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Prepaid Operator Profile: Ting

This is one in a series of Prepaid Phone News' series of comprehensive US prepaid mobile operator profiles. These profiles cover all the major US mobile operators' prepaid plans as well as MVNOs which offer a good value.

Overview: Ting is a relatively new (launched Feb., 2012) Sprint and T-Mobile mobile virtual mobile operator (MVNO) which buys service from Sprint and T-Mobile and resells it to individual customers. Ting is a part of Tucows, Inc., a major Internet domain registrar and the operator of the Tucows Downloads site. At the end of Sept, 2015, Ting had approximately 122,000 active accounts and 192,000 active devices.

Technology: 

CDMA accounts: Ting CDMA operates on the 850 (b 26) and 1900 (b 25) Mhz bands with 1RTT, EVDO and LTE data support. 4G LTE on the 850 (b 26), 1900 (b25) and 2.5 Ghz (b 41) bands.  Ting CDMA also has voice roaming on 1900 Mhz and 850 Mhz CDMA networks.

or

GSM accounts: Ting GSM operates GSM on the 1900 Mhz band, UMTS on the 1700 and 1900 bands and LTE in bands 2,4 and 12 with voice and text roaming on 850 and 1900 Mhz GSM networks

Plans: Ting has an unusual pricing model. Users are billed for separate buckets (which Ting calls tiers) of voice minutes, texts and megabytes of data. If you use up all the minutes, messages or data in one of your buckets, Ting will automatically upgrade you to the next larger bucket for the current month only. You can block these automatic updates by setting usage and/or spending limits that cut off your data or messaging for the rest of the month when the limit is reached. Here are the available tiers.

Ting Pricing
Tier XS S M L XL Beyond XL
Minutes 0 100 500 1000 2100
Cost $0 $3 $9 $18 $35 1.9¢/ea
Text Messages (domestic and international) $0 100 1000 2000 4800
Cost $0 $3 $5 $8 $11 1/4¢ each
Data (MB) 0 100 500 1024 2048
Cost $0 $3 $10 $16 $20 $10 per GB
Ting also charges a $6/month service fee regardless of usage and adds a number of taxes and fees that vary by state and run  anywhere from one to ten dollars per month. Data, minute and messaging tiers can be shared across multiple phones or users on the same account.

If you find Ting's pricing confusing, here are a few examples.

1 phone, 1-100 minutes, no messages,  no data: $9/month ($6 service fee + $3 S voice tier)
1 phone, 1-100 minutes, 1-100 messages,  .01-100 MB: $15/month ($6 service fee + $3 S voice tier + $3 S messaging tier + $3 S data tier)
2 phones, 3000, minutes, 4000 messages,  2MB: $95.10/month ($6 service fee for line 1 + $6 service fee for line 2 + $35 XL voice tier + $17.10 for 900 minutes at 1.9¢ each + $11 XL messaging tier + $20 XL data tier)

International Rates: It appears that, unlike most operators, Ting charges the same rate for international calls to mobile phones as it does to land lines. This results in very reasonable rates (full list) for calling mobile phones. Sample rates per minute: Canada 1¢; Mexico 1¢; China 2¢; UK 2¢; Philippines 11¢.   International calls also reduce your available minute tier balance.

There is no extra charge for sending or receiving international texts.

International Roaming: Ting (GSM only) supports roaming  in many countries (full list and rates).
Sample rates:

  • Canada, Chile, China, Columbia, Costa Rica, Denmark, El Salvador, Germany, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Philippines, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, Thailand, UK - voice 30¢/minute, texts sent 12¢ each. texts received free, data:  30¢/MB.
  • France, Lebanon, Nigeria - voice $2.50/minute, texts sent 12¢ each. texts received 12¢, data:  $15/MB.
  • Cruise ships - voice $6/minute, texts sent 12¢ each. texts received 12¢, data:  $15/MB.

Coverage: Ting CDMA uses the Sprint native network. There is no extra cost voice and SMS (but not data) roaming on Verizon and regional CDMA networks.

Ting GSM uses the T-Mobile network with some off-network voice and text roaming.

Ting's interactive coverage maps does a good job of indicating where each type of data is available and lets you zoom in to see block by block coverage.

Devices: For a small operator, Ting offers a lot of different phones including several feature phones, over a dozen Android phones ranging from sub $100 refurbished phones to the latest LTE flagship models from Samsung, HTC and LG.

How to Buy: Ting phones can only be purchased from the Ting site.

BYOSD: Ting CDMA supports Bring Your Own Sprint Device (BYOD). Most Sprint and Sprint MVNO devices, should work with the following exceptions:
  • Device must not be currently active on the Sprint network. 
  • Device must not be blacklisted for non-payment or as lost or stolen. 
  • BlackBerrys, Palm WebOS and Push To Talk phonescan't be used. 
  • Virgin Mobile, Boost Mobile and Sprint Prepaid phones must be used for 12 months on the service they were sold for (i.e., irgin Mobile, Boost Mobile or Sprint Prepaid) before they can be used on any Sprint MVNO, including Ting.
Ting GSM SIMs work in all T-Mobile phones and unlocked GSM phones that support t-Mobile's bands.

How to Activate: Activate online at ting.com/activate or by calling 1-855-846-4389. from another phone. Activation is free.

Payment Options: Currently the only payment option is auto pay using a credit or debit card.

Account expiration: plans automatically renew every month with plan and usage fees charged to your credit or debit card. If the charges are declined your service will be suspended.

Account Management: Ting offers an online dashboard displaying how much of your data, voice and messaging buckets they have used. Users can setup alerts that will disable data or messages for the remainder of the current billing period when usage reaches a specified amount.

Tethering: (using phone as a modem for a laptop or other device) is allowed with no restrictions.

Call Forwarding, (Ting CDMA): 

To forward all calls to another number: Ting CDMA: Press *72 followed by the number you want calls forwarded to (*72-123-456-7890), press SEND and wait for a confirmation tone or message. You will be billed for forwarded calls.
To cancel call forwarding: Press *720 SEND and wait for a confirmation tone or message.

To forward unanswered calls only (conditional call forwarding): Press *28 followed by the number you want calls forwarded to (*28-123-456-7890), press SEND and wait for a confirmation tone or message. You will be billed for forwarded calls.
To cancel conditional call forwarding: Press *38 SEND and wait for a confirmation tone or message.

Call Forwarding, (Ting GSM): 

To forward unanswered calls: Press **61*1 followed by the number you want calls forwarded to, followed by # (**62*1-123-456-7890), press SEND and wait for a confirmation tone or message. You will be billed for forwarded calls.
To cancel unanswered call forwarding: Press ##61# SEND and wait for a confirmation tone or message.

To forward calls when your phone is unreachable: Press **62*1 followed by the number you want calls forwarded to, followed by # (**62*1-123-456-7890), press SEND and wait for a confirmation tone or message. You will be billed for forwarded calls.
To cancel unreachable call forwarding: Press ##62# SEND and wait for a confirmation tone or message.

To forward calls you phone is busy: Press **67*1 followed by the number you want calls forwarded to, followed by # (**67*1-123-456-7890), press SEND and wait for a confirmation tone or message. You will be billed for forwarded calls.
To cancel conditional call forwarding: Press ##67# SEND and wait for a confirmation tone or message.

Call Waiting and 3-Way Calling (Ting CDMA and GSM)

Call waiting:  Call waiting is enabled by default. It lets you place one call on hold while you take another call. When you are on a call and have another incoming call, you will hear a short tone. You'll have approximately 30 seconds to answer before the second caller hears a standard message or is forwarded to voicemail. You will be billed for both calls.

To answer Call Waiting: To put the first call on hold, press "SEND." You'll automatically be connected with the second call. To return to the first call, press "SEND" again. To switch between the two calls, press "SEND."

3-Way Calling: To add a second person while on a call press SEND and dial the new number or choose it from contacts. When the other party answers press SEND to join the two calls.

"Secret" Codes:
##786# (most phones) displays the phone's MSID, ESN, MEID, PRL, call and data counters and version numbers.

Free information services calls
*611 - Ting Mobile customer care
711 - Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS) for the hearing and speech impaired
911 - Emergency services
Other 3 digit codes like 211, 311 and 511 are not free on Ting

Customer Service:
Phone support: : 1.855.TING.FTW (855.846.4389) Monday to Friday from 8am until 8pm (ET).
Email support: help@ting.com
Online email support form: help.ting.com/anonymous_requests/new

Phone Sales and General Information Web Site: ting.com

Ting Pros: Good pricing for moderate use, good phone selection including the latest high end Android phones, BYOSD, online usage records, call forwarding, voice roaming, tethering allowed.

Ting Cons: Pricing not competitive with prepaid monthly plans for heavy users, $6 monthly fee, no weekend customer support.

Updated 8/5/16 - Data prices lowered.


33 comments:

Comment Page :
  1. error alert; under coverage you refer to Virgin instead of Ting

    ReplyDelete
  2. I believe the control offered by the Dashboard is a plus.
    I also think the plan sharing capability combined with the Dashboard makes Ting ideal for families.

    The $6 device fee discourages folks who activate and do not use, which increases overhead cost.
    It also helps keep the cost per resource unit low.
    Ting is averaging $150 profit per customer per year, so this is apparently working.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I find your comment of "Ting is averaging $150 profit per customer per year" to be difficult to swallow.

      That number might be gross profit or operating profit (EBIT), but I highly doubt that it is net profit. Here's why: "The MVNO submits a proposed bundle of minutes and data to an carrier – along with a $15,000 fee — and if it’s approved, the carrier then takes 25 percent to 30 percent off the top of every monthly bill, Khattak said. (source: http://gigaom.com/2012/06/25/why-are-mvnos-so-hot-right-now-thank-the-carriers/) The network carriers like Sprint take 25% to 30% of Ting's revenues -- in pratice, the actual is negotiated and is confidential -- but a 30% haircut or commission makes it tough for Ting to make money.

      You have to understand the $6 is akin to a fixed cost, but Ting charges pay for actual use. This is a difficult concept for people to understand. I have Verizon 4G LTE data service where I get 5GB of data for $50 a month -- my cost is $50 each month regardless if I use 1 MB or 5 GB. If I use 2GB for the month, then, my cost per GB is $25. Verizon charges a sunk cost plus overage fee, meaning it's step function (i.e the fixed costs are bundled into the fee).

      Ting also has a step function with a low fixed cost and variable cost pricing. Therefore, you can back into (or solve backwards) to the $150 profit number.

      Delete
    2. CEO was quoted as saying $100-$150 profit per customer per year.
      He did not say gross or net.

      Delete
    3. The $150 per user figure is from a Tucows investors conference call Nov. 13, 2012 (transcript - free registration required to view).

      In the call, Elliot Noss Tucows CEO, said "We’ve said in the past that our customers were in the $150 a year range to us and we’ve told you what the gross margin is and that $150 by the way is a margin number, not a revenue number."

      Gross margin is sales minus cost of product and excludes fixed costs like rents, office supplies and taxes so the actual profit is less than $150.

      Delete
    4. "So far Ting has not disclosed how many customers it has, but Ting CEO Elliot Noss told AllThingsD that the number is not large enough to be material to parent company Tucows. "Things have been very good for us," Noss said, adding that Ting customers produce $100 to $150 per year in profits. We're very pleased,"
      -Fierce Wireless

      Delete
    5. Regarding subscriber numbers, in the Nov 13 earnings call (transcript) Noss said, "During the quarter, we added approximately 3,000 new accounts and approximately 4,500 new devices bringing the total number of accounts to more than 5,000 and the total number of devices to more than 8,000."

      Delete
  3. Regarding Ting BYOD, I was able to bring over 2 of six Ptel phones, Sanyo Zio and Pro200. I bought these two from ACRS, so they may have been Sprint phones.

    The others were labeled as Boost in the Sprint system, even though Sprint sold them to Ptel, and they were listed in the plbl database for MVNO use. The ESN checks out OK at first, but Ting cannot bring them over to activate them.

    I think a lot of ex-Ptel customers would like to move to Ting, but apparently cannot if they bought a Ptel phone that was originally destined for Boost. Maybe Eco or Kajeet can activate them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Update: Ting needs any phone with a Boost ID to have its ESN in the Sprint SPCS database, not the PLBL database, in order for their automation to 'bring it in' for Ting use. This is true even for ex-Boost devices sold as refurbs by Ting that are moved to other MVNOs, using the PLBL, then brought back to Ting. These phones still retain their Boost ID in PLBL. Sometimes Ting tech support can move a device in manually (or move the ESN so the automation can do it), sometimes not.

      Delete
  4. Know the cost of testing devices you move to Ting.
    You are not charged to activate a second device until the end of the billing cycle. Then you pay a pro-rated monthly device charge ($6 x the portion of the month that device was active).
    At the end of the billing cycle, you pay government taxes on each device, without pro-ration.
    Example: in your state, you pay a monthly telecom tax of $3.50 per device and a $1 e911 fee per device. You pay federal taxes.
    If you use a second device for two weeks and then deactivate it, you would pay: $3 device fee, $3.50 telecom tax and $1 e911 tax; $7.50 plus any applicable federal taxes.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Ting is signing up people for details about their upcoming iPhone plan. Bring your Sprint iPhone to Ting soon. No need to pay $40-$60 to flash your iPhone 4 to Verizon.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Here is a pretty good preview from the Ting blog.
      https://ting.com/blog/imagining-the-ting-iphone-plan/

      Delete
    2. The key word is likely, "Ting will likely get the iPhone some time soon". I hope it happens but Apple is a tough negotiator and might not offer the iPhone to Ting on terms it considers reasonable.

      Also, the blog post is about iPhones sold by Ting not BYOSD iPhones. BYOSD would require Sprint's approval.

      Delete
    3. Right. When you sign up for details about the plan they ask whether you are interested in BYOD a Sprint iPhone to Ting. Maybe they just want that info as leverage in their ongoing discussions with Sprint about the iPhone. I think they may think they are close, or they would not have started the signup page.

      Delete
  6. Ting has made the first change in their bucket rates, "slashing" the prices for data. Well, maybe if you use a lot of data:
    https://ting.com/blog/we-have-slashed-our-data-pricing/?utm_source=Ting+Production&utm_campaign=a04dadf737-Rate+drop+email&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_4d8c9dacd7-a04dadf737-74681417

    ReplyDelete
  7. Ting now will activate your HTC One or Galaxy S4, and is selling them via Glyde.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Ting has a new way to attract customers, in addition to paying a portion of their ETF. Sell your device on Glyde and buy an equivalent Sprint device. Ting will pay any difference in price. If you make a profit, Ting will still pay your transaction and shipping fees. Details are here:
    https://ting.com/swap?utm_source=Ting+Production&utm_campaign=fdd3d2eacf-DA-Device-swap-5_22_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_4d8c9dacd7-fdd3d2eacf-74681417

    ReplyDelete
  9. Ting is signing people up for notice soon that they can use a Sprint iPhone 5S or 5C with Ting service. Ting can provide the LTE SIM card.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Ting is offering a $100 referral credit through Dec if you buy a phone or BYOSD (account credit).
    The Ting user who refers you also gets a credit.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm interested. Any readers use Ting and want free service credits for posting a referral link here?

      Delete
  11. Sprint MVNO TING adds support for GSM service, likely with T-Mobile.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ting starts T-Mobile service in Feb 2015. Free voice and sms roaming on AT&T and regional carriers. You can have a Sprint and a T-Mobile phone sharing the same Ting account. If your phone supports both Sprint and US GSM carriers (e.g., Nexus 5) you can use two Ting SIMs with one phone (two phone numbers). Sign up on the Ting site for updates on their GSM service.

      Delete
  12. Ting announced huge reductions in international calling rates today:
    https://ting.com/blog/new-ting-international-calling-rates/?utm_source=Ting+Production&utm_campaign=1f4496ab66-New_International_Rates_IC_2_8_2016&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_4d8c9dacd7-1f4496ab66-75935757
    The new rates apply to both Sprint and T-Mobile network service. For example, Canada drops from 15c/min. to 1c. UK goes to 2c from 52c. Mexico drops to 1c/min. from 28c. Just dial the international number; no extra dialing required. You can turn off the feature in your Dashboard.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Ting has lowered its international rates, listed here:
    https://ting.com/international_calling

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've verified that the international rates listed in the post are current.

      Delete
  14. Which coverage is larger? Ting's Sprint network with roaming on Verizon network, or Verizon native network. What about Verizon postpaid network with roaming?.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There's Sprint coverage in some areas that don't have Verizon native coverage so Ting with roaming should be better than Verizon native and close to Verizon postpaid. But Verizon postpaid includes data roaming and Ting doesn't.

      Delete
  15. Dennis, following your above reply, is Ting coverage with roaming same as Sprint's postpaid coverage?

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  16. Ting doesn't impress me much. I'm sure it works for parking phones and minimal users but nothing impressive other than that.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. With the $6 base charge, it's an expensive way to park a phone.

      My brother and his wife use Ting and it works well for them. Most months they pay around $30 for the two lines. Twice a year when they travel, their bill goes up, but not that much. Still cheaper than what they previously paid for one line on a big name.

      Delete
  17. Ting just lowered mobile data rates for every tier after the $3 one. Tier 2 is $10 vs. $12; 1GB is $16; and 2GB costs $20 vs. $29. They charge $10/GB after the 2GB now.

    ReplyDelete
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