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What Is Tello? (And Is This T-Mobile MVNO Right for You?)

Key Takeaways

  • Tello is an affordable alternative to top carriers in the US. Plans range from $5 to $25 per month.
  • The company is an MVNO that leases access to the T-Mobile network, offering lower prices without the need to sign a contract.
  • Tello offers fully customizable plans and free international calls to over 60 countries. You can order a Tello SIM on Amazon.


Walking into a popular carrier’s store to sign up for a phone plan isn’t a great idea, as you’ll spend more money than you need to. Your best bet is to opt for a lesser-known carrier, and Tello is about as affordable as it gets.


What Is Tello?

Tello is a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO), meaning it leases access to a mobile network rather than building and maintaining its own cell towers. Since MVNOs don’t have to build their own infrastructure, and most also don’t offer brick-and-mortar stores, they can offer plans at significantly lower prices.

Tello has been around since 2016. Its phones originally ran on the Sprint network, but following the merger between T-Mobile and Sprint, Tello switched to the T-Mobile network for coverage.

​How Much Does Tello Cost?

Tello allows you to build a plan that’s right for your needs. You can select data allotments ranging from no data up to an unlimited plan, and you can do the same with minutes.

If you don’t use data and rarely place phone calls, you can get coverage for as low as $5 per month. Plans max out at $25 per month for unlimited everything. You can even build data-only plans with no minutes, which is useful if you wish to replace your carrier with open-source tools like Cheogram and JMP.

To get a feel for what you can do, here are some of the possible plans you could create:

  • No Data + 100 Minutes: $5 per month
  • 1 GB + 500 Minutes: $8 per month
  • 5 GB + Unlimited Minutes: $14 per month
  • Unlimited Data + Unlimited Minutes: $25 per month

Tello offers prepaid plans, so you don’t need to sign a contract or pay an activation or cancellation fee. You can also save more money by referring friends; you get a $10 discount for each person who joins using your referral link (they each get a $10 discount, too).

What Features Does Tello Offer?

For all plans, text messages are unlimited, and as long as you have data, both hotspot data and Wi-Fi calling are included as well.

You also get free international calls to over 60 countries, though some countries require you to call a landline number for that benefit. For other places, prices vary wildly. For example, calls to Australia cost 1.3 cents per minute, while you’ll need to shell out 26.5 cents per minute to reach a mobile phone in Rwanda.

Unlimited plans come with 35 GB of high-speed data and slow down afterward until your cycle renews. Tello offers both 5G and 4G LTE for connectivity.​

What Phones Work With Tello?

Tello sells phones from a few brands directly, including Apple, Google, Motorola, and Samsung. It also offers a cheap flip phone. Most of the phones offered are low or mid-range devices, with the most powerful offerings being a few older flagships, like the iPhone 12, Galaxy S22, and Pixel 7 Pro.

Although there are money-saving reasons to switch to an MVNO, the real beauty of an operator like Tello is the ability to bring your own phone. This is usually the cheapest option since you can likely use your current phone or purchase one unlocked from somewhere other than Tello, whether for a lower cost or a newer device than Tello offers.

Any carrier-unlocked phone that’s compatible with the T-Mobile network will work with Tello. Phones compatible with AT&T’s network tend to be compatible with T-Mobile’s as well. To confirm beforehand, enter your IMEI on Tello’s online compatibility checker.

Purchasing a Tello SIM Card

Tello doesn’t have its own storefronts, nor will you find its SIM cards available in other retail stores. However, you can purchase cards directly from Tello’s website or order one from Tello on Amazon, where you’re likely to have faster shipping options.

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