5G representation

Tello’s 5G Isn’t Working With iPhones

Tello is trying to draw attention to its 5G service. Here are a few bits of content fresh from the carrier’s website:


Screenshot of a headline about 5G



5G content screenshot


5G was the main topic of one of Tello’s blog posts earlier this month. Here’s what Tello had to say about phone compatibility:

To benefit from this new smarter and faster technology, you’ll have to have a phone that’s capable of doing all that. If you’d like to bring your 5G-capable device to Tello Mobile, just make sure it’s unlocked and GSM compatible.

In all of Tello’s materials about 5G, I haven’t seen a mention of a key fact: Tello does not support 5G on iPhones.

This isn’t a small oversight. I’d guess that half of the 5G-compatible phones in the U.S. right now are devices in the iPhone 12 line.

Internal Confusion

It seems not everyone working for Tello is even aware that the carrier doesn’t support 5G on iPhones. This blog comment comes from a Tello representative:



I reached out to Tello’s support asking if the company supports 5G on both iOS and Android devices. Here’s the response I got:

Yes, as long as you have a 5G capable device and 5G coverage in your area, you can use 5G with Tello.

It’s not true. It seems Tello doesn’t have a carrier bundle with Apple. Until that’s figured out, 5G and some other features may remain unavailable for Tello subscribers.

If Tello’s going to make a big deal about its 5G service, the company should make it clear that it does not support the most popular 5G phone.


Thanks to Stetson Doggett who let me know about the issues with 5G on Tello.

Megaphone

Tello Launches 50% Off & Free SIM Promotion

In January, Tello started transitioning to T-Mobile’s network. Here’s what I wrote at the time:

Tello, a carrier that has historically run over Sprint’s network, is now offering new customers service over T-Mobile’s network. Despite switching to a network with much better coverage, Tello has not increased its prices.

I think Tello is now one of the best options on the market for customers that don’t need a lot of data.

With a promotion that Tello just launched today, the deal is getting even better. New customers can now get (a) 50% off their first three months of service and (b) a free SIM card for Tello’s T-Mobile-based service. The SIM card normally costs about $10. Existing customers that add lines are also eligible for the promotion.

The deal is slotted to run until February 28. More details can be found in a blog post on Tello’s website.

Snowflakes

Tello’s Holiday Promotion

Tello is running a holiday promotion until December 22. New customers that purchase Tello’s plan with unlimited minutes, unlimited texts, and 4GB of data each month can get the first three months of service for only $10 per month. After the three-month promotional period, the plan will go back to Tello’s usual price of $19 per month.

Even without the promotion, Tello’s rates are awfully good. However, it’s an odd moment to make the switch to Tello. At the moment, the carrier operates over Sprint’s network. Thanks to the merger between T-Mobile and Sprint, Tello will soon transition to operating over T-Mobile’s network. While the network migration will lead to substantially better coverage for Tello subscribers, the migration may be a bit of a hassle for subscribers transitioning between networks.

People who are interested in Tello and budget-sensitive may want to go ahead and switch to the carrier while the promotion is running. Less budget-sensitive consumers may want to prioritize convenience and wait until Tello has started migrating to T-Mobile’s network before making a switch.

Rumors About T-Mobile SIMs on Tello

While Tello has historically used Sprint as its host network, Tello announced plans to transition to T-Mobile’s network following the merger between Sprint and T-Mobile. It looks like that transition may be starting.

A user in Reddit’s NoContract community recently shared a transcript from a conversation with a Tello support agent. Among other things, the support agent mentioned a date for the beginning of Tello’s transition to the T-Mobile network:

Starting 12/07/202, Tello will switch to the T-Mobile Network

Based on the rest of the conversation, it looks like the agent was suggesting 12/07/2020 will be the first date new subscribers can order service and SIM cards running over T-Mobile’s network. When the support agent was asked when existing Tello customers would be moved over to T-Mobile’s network, he could share a specific date. However, the agent suggested existing customers that wanted to transition to T-Mobile as soon as possible may be able to order new SIM cards at their discretion:

However, you will have the option to purchase a Tello SIM if you want to switch networks.

Tello’s website as of 12/7/2020

When I looked at Tello’s website early today, I didn’t notice major changes. The coverage page still showed a Sprint coverage map. The page about Tello’s bring-your-own-device program still suggested Tello ran over Sprint’s network:

Screenshot from Tello's website suggesting the service works for phones built for Sprint's network

I’m not sure what to think. Tello may already be shipping T-Mobile SIM cards, and an update to Tello’s website could be coming soon. It’s also possible the transition to T-Mobile’s network didn’t start today. Whatever is going on, I expect we’ll see Tello beginning its transition soon. A blog post Tello shared in October indicated that the carrier planned to start transitioning to T-Mobile’s network by the end of 2020.

Tello After The T-Mobile & Sprint Merger

The carrier Tello has offered some of the best prices in the industry for a while now. Until recently, the major downside of Tello was that it ran over Sprint’s lackluster network.

Ever since the merger between T-Mobile and Sprint closed, I’ve been wondering what the future would look like for Tello. On Friday, Tello shared a blog post that shed some light:

  • Tello plans to start implementing service over T-Mobile’s network in late 2020.1
  • Tello does not plan to change its pricing structure at this time.2
  • Sprint-only service is expected to be available until at least mid-2021.3
  • Sprint-only phones may see a big decline in the performance of data service before mid-2021.4

Phone compatibility with T-Mobile

Fortunately, many Tello subscribers already have phones that are compatible with T-Mobile’s network. High-end phones purchased in the last few years are particularly likely to work with T-Mobile.

If you bought a phone in the past 2 years — such as a recent iPhone or Galaxy — it likely already has support for both networks. Same goes for iPhone XR, XS, or later that should be good for the full T-Mobile experience, but devices older than 2018 may not be able to tap into the full capabilities of the new network.

Tello recommends using phones that support LTE bands 2, 4, 12, 66, and 71 along with VoLTE. Customers without compatible phones will probably need to upgrade their devices if they want to remain with Tello after the legacy Sprint network shuts down.

The long term

Tello has said it won’t raise prices, but I don’t think that’s a long-term commitment. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a price hike by the end of 2021. Tello will be more appealing with the expanded coverage offered by T-Mobile’s network. Additionally, the market for low-cost service is likely to become less competitive as Sprint disappears and large companies buy out a number of MVNOs.

While we may see a price increase eventually, I’m tentatively excited for Tello’s future. T-Mobile’s network is likely to offer Tello subscribers a far better coverage experience than Sprint’s network ever could.


Visit Tello’s website


Tello Offering 50% Off To Subscribers From Virgin Mobile

Tello, an MVNO running over Sprint’s network, is offering 50% off the first month of service for subscribers that switch from Virgin Mobile. As I’ve previously discussed, Virgin Mobile is in the process of shutting down and will transfer its subscriber base to Boost Mobile.

Tello’s new promotion is available to customers who enter “VIRGIN” as a coupon code during checkout. A bit more information about the promo can be found on Tello’s website.

Tello is an extremely low-cost operator, and it may be a convenient option for subscribers leaving Virgin Mobile. Since both Virgin and Tello run over Sprint’s network, most people won’t encounter device compatibility issues when migrating from Virgin. According to the information I received, the promotion is set to run until February 10.

Infinity symbol

Tello Launches “Unlimited Everything” Plan

Today, Tello launched its “unlimited everything” plan for $39 per month. I’m frustrated by how Tello named its new plan. I say that as a fan of the company; Tello has some of the best options on the market for budget-sensitive consumers who don’t use a lot of data.

If subscribers on Tello’s unlimited everything plan use 25GB of data in a billing period, they will be throttled to sluggish, 2G speeds. As I’ve previously argued, unlimited plans at 2G speeds are bogus. Once the throttle kicks in, subscribers will find that data is unusable or barely usable for many purposes. While I’ve argued that many so-called “unlimited” plans are misnamed, Tello seems to have doubled down on its misnomer. Both “unlimited” and “everything” do a poor job of describing Tello’s new plan.

When carriers throttle data to 2G speeds, that usually means speeds are capped at 128Kbps. Imposing a maximum speed of 128Kbps puts a theoretical limit on total data use of about 65GB per month.1 In practice, few subscribers will use more than 26GB per month because the internet will be sluggish and frustrating use after the 25GB threshold is reached.

To Tello’s credit, the company does an unusually good job of disclosing the throttle. Here’s an example from the banner on Tello’s homepage this morning:

Tello Homepage Banner

Location, Location, Location

In my opinion, major wireless networks can be ranked pretty clearly in terms of their current, nationwide reliability:

  1. Verizon (best)
  2. AT&T
  3. T-Mobile
  4. Sprint (worst)

I get frustrated when network operators make misleading statements about nationwide quality, and I sometimes write articles calling out bullshit claims. That said, a network’s typical reliability throughout the U.S. may be very different from that network’s quality in a given area. When deciding which carrier you should use, it only matters how carriers perform where you want to use your phone.

In the last year, I’ve run speed tests in Boulder, Colorado with a bunch of carriers (using all four of the major U.S. networks). A few days ago, I ran a speed test on a phone with service from Tello, a carrier that runs over Sprint’s network. While Sprint has the worst nationwide network, the speed test found a download speed far faster than I’ve seen in Boulder with any other carrier:

129 Mbps speed test result

As a general rule, service is more expensive on networks with better nationwide performance. If you live where an underdog network performs well, you might be able to get great service at a bargain price.