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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 139 MVNO’s in the US and over 1,300 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 a $25 credit + 15% off your first plan order with code 15OFFAFF. For new customers only.
- 1 Pros and cons of a MVNO
- 2 Introduction to Tello
- 3 Update (August 2018) – Two Years Later
- 4 What’s to lose?
- 5 FAQs
- 5.1 What network is Tello on?
- 5.2 What phones work with Tello?
- 5.3 Does Tello offer WiFi calling?
- 5.4 Is Tello’s coverage good?
- 5.5 are tello phones unlocked?
- 5.6 Can I port over my current phone number?
- 5.7 Does Tello offer roaming?
- 5.8 how many different phones does Tello offer for sale?
- 5.9 how do i know how much data I have left to use on my plan?
- 5.10 Comparison of other MVNOs
- 6 Tello Mobile
- 7 Pros
- 8 Cons
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
- 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:
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.
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.
Update (August 2018) – Two Years Later
It’s been over two years now that I first got on-board with Tello. And, I have to admit, that I was a little skeptical about how it was all going to work out after being on AT&T for many years.
I was paying (about) $40/mo for my unlimited everything with AT&T and with Tello, I pay $11.34 (tax included) for 200MB, 300min and unlimited text. Over the 28 months that I’ve been on board, I’ve saved over $800!
While the service is not perfect (no MVNO is), it definitely meets my needs and is all I need, since I can operate on WiFi much of my days (limiting my data use).
Looking back, I’m still glad that I made the switch.
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.
Before I was paying at least $35-50/mo. for my individual portion on a family plan – but now I pay less than $12 every month.
Are you on an MVNO? What are your thoughts?
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What network is Tello on?
Tello Mobile uses Sprint for their network.
What phones work with Tello?
The following phones will work with Tello:
- Any CDMA device free of contract, developed for Sprint or for other carriers
- Unlocked iPhones from 5S to SE and Nexus 5 to 6P
- Or choose from a variety of phones offered through Tello – starting at $25
Does Tello offer WiFi calling?
They do – but you need to download their app to make calls (via the My Tello app).
Is Tello’s coverage good?
Since Tello is using Sprint’s network, you can be assured that it is comparable. However, since they rent their space from Sprint, Tello service can (at times) experience slight delays in dialing / jumping online. But over my years of using Tello, I’ve not had a lot of issues jumping on calls when I need to and accessing my data. But, I rarely dial-out and often use WiFi.
are tello phones unlocked?
According to Tello’s website, “all phones available at Tello are unlocked and free of contract.”
Can I port over my current phone number?
Yes. Once your phone is active on Tello, you need to contact their customer service. They will help you port your number.
Does Tello offer roaming?
According to Tello: Unfortunately, we do not offer roaming services or national roaming at this time. However, while you are abroad you can call over WiFi using your account balance with our app, My Tello.
how many different phones does Tello offer for sale?
As of this update (5/2/19), they have 25 different phones for sale – from Android to Apple, refurbished to new. Their lowest price phone is a Alcatel Cinch at $25 (refurbished) and their most expensive is an Apple iPhone at $700.
how do i know how much data I have left to use on my plan?
If you have the My Tello app installed on your device, it’s very easy. Open the app, and click on “Show Balance” to see what you have available.
Update 1/30/17: Since switching to Tello full-time, I have been paying
$11.69/mo. $11.35/mo. ($10 base rate for unlimited text, 200 min. calling and 300 mb data + $1.35 in taxes). It’s been more than I need given that I utilize WiFi much of the time.
Update 3/6/2018: 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.
Update 5/25/2018: Tello announced their referral program for existing customers. Users can find a unique link in their dashboards they can share to refer a friend to the service and both will receive $10 Tello dollars (good for use for phone or plan purchases).
Update 6/11/2019: Tello has changed their plan pricing once again. Which means more bang for your buck! Here’s how the new prices look:
- unlimited talk&text – $8/mo
- unlimited talk&text + 1GB – $10/mo
- unlimited talk&text + 2 GB – $14/mo
- unlimited talk&text + 4 GB – $19/mo
- and several new plan options.
Comparison of other MVNOs
|MVNO||Network Used||Plan Price|
|Calls to 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 (Unlimited Talk / Text Plan)||Smart / Pro Plans only||Fair||2x per billing cycle||No|
|Republic Wireless||Sprint, T-Mobile||$15 (Unlimited talk / text), + $5/GB||No||Fair (Most CS logged to community)||2x per billing cycle||Yes|
|Straight Talk Wireless||AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, Verizon||$35 (Unlimited text/talk + 2GB)||Add-on||Good||Anytime||No|
|Tello||Sprint||$5 (100 min / Unlimited 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 $50 credit upon signup||Yes||Good||Okay||Yes|
|TracFone||Verizon Wireless, AT&T, T-Mobile US, Sprint Corporation, and U.S. Cellular||$14.25 for auto-renew (200 min / 500 texts / 500mb)||No||Fair||Okay||No|
|Twigby||Sprint, Verizon||$9.00 (Text + 300min + WiFi only)||Yes (and China)||Good||Yes||Yes|
|UNREAL||Sprint||$10 (Unlimited text + talk + data - up to 1GB)||No||Fair||Yes||No|
|Visible||Verizon (Visible is not considered a traditional MVNO)||$40 (unlimited talk,text and data)||No||Good||Only one plan offered||Yes|
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