By piggybacking off of T-Mobile’s network, Tello offers affordable cellular plans with no long-term contracts. For those who don’t mind potential variations in data speeds, Tello might be a great option.
Cheap limited data plans: For unlimited talk/text and 1 GB of data, a basic Tello plan can be purchased for just $10 per month. Their cheapest plan costs only $5 per month, making them one of the cheapest carriers we’ve seen.
Free international calls: Tello offers its users the ability to call internationally to over 60 countries with no additional charges.
Free hotspot calling: Tello lets users call for free over a Wi-Fi hotspot, even if they are out of minutes.
Bring your own phone: Tello allows users to bring their own devices if they don’t want to purchase a new phone with their plan.
Build your own plan: Uniquely, Tello’s plans are completely customizable with the talk, text, and data amounts you want, which recalculates the price based on your personal preferences.
Data speeds: Download speeds on Tello’s data are extremely variable, with the 4G and 5G networks fluctuating, depending on the time of day and the network’s traffic.
Unlimited data plans: Tello has an unlimited data plan, but caps the high-speed offerings at a certain amount and cannot compete with the coverage of the larger carriers.
Tello Plans and Pricing
Tello allows users to build their own plans with a high degree of customization. The chart below represents an overview of what you might purchase.
Starting Monthly Price
Talk and Text Allowance
$5 per month
$10 per month
$19 per month
$29 per month
Tello Plans for Seniors
Tello does not offer a plan specific for seniors; however, its plan structure includes extraordinarily cheap, customizable plans that allow you to pay for only what you think you’ll need.
As opposed to most mobile services, Tello’s plans are not separated into clear tiers. Instead, they offer you the ability to create a plan by selecting the amount of talk, text, and data that you want and pricing it accordingly.
As an example, in the chart above we set as much to zero as we could to achieve the $5 per month plan, which is 100 minutes of talk with no text or data. For some seniors who only want a phone for emergencies, this could be a practical option.
For the other plans, we created comparable options to the tiers of other major carriers to demonstrate Tello’s pricing structure. No matter what you pay for, Tello is one of the most practical and affordable plans out there.
How to Purchase Tello
On Tello.com, you have a few options in the form of links in the header, including “plans,” “phones,” and “bring your own phone.” Each will send you down a different path to purchase your Tello plan.
“Phones” is a page that lets you compare the devices for sale on Tello if you need a new phone. The cheapest options are modern flip phones, including the Alcatel Go Flip. Tello also offers Motorola, Apple iPhone, and Samsung Galaxy options, all the way up to their most expensive device, the Samsung Galaxy S22 5G. Choosing the right device depends on comparing their prices and features to your specific needs.
Alternatively, selecting “bring your own phone” sends you to a page that asks you to input your IMEI/ESN number. This is just so the service can test your phone for its compatibility. The number is located in the “settings” menu of your phone.
If your device is compatible, you will then go to “plans.” This page is where you will create your own custom phone plan by selecting the amount of talk, text, and data you would like your plan to cover. The price of your plan will automatically update as you change the options. Tello makes it easy to follow the on-screen instructions to the end, where you will pay for your plan and send for either your new SIM card or a new device.
There are no long-term contracts or activation fees with Tello’s service. You can cancel or change your plan at any time at no additional cost. Their streamlined plans can only be bought per phone, so you can’t combine them into a family plan – each line pays its own bill per month.
Tello doesn’t charge its customers for international calls, which could potentially make them a great business phone provider. The ability to customize your talk, text, and data limits for each phone line and only pay for what you absolutely need gives Tello customers more control over their bills than those of the average carrier.
Tello Network Coverage
The Tello network is what’s known as an MVNO or mobile virtual network operator. This just means that rather than operating their own cell towers, they piggyback off the hardware of a major carrier (in this case, T-Mobile).
What this means is that the Tello network can offer its users reduced prices due to saving money on infrastructure, but it can’t guarantee the network speeds or coverage of the major carriers. On T-Mobile’s network, Tello’s users will not have first priority, which means data speeds can be dodgy in congested areas or nonexistent in rural ones.
We recommend researching the coverage in your area to determine whether Tello will give you competitive service. For example, its network is stronger in the eastern half of the United States. In some rural areas out West, the signal can disappear completely.
Tello vs. T-Mobile
As we mentioned, Tello operates on T-Mobile’s nationwide network, so the coverage is similar despite differences in pricing and prioritization. Tello excels when it comes to affordable plans with minimal talk and text, while T-Mobile senior plans offer the most affordable unlimited data plans.
T-Mobile Essentials 55+
$6 per month
$27.50 per month
Talk, Text, and Data
Must be 55+
At $5 per month, Tello’s basic plan offers possibly one of the cheapest ways to buy a phone plan. Their customization model is great for seniors who want to pick and choose the features they need to create an individualized monthly bill for their mobile phone.
Those who are looking for a way to merge plans into one family bill or to get consistent data speeds should consider a major carrier’s options in comparison. Tello is for people who want practical, individualized plans that allow those with minimal needs for a mobile service to pay a low cost that matches them.
To learn more about our favorite phones and providers, be sure to check out our helpful guides.
The major downside of Tello is its inconsistent network coverage in comparison to major carriers. For some users, especially those who live in rural areas in the Midwest, Tello’s network may not even apply. Research their coverage areas before signing up for a plan.
Amie has been writing about senior care products and services for the last decade. She is particularly passionate about new technologies that help improve the quality of life for seniors and their families. Seeing her parents and grandparents age made Amie ask herself, “Would this be good enough for my loved ones?” In her spare time, Amie enjoys outdoor adventures and spontaneous road trips. Learn more about Amie here