain my number in the USA as well as have calls forwarded to a VOIP phone I’ll have in my home in Colombia. This is why Call Forwarding is needed in my case.
    I was leaning towards Mint but sort of had some reservations about prepaying for 6-12 months with them. Tello is looking like a good possibility.

    • Aaron says:

      Thanks for the heads up on the call forwarding Steve. Tello has been great for my purposes so far. Going on 1.5 years now.

  2. Suzannne says:

    Hi There
    We have Tello phone and text service and Iphone 5c that we bought through Tello for my 12 year old son. We specifically do not want a data plan (to keep him off the internet all the time!) However we do want him to be able to text message. He is unable to text when he is not on WIFI. We called customer support at Tello, and we were told that he has to get the other party (whom he is texting to) to turn off Imessage. This is not something that is practical to do. Anyone else have this problem? Is there another solution?

    • Aaron says:

      Hi Suzanne. Hm – from reading some forums, this is a known issue with iPhones and MVNO plans.

      One solution for that issue would be to disable iMessage and force everything through standard SMS instead of using Apple’s proprietary data-based messenger for these messages.

      Hope that helps. I’ve also reached out to Tello support for you.

    • Maria says:

      Hi Suzanne, this is Maria, on behalf of Tello Mobile.

      Sorry to hear you’ve been having problems. Please contact our customer support in order to give us the details of your account so we can see what’s really happening.

      We are available 24/7!

      Thanks & have a great day!

  3. Miguelito says:


    Does Tello allow one to Port their current number? I currently have FreedomPop and am unhappy with the service.

  4. maria dima says:

    Dear Sue,

    My name is Maria & I am writing on behalf of Tello Mobile.

    Thank you for using Tello. Our service is subject to the Privacy Policy published on our website. At no point do we share your information with third parties. If any information is checked with other entities, it is only according to the Privacy Policy and never for Spam/ telemarketing purposes:

    “We will share your personal information with third parties only in the ways that are described in this privacy policy. We do not sell your personal information to third parties.

    We may also disclose your personal information:

    in response to lawful requests by public authorities, including to meet national security or law enforcement requirements; as required by law, such as to comply with a subpoena, or similar legal process; when we believe in good faith that disclosure is necessary to protect our rights, protect your safety or the safety of others, investigate fraud; if Tello is involved in a merger, acquisition, or sale of all or a portion of its assets, you will be notified via email and/or a prominent notice on our Web site of any change in ownership or uses of your personal information, as well as any choices you may have regarding your personal information; to any other third party with your prior consent to do so.”

    If you feel that your Tello number is listed on advertising databases we can always consider the option of assigning a new number to your Tello account.

    Our Support Team is here to help 24/7.

    Thank you!

  5. Sue says:

    Telo is the worst cell provider I’ve ever used! What is not mentioned is they are a spam provider! I was looking for an inexpensive provider for my 2nd phone that is just that my 2nd and I use it very infrequent but have had the # for more than 25 years and do make or receive an occasional call and didn’t want to lose the #. I was on Sprint for 20 Years and Att for 5 and if I received 1 spam/spoofed call a month it was a lot. From the day I connected to Tello I’m receiving on average 3+ a day calls including V/M and texts. Telo requires your to sign up on line billing goes thru Big Daddy and all your information is collected and then published. After the first week of getting so many spam calls not only on the cell but my landline I googling my # and Dahhhh published as a new Telo service customer. In 25 years my name w/ # never appeared in any google search. So Cheap is not cheap! it has it’s cost. So unless you don’t want your bill racking up because of spam calls and texts. don’t use them.

  6. lgt says:

    Does anybody know if with Tello you can change plans or actually cancel the plan for a few months? I spend three/four months abroad and I would prefer not to have any phone plan in the USA if not here. Just wondering how much flexibility one has with Tello to change to another cheaper plan when not using the phone or even not having any plan and getting a new one upon my return. Also, does the sim card expire after a certain time?

    • Aaron says:

      Hi LGT. You could probably go about this by using the pay-as-you-go plans. The only catch here is that if you don’t use up the plan minutes / data / what-not within 6 months, the credits expire. You could also just purchase a plan and go month-by-month as this is how they do their billing and then sign-up again when you return. There are no “activation” fees. You can upgrade / downgrade plans at will too. As for the sim card, don’t believe there are any expirations associated with them.

  7. Les says:

    I don’t know which is worse Tello or Straight talk between them they managed to lose my advertised phone number while trying to port my phone number from Straight talk to Tello. I don’t think either company knew what they were doing during the 4 day fiasco. Finally I went to TPO the phones provider and had them activate it at a minimal price and plan to bounce to Boost mobile this month, $35 for 3 Gigs and unlimited talk and text. Enough with both these companies for hiring such incompetent morons.

    • Aaron says:

      Hey Les. Thanks for sharing your experience with Tello. I know they can have their hiccups especially when porting numbers – but their customer service usually tries to get to the bottom of it / or lets you know what they can / cannot do.

  8. Ashley says:


    I am purchasing three LG gizmopal II smart watches for my toddlers and wondered if I can use them with Tello. They are unlocked/contract free devices from Verizon. Also, can I purchase a data plan for a tablet or is this service for cell phones only?

    Thank you

  9. Christian says:

    I signed up for service with the small Sprint MVNO Twigby. They have better prices than Tello and you can roam on Verizons network

    • Aaron says:

      Thanks for the comment Christian. Haven’t heard of them. From checking them out, their options seem somewhat limited and the prices to Tello’s are comparable.

  10. Aurelio says:

    We began to port out our R+ number on Feb 4th to Tello before coming across this write up. Any way to still qualify for the 30% offer?

  11. Alison says:

    It used to be that you could walk into any big box store and buy a brand new sprint prepaid or Boost mobile phone which I did and used it with Ring Plus but I seem to remember that that was stopped by Sprint at some point. I’m moving to Tello now and do you know if I can still do that, I thought I might as well get a new phone at the same time. if not I can uses my existing Rig Plus phone.

  12. Helen says:

    I am currently with Ringplus. How long does it take to port in my phone#? Do you charge a fee to port in a number? Thanks.

    • maria dima says:

      The porting process usually takes about 2 business days, but due to the high volume of port in requests, it may take longer than usual.
      There is no porting fee at Tello!

  13. Helen says:

    How much do I have to pay in order to set up a “pay as you go” account? Any top up money is needed? Say I have to pay $5. I will keep using this money till the balance becomes low. Then, I will need to deposit more money, right?

    • maria dima says:

      Yes, you need to add more money and the credit in your account can be used for 6 months. I strongly recommend getting a plan and customizing it to your needs – add minutes, texts, data

  14. Robert says:

    Just switched from RingPlus to Tello because I got an email from RingPlus letting me know Sprint intends to evict them from the network. Ends up being a little more, but at least I don’t have to deal with idiotic plan names.

    • Aaron says:

      Hi Robert. Welcome to Tello – I think you’ll like them. Excellent customer service and very customizeable plans that fit almost any need.

  15. Cath says:

    If you have an extra phone, use it. I bought a phone from them i know it’s refurbished, but didn’t know it was that bad that you cant even hear the other party unless you turn on the speaker. Called them up, they asked me rto return the phone and they will replaced it after 15 days, from the time they received my shipment. Its been 21 days no updates or whatever. You have to call them
    Again and again. And they will
    Just tell you they don’t have any updates too from the dept that’s checking the units. So it means you have to wait until they probably feel like giving updates. But im still charge with monthly service even without a phone. Yeah they have cheap rates and cheap phones too. So be careful when you buy a unit from them.

    • Michelle says:

      Hey Cath,

      We apologize for the inconvenience and we are very sorry you received a device not 100% functional.
      We know it may seem a long time, but our return policy stipulates a 15 business day deadline, which actually means 21 standard days. Plus, we just heard back from our phone provider and it seems the phone you returned was received and today we’ll ship you a new one.

      Moreover, you don’t have to worry about the billing. We know there were several days when you weren’t able to use the service and, based on our standard procedure, we will extend the 30 day plan period. This way, you will be able to use the balance for the same period of time and you will be charged later on.

      We apologize again if the 15 business day period seem a bit long and we hope you’ll continue using our service.

      On behalf of

  16. A Mac says:

    Ring Plus is awful. They just cancelled me after 3 months by cancelling my plan. I lost my upfront money, and to choose another plan I had to pay $23. So I paid $9 plus tax for 3 months of service. Lousy if you are looking for a low use phone. Ring plus might work if you are a high user – but they cancel their plans and change them and keep your auto top up you paid up front. And if you look at their current plans there really is only one free one – but you pay the auto top up when you sign up. And the plan can be cancelled whenever they feel like and they keep your $

    • Aaron says:

      Hi AR. If you need unlimited data and roaming – I am not sure I’d select Tello. Tello has plans up to 5GB data / month but nothing unlimited and no roaming. 5GB is a lot of data – but I might look elsewhere for something more robust if you are a heavy user / traveler. Of course, you can always get unlimited data when on WiFi. EDIT: Tello has informed us they may be adding national roaming in the near future. (9/21/16)

  17. Kirsten says:

    I use my phone for navigation (googlemaps) and sometimes I’m in remote places, mostly east coast. The service map on Tello is just purple (coverage) and white (no coverage?). There’s a lot of white. I’m currently with sprint, and Tello says they use sprint towers – but Sprint seems to have service in areas that are ‘white’ in the Tello map. Before I switch to Tello, I’d like to know if I’ll be able to access google-maps or a navigation app when I’m remote.

    • Michelle says:

      Dear Kirsten,

      We (Tello) do use Sprint for coverage, and if the Sprint map shows coverage for a certain area, then you should get it too if you join Tello.

      However, there is a big difference between 3G and 4G coverage. It’e easier to get 3G coverage, although it’s a little slower. The easiest, safest way to check is to contact our Customer Service team (24/7 by phone & email) and provide them the ZIP code(s) where you usually travel.

      Hope I answered your questions. If not, I do encourage you to contact my colleagues:, they’re friendly & helpful.

      on behalf of the team

      • Kirsten says:

        COVERAGE: I compared the Sprint coverage map with the Tello coverage map. The difference is that Sprint has free ‘ROAMING’ in areas where it does not have tower/coverage. I called your customer service rep to confirm this, and she told me that Tello does not have roaming, so in areas that are white on the service map, there is NO coverage. There are a LOT of white areas, as soon as I get off any major highway, which is where I would really need navigation. She said I could download an app which I can use in WIFI to make calls in non-covered areas. Unfortunately, this doesn’t help me with navigation as I would not have wifi. I wish Tello met my needs, but navigation and calls in remote areas is important to me. I don’t need it often, but when I do, I need it to work. Thanks for your help. When you have better coverage or offer roaming, I would absolutely be interested in switching. Cheers!

    • Darrell says:

      If you use Ting you have the option of signing up for Sprint or T-Mobile network coverage. Pick the one that provides the better coverage for you. Same price for either one.

  18. Bryan says:

    I needed a work line that wouldn’t charge me an arm and a leg for light usage. I’ve been using Tello for about 4 months, and I absolutely love it. I like the fact that you could pick your plan every month based on your anticipated usage, and that the data gets throttled and not completely turned off. Typically I go back and forth between 100-200min a month, and 200MB of data. I typically go through the data within the first couple days, but then it’s throttled which is still good enough to get texts and email which is mainly what I use that phone for.

  19. Suedoe says:

    I just signed up for Tello today after years of up/down “service” from a struggling MVNO (STIMobile and its iterations).

    My number has still not ported (only been a few hours), but I must say NO ONE, ANYWHERE, OF ANY BUSINESS TYPE, has been as good on communications. They helped me during the struggles to wriggle free of my previous provider (which wouldn’t answer my emails or phone calls).

    With 3 cent per minute talk and no daily or monthly “keep alive” charge (do have to pay taxes on time bought, about 20%), nothing else even comes CLOSE to providing me with the emergency service (only) that I need.

    Hats off to them (so far)!

  20. Michelle says:

    Dear Barbara,

    I just talked to our Tech Support team and they’ll look further into this case right away. Also, our Customer Service team will contact you again to perform some troubleshooting steps.

    I am sure will manage to sort it out and to help you use the service.

    We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience and we appreciate your patience.

    Michelle on behalf of

  21. Barbara Hejazi says:

    Hi, I’ve signed up with Tello with a new factory unlocked iPhone 5s and they have activated it but still I have no service. I have had many conversations with them and their techs, advised me to stop by a full service Sprint store after giving me a username and password to set my APN. Sprint guys tried but could not help. I just go back and forth. I’ve paid for this month plus the month for my old carrier. After I was able to get service with Tello, I’d get them to port the number over. Well here I sit, still trying. I just can’t be rude to service folks, sometimes they just can’t help ya. I’ve been trolling the internet and trying a lot of the ideas given but without success.
    I can’t say whether or not Tello is going to be a good choice.

      • Robert says:

        In my opinion Ting is not a great option. $16 for a month with 92 minutes of talk and 3mb of Dtat. Breakdown, $3 Talk, $3 Data, $6 Line charge, Taxes. This is for a “Back-Up” phone I keep.

    • Sarah Mathews says:

      Ting is terrible if you use data. They consider 1 gig of data “Large”. My coworkers laugh at me when I say I use that little. I generally use 1.5 which pushes me into the XL bracket for them which is 20$ all by itself, just to use facebook, no streaming of anything. I use <100 min a month and around 1000 texts, my bill is usually about 65 (6$ of that is a second not smart phone). Ting is only cheap is you don't really use data. Adding a second phone is really cheap with Ting, only 6$ per phone.

    • Lieschen Orerreh says:

      yes and they have bad Reception that use up my data plan by constant loading and just had 1 to 2 bars even i go outside. i will never get tello again bc I accept I made a mistake by sending text message wherein I did not close the plan but I accept it was a mistake I thought I used my other cellphone but Tello send me 2 0r 3 times warning in a day for 5 consecutive days and retaliated if they will sen me again the messages i will report them to the media as a harassment to a senior. They don’t say that they put tax to the plan…Bad Marketing.. I took now Metro PCS and even have internet access in my laptop for $60. unlimited inclusive no Taxes added

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