[Tello?] Roll Your Own Phone Plan
Competition among phone service carriers is getting red-hot. That’s good for us consumers, as it drives prices lower and erodes the anachronistic tyranny of years-long contracts that effectively enslave us to carriers. The latest example of free enterprise at its finest is Tello. Let's take a look at how it works...
Tello is a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) that lets you build your very own plan starting from just $5 per month. You might not be familiar with the acronym, but surely you've heard of other MVNOs, such as Tracfone, Cricket, Consumer Cellular, Ting, and Republic Wireless. Simply put, MVNOs buy telecom services from the large nationwide carriers at "wholesale" prices and resell it under their own brand. Want to learn how Tello works, and how to make it work for you? Keep reading...
A MVNO like Tello does not own any carrier equipment; no cell towers, no data centers, no cables, etc. Instead, Tello buys network capacity from Sprint, and resells minutes, messages, and data to consumers. The MVNO business model enables startups like Tello to try their innovative ideas in a marketplace dominated by giant, old, hidebound corporations like AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-mobile (although I give T-mobile credit for being less hidebound than the others). Sprint, the smallest of the four giants, is most active in partnering with MVNOs to boost its customer base,
So Tello is able to offer nationwide coverage even though the firm is too young to have a Wikipedia entry. In fact, there's a drone maker, and a soccer player named Tello that may have better name recognition at this point. Sprint does not have the best network in terms of speed - some areas are still covered by only 3G service - but in major metro areas it’s quite satisfactory.
No contract is required with Tello; all plans are prepaid. There’s no activation or early termination fee. Just roll you own plan, get a price, and quit whenever you like.
A plan includes calls to anywhere in the US, Canada, Mexico & China (an interesting addition). Other countries can be called or texted on a pay-as-you-go basis. You can use Paypal, Visa, Amex, Discover or Mastercard to pay your monthly and ad hoc charges.
To avoid the cost and headaches of call centers, Tello does all of its customer service online. That’s a red flag to some people, but having dealt with agents whose English left much to be desired, I am rather fond of online customer service. Tello claims that its Customer Service team will “answer in less than five seconds,” which tells me they’re using software bots in place of live humans for at least initial contacts, and probably much more.
Less Restrictions, More Value
Tello has eliminated several onerous restrictions often imposed by the big carriers. No longer are the most desirable phones tied to the most expensive plans. You can change phones whenever you wish without sticking to a carrier’s upgrade schedule or paying a penalty for “early” upgrades. Tello even ships your phones for free!
There are no restrictions on tethering - that is, using your phone as a mini-hotspot to let several devices connect to the Internet through it. The devices can be yours or anyone else’s.
“Ring-time charges” are out with Tello. Billable time begins when a conversation begins on a call; you don’t pay for 30 seconds or more of ringing before your friend answers or the call goes to voicemail.
Tello plans start as low as $9/month for 1 GB of data, with no calling minutes or text messages. I don’t know of another carrier who sells data-only plans like this one. You can put together a plan that exactly fits your mix of voice, text, and data usage, and change it any time you want. Play around with Tello’s plan calculator to see the many possibilities.
I don't know if Tello’s business model will prove profitable in the long run, but it sure looks like it will save consumers a lot of money. Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 26 Mar 2018
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