That cell phone bill. It’s just one more way the money drains from your bank account every month like clockwork.
But you need it, right? I mean, who can live without a phone these days? It’s just one of those necessary evils.
At least, that’s what I told myself until I found out about Tello.
I have always been a big believer in the thought that “you get what you pay for.” That means that no matter how eye-wateringly high my Verizon bill was each month, I was always quite happy to pay it, safe and secure in the knowledge that I was getting the best service due to the high price I was paying
Along Came Tello...
But then I was issued a challenge: to try out Tello, a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO).
So wait a second: what exactly is an MVNO? This is a wireless provider that doesn’t own any wireless network infrastructure; it buys access to network services from one of the big four providers (Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T, and Sprint) and then offers its own prices to its customers.
You’ve probably heard of or seen advertisements for an MVNO before; Boost Mobile and Cricket Wireless are two such MVNOs.
MVNOs have much lower overhead costs (since they don’t own or operate network infrastructure) and are thus able to pass those savings on to their customers.
The downside is that because they rent the access to the network services instead of owning it, their customers get lower priority in terms of the data network (i.e., higher ping times for mobile data and higher latency).
Tello uses the Sprint network. So in theory, that means that if a Tello customer and a Sprint customer are using data at the same time, the Sprint customer will theoretically experience slightly faster responses, since Sprint will supposedly process the requests from their own customers first and then move on to the MVNO customers.
But in reality, I honestly couldn’t tell the difference. That’s right. I couldn’t tell the difference in terms of speed and coverage between my super expensive Verizon service and the service offered by Tello.
The difference, then, was evident in the bill. My unlimited plan from Verizon costs $80 a month (and that doesn’t yet include taxes and fees). An unlimited plan from Tello costs a mere $39 a month.
Tello Price Comparison
But it got me thinking: do I really need an unlimited plan? I always justified it by telling myself that with unlimited data, calls, and texts, I never needed to worry about overage charges.
But Tello’s super cheap offerings made me take a look at how much data I actually use each month.
I was surprised to learn that I average approximately 2.5 GB of cellular data use per month (and once in a blue moon I use slightly over 3 GB per month).
I think the fact that WiFi is available almost everywhere I go also helps curb my data use.
So I checked: how much would it cost to get a cheaper plan that wasn’t “unlimited”? If I went to a plan with 2 GB per month on Verizon, it would cost me $55 a month not including taxes and fees. If I went to a 4 GB Verizon plan, it would cost $70 a month before tax.
The comparable plans on Tello (2 or 4 GB with unlimited minutes and texting) cost $14 a month (for 2 GB) and $19 per month (for 4 GB). As you can quite easily see, the savings are considerable: $14 vs. $55 and $19 vs. $70.
Pros Of Tello
Plus, Tello has no contracts and no fees. Your plan renews on a monthly basis.
If you change your mind and decide you don’t want to keep your Tello plan anymore (or you decide to upgrade or downgrade to a different Tello plan) there are no costs associated with changing or cancelling.
No two-year contract, no early termination fees. No fees whatsoever.
Another benefit of Tello is that you can either buy one of their phones to use with their plans or use your own phone (click here to check if your phone is compatible).
They offer both refurbished and new phones priced between $25 and $689. They don’t offer subsidies on devices, so you’ll be paying the full phone price.
And if you’re already happy with your existing phone, you can use that phone (if it is a CDMA device) with Tello (you just need a $9.99 Sprint SIM if you weren’t with them already).
Also, the signup process for Tello is completely online. This simplifies things a whole lot and means that you don’t have to deal with pushy salespeople. You can check if your current device is compatible, buy a new device, and sign up for a plan all from the comfort of your couch.
So we have established that Tello is much, much less expensive than Verizon. But what about the words that I used to live by? That I get what I pay for?
Well, I’m pleased to report that at least where I live, Tello coverage and Verizon coverage appear to be exactly the same. For me, there was no noticeable difference in service, speed, or coverage.
I did notice one thing: when I drove from Miami to Naples, through the Everglades (which is somewhat remote and ‘off-the-grid’) I could occasionally get Verizon service but there was no Tello coverage. But other than that brief moment, Tello service was basically the same as Verizon.
So if you live in a remote area, Tello might not be for you. You can check if Tello covers your area here.
Here’s what I recommend: try it out. If you like the idea of a significantly cheaper wireless plan but are worried that the coverage might not be adequate, then sign up for a month.
You don’t have to cancel your current wireless plan yet. You can try them both alongside one another.
The cheapest Tello plan starts at $5 a month, and it should give you a pretty good idea of how decent the coverage is in the area where you live.
If the coverage isn’t good enough for you in your daily life, then there’s no harm, no foul. Just cancel, secure in the knowledge that the cheaper option doesn’t meet your coverage needs, and that you are in fact getting what you are paying for with your more expensive current plan.
And if the coverage is in fact good enough for you, the savings can be substantial.
Take the example of my hypothetical 4 GB a month switch from Verizon to Tello.
That would save me $51 a month, which is $612 a year!
Or $1224 in savings over two years.
For me, at least, Tello has definitely proved me wrong: I am, in fact, getting a lot more than I am paying for.
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