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Prepaid Operator Profile: Tello

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This is one in a series of Prepaid Phone News' series of US prepaid mobile operator profiles. These profiles cover all the major US mobile operators' and MVNO's prepaid plans.

Overview: Tello launched in 2016. It's an MVNO operating on the Sprint network and is part of KeepCalling, a global telecommunications company that was founded 2002.

Tello uses the Sprint network which runs voice, 1xRTT and EVDO data on the 800 Mhz and 1900 Mhz bands and LTE on bands 25, 26 and 41.

Plans: Tello offers "Build Your Own" and Pay As You Go plans.

Custom (Build Your Own) Plans

Tello's "build your own" plans  let you combine bundles of minutes and data to build a plan. All Talk bundles also include unlimited texts. MMS are charged based on the amount of data used. The following bundles are available. Prices are per 30 days:

Pay As You Go Plan.
Tello also offers a Pay As You Go plan.
  • Rates: 3¢/minute, 1¢/text, 2¢/MB. MMS are charged based on the data used, not as texts.
  • Available top ups: $10, $20 and $50. Top ups do not expire provided a call, text, data usage or top-up occurs at least once every three months.
Tethering and Hotspot: Tethering and using your phone as a hotspot is allowed on all Tello plans at no extra charge.

International Calling: Calls to Mexico, Canada and China  are included with all custom plans that include minutes.  For other countries, Tello offers pay per minute international calling on all plans.  Build Your Own Plan users need to add a Pay As You Go top up to pay for international calls. Sample rates per minute for calls to mobile numbers: Canada 1¢, China 1.2¢, Mexico 1¢, Philippines 13.9¢, United Kingdom 1.7¢. Click here for calling rates for other countries.

International SMS: Customers can purchase Pay As You Go credit to send international texts, which cost 1¢ each to send regardless of the destination. Click here for a list of the countries and operators you can send international messages to.

Taxes and fees: In addition to applicable state and local taxes, Tello adds a Federal Cost Recovery fee and the Federal Universal Service Fund fee (these are business taxes tax most prepaid operators do not pass on to customers.)

Add on minutes or data: Not available. If you run out of minutes or data on a custom plan you can switch to a more expensive plan using the My Tello Dashboard. You can also combine a pay as you go plan and an unlimited plan on the same line of service. Plan changes are effective immediately. Any remaining minute or data balance in the old plan rolls over to the new plan and is good for 30 days.

WiFi Calling:

Tello offers iOS and Android apps that let you make calls over Wi-Fi in the US or abroad. Wi-Fi calls are charged against your available plan minutes or Pay As You Go balance.

International Roaming: Tello does not offer international roaming. Calls can be made over Wi-Fi using the My Tello app from anywhere in the world.

SMS Short Codes: texting to and from short codes is supported.

Coverage: Tello uses the Sprint native network. Off network roaming is not available. You can use Tello's Coverage Checker to see if service is available at an address.

Devices: Tello sells a variety of phones are including iPhones and Android flagships.

BYOP: You can bring your own Sprint phone or a universal unlocked phone like the Motirola Moto E4  phone to Tello. SIMs are $9.99.

How to Activate: Use Tello's Bring Your Own Phone page to activate BYOP phones.  Activate phones purchased from Tello by clicking the Activate Device button on your My Tello online dashboard. You can also activate by calling Tello at 866-377-0294 or 678-306-1436.

CDMA Data Settings:
New Tello phones should automatically configure themselves when you turn them off and on after activating the phone with Tello online.
For used phones or it turning a new phone off and on doesn't work, perform a network reset by:
iPhones: dial ##873283#
Most Android phones and feature phones : dial ##72786#
Nexus phones: dial *#*#72786#*#*
If prompted for a passcode enter your phone's six digit MSL which is available on your My Tello online dashboard.

Payment Options: Tello accepts credit or debit cards and Paypal. Auto pay is required for Custom plans and is optional on Pay As You Go.

Account expiration: If your Pay As You Go account balance is zero or your Custom plan auto-payment fails your service will be paused. The phone number will only expire if no activity is recorded for 6 consecutive months.

Account Management: Tello offers an online dashboard called My Tello that lets you track usage, top-up your Pay As You Go account, change your payment method and change plans. Plan changes take effect immediately. The My Tello iOS and Android apps let you perform the same functions as the online dashboard.

Call Forwarding: Call forwarding is supported. Customers just need to dial *72 followed by the phone number to which they would like to forward calls.

Call Waiting and 3-Way Calling

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:
*#06# displays the phone's IMEI and or MEID on most phones

Free information services calls
611 - Tello 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 Tello.

Customer Service:
Phone support: : 611 from your Tello phone or 866-377-0294 or 678-306-1436, available 24/7. Support is US based.
Email support: [email protected] or use the web form on the Tello Contact page to email Tello.
Social Media: Twitter, Facebook, Google+, YouTube

Phone Sales and General Information Web Site: https://tello.com/

Tello Pros: 24/7 US based support,  BYOP, Tethering and Hotspot allowed, low pay as you go rates, low international calling rates, no line charge on build your own plans.

Tello Cons: Limited Sprint coverage and no roaming.  Heavy data use is expensive.

Updated 3/7/2018: price reductions on custom plans.


Comment Page :
  1. Thanks for the info! But meh on the pricing, good luck guys...

  2. Thanks for info. But NO SPRINT haha.

  3. While the monthly rates are not competitive, they beat Project Fi and Ting.

    Paygo appears reasonable.

    Thanks for the information. Choice is good.

  4. Can they activate a new or used Boost or Virgin phone that has never been used on Boost or Virgin?

    1. No Tello is subject to the same Sprint restrictions on eligible phones as every other Sprint MVNO.

  5. Also with Tello, you can check your paygo balance by calling 611 then option 2. Detailed call and text records are included in the online account management website and app. Data usage is consolidated into one record per day. No online chat support, but you can submit a help request online and they will call or email you back.

  6. I have a line on tello used it for couple weeks no problem. Minor data problem. Emailed C/S expected to wait for 8 to 12 hours.Called me 10 minutes later.Was not expecting them to call! They were calling to see if it was fixed.It was! Great C/S call was from Atlanta. They called me Very impressed with the service I got. Hope their C/S stays this good.Happy Customer!

  7. Hear some news about an actual abuser. A carrier that ripped off its customers by not providing them the service they promised.


    1. That has nothing to do with Tello. Why post it here?

    2. Tello is not mentioned in the article you quaoted...what is it you are trying to say? Your post has nothing to do with the provider being discussed ??? Seems like Tello has some decent prices for low end users although the prices on their phones seem a little high! I think I could easily get by for about 9 bucks but I hate the added taxes after the fact! Thanks Dennis for these profiles !!!

  8. Call Forward *72 is supported

    1. Do you know that call forwarding is supported from personal experience or is it documented somewhere on the Tello site?

      Most Sprint MVNOs don't support call forwarding, although Ting does.

  9. Thank you Dennis. I love these Profiles, and their prominent (fixed) location on the main page.

  10. I agree, the profiles of new MVNOs are extremely helpful.

    Does Tello ever have promotions?

  11. Check their Facebook page for a 15% discount coupon.

  12. Im out here in Honolulu, Hawaii and currently om my 3rd month of service with Tello with the 1GB ($11) data only plan (no text no phone usage-but they do give you a new phone number). Activated my spare galaxy s3 (previously with boost) with no problems, just followed the Tello website instructions. Service was activated less than 15 minutes later. Coverage is good. I currently use the phone for a hotspot only, feeding the s3 hotspot data into a ipad while while driving for uber. Also have google voice on the phone and am able to make free phone calls/text thru google voice if needed. This is the cheapest straight up 1GB of 4gLTE hi speed data (sans the "free" plans" ie ring plus)

    1. Anyone currently using Tello share what the extra charges--tax etc that they add on after the fact ??

    2. I just signed up 3 lines on Tello.
      Each line I added $5.00 the tax was 18% 90 cents, for my upstate NY address.
      The tax for New York City was 23.6 % $1.18.

      You can click "JOIN TELLO", go as far as adding "PAY AS YOU GO CREDIT", enter your address (the second time it asks for the address calculates the tax) there is a button to click to calculate the taxes, and you will see the tax amount and the total (in case you have difficulty adding).

    3. Long story short,:
      cheapest rates for prepaid.
      Sprint is as good as VZW wherever I go. Better in my residence, I got lucky, the tower is across the street. Verizon, I missed calls albeit extremely rarely.
      Prepaid balances don't expire, this is a huge plus, good incentive not to talk too much.
      No feeling like "I need to use up my minutes", which is silly, a waste of time, and frugal.

      As far as no using data while calling, the Tello app, designed for wifi calling could be running in the background I am sure. But then you need to figure you'd be using data plus 3 cents a minute.

      I just have a dedicated iPhone on FreedomPop for using WAZE etc. heck, 1.5 megabytes a month, 500 + 500 from having 10 friends, 500 from friends sharing (which I seldom need to add) - (yes I am my own best friends).

      That one GB from FreedomPop goes a long way for WAZE. Never did the math.
      Also good for Skype, iMessage, FaceTime, web browsing, checking email, but, it means having 2 phones. but ok. After all, WAZE kills a battery, so I have one iPhone in a Mophie juice pack, connected to a Mophie windshield mount/charger.

      My calls are done on the Tello device. If I get FaceTime, MagicJack, Skype, TextMe etc. while driving, I can still hear the directions from the little lady from WAZE, and hold FaceTime call on speaker just fine.


      Just out of curiosity I checked some other areas, and NH was $1.48 29.6% yikes.
      (so much for live free or die)
      Las Vegas was $.30 for the $5.00 pay as you go top up.
      viva Las Vegas!

      NOW, as far as a payment going through by faking your billing to cheat on taxes, would not be nice. I think the billing info needs to match your credit card billing info, maybe not?

      They do take paypal though, and again, I do not know if paypal provides a merchant with your ship to of bill to info.

  13. > Anyone currently using Tello share what the extra charges--tax etc that they add on after the fact ??

    For a recent PayGo top up in Maryland:

    Pay As You Go $20 + Federal Cost Recovery Charge $0.14 + Federal Universal Service Fund $1.33 + MD Prepaid Wireless E 911 Fee $0.60 + State Sales Tax $1.29 = $23.35.

    (Old invoices are kept online in your Tello account, too.)

  14. What would cost less, paying 1¢ per text or using a messaging app with the data rate of 2¢/MB on the paygo plan?

    1. I was really hoping someone would know the answer to this

    2. Using an app should be much cheaper.

      A text message is 160 characters or less, text only, no images. That's 160 bytes. Messaging apps will add some overhead but unless they are adding images or advertising sending a text with an app should use less than 500 bytes per massage.

      There are 1,048,576 bytes in one MB, so you should be able to send about 1000 messages for a penny.

    3. You'll have to experiment and see for yourself. It probably depends on the number of texts and the messaging app. Assuming the app will maintain a data connection and frequently poll for new messages, it will consume data even when there are no messages to process. So, in theory, the app would be better for a large number of frequent texts and SMS for fewer, infrequent messages.

    4. Modern messaging apps don't poll for messages. They listen for an incoming push message from the messaging server. A well designed messaging app should use little or no data except when a message is sent or received.

    5. That sounds great! Can anyone recommend a messaging app or apps that use as little data as possible?

    6. How about WhatsApp or Google?

  15. Here is what I pay Tello for 1GB ($11) service in Hawaii taxes/fees included:

    $11 for Tello service
    County surcharge $0.06
    State general excise tax $0.46
    Total: $11.52 (auto payment thru CC)

    Don't have that other fees tacked on like Maryland does. Guess they charge you accordingly depending on where you live.

    1. You weren't charged the Federal Cost Recovery and the Federal Universal Service Fund fee that others have reported? Those are federal telecom taxes that should be the same in all states.

  16. Heres what I pay for Tello service in Hawaii also WITH PHONE SVC. Its interesting to note that all that the Fed Cost Recovery Charge, Fed Universal Service Fund, MD Prepaid Wireless E911 Fee is NOT tacked on for DATA ONLY! Its only tacked on when you have some kind of phone service. Example below:

    100 minutes $3
    200 text $2
    200 MB DATA $4

    TOTAL: $9
    Here comes the fees:
    County surcharge 5 cents
    FED cost recovery 2 cents
    FED universal svc fund 19 cents
    HAWAII PUC Fee 2 cents
    State excise tax 39 cents

    TOTAL: $9.67

  17. Those taxes are all so excessive and greedy. I urge everyone to do the responsible thing and find a way to legally avoid them.

  18. Does Tello round up data usage on their paygo plan?

    1. Does anyone know?

    2. Why are everyone else's questions answered while mine is ignored??

    3. Probably because no one who has seen your question knows the answer. I don't and I don't use Tello so I can't test it for you.

      I can tell you that I haven't seen or heard any complaints about inaccurate data billing from Tello users.

    4. Thank you for your reply. While you may not have a definitive answer to my question.

      "I can tell you that I haven't seen or heard any complaints about inaccurate data billing from Tello users."

      Is a helpful reply and far better than no reply at all.
      Thanks again.

    5. Kind of hard to measure as Tello charges by the megabyte and data usage records are consolidated into one per day. I've used 1.21 MB and was charged 2 cents in what I would call two data sessions thus far today, so make what you will of that.

      Their terms say:

      "All data sessions will be charged with a minimum of 100KB, even if the session usage was lower than this amount."


    6. Later in the day, after another quick email check, that total changed to 1.27 MB for 3 cents, so they will charge a penny for a fraction of a megabyte eventually.

      Tello has good customer service. Contact them if my experience doesn't answer the question and share their reply.


    7. No. Data is reported to 2 decimal places. E.g 3.55mb.

  19. My Tello phone connected to 4G LTE fine in the past, but in the last 3 days it does not connect anymore...it struggles to connect to it, then defaults back to 3G, and even that connection goes in and out, hardly working at all. Then sometimes the "1X" icon comes up instead of the 3G icon, and it goes back and forth between those. I have tried a carrier reset ##72786# and also a Profile and PRL update a few times, and still the problem does not go away. Voice calling works fine.

    What is strange is I also have another phone with another Sprint MVNO (Twigby), and the exact same problem is happening! Is Sprint having some issue with this right now? I have tried to Google it but no major issue seems to be coming up from my search. I am in suburban Phoenix (East Valley area), and the problem occurs no matter where I go in the area. What is going on?? Is anyone else having this issue?

    1. It's me again and this problem is still the same, and it's been almost 2 weeks. Very strange that LTE stopped working on both of my phones at the same time even though one is with Tello and the other Twigby, and even 3G is very spotty with both of them.

      Dennis, have you heard of this happening to anyone else? The two phones have this in common: I moved/ported them both over from RingPlus when it shut down. And both phones were brand-new never-activated Sprint Prepaid/Virgin Mobile phones that I was able to activate on RingPlus in 2015 before Sprint tightened up the rules for doing that. Do you think any of that is related to this?? Any ideas on how to figure out what is going on? Cust service at both companies haven't been able to so far

    2. I went thru same thing in North County San Diego a few months ago...drove me nuts. Now great signal back. I read that Sprint is updating LTE all over USA (and shutting some towers(lease expiring) I guess it's your turn....they seem to keep it a secret....reps never admit. Hang in there for a month or so.

  20. Minimum topup with Tello is now $10. Probably related to the credit card commission on such a small order.

  21. Been using Tello for almost 6 months.

    It's true they can activate devices currently active on a Sprint MVNO by also porting the number associated with the device over, IIRC I performed a SCRTN on my end after signing up to complete the process. (The device was originally purchased and used on a different Sprint MVNO for 15 months IIRC.)

    Monthly plans can be mixed with pay as you go for extra minutes/SMS/high-speed data or instead of paying for a bucket, in fact it's more cost-effective to do so if the line is consistently used for less than 100 minutes or less than 301 SMS messages per month.

    Overall a good value for non-unlimited use even with taxes added to advertised prices. I've been very satisfied.

    1. Just a follow-up/heads-up, Tello updated their offerings today. No further change to pay as you go, and all monthly plans now include unlimited texts. Data prices for 200 MB-2 GB have increased while 3 and 5 GB decreased. 100 to 500 minute voice tiers have also increased with no change to the unlimited minutes tier. While reviewing the new prices I also realized the cost also changes depending on the voice and data combination selected, meaning it's no longer possible to pick prices off a grid.

      The changes are already live, and my plan that had no texts now indicates unlimited texts. Overall I'm disappointed as I don't send many texts but it's probably still the most cost effective offering for what I do use.

  22. Tello sent me an email today saying stay tuned for improvements to my plan - more minutes, sms or data is coming.

    1. I'm hoping they don't change paygo for the worse.

  23. Tello lowered prices on plans again. For example, UT&T + 10 GB = $39, UT&T + 2 GB = $25, 10 GB + unlim text + no talk = $34, etc.

  24. I am thinking of activating a BYOSD on a PAYGO line. My phone already has a SIM card -- do I need to buy another one, or do I reuse the one that is already in my phone? I know for AT&T and T-Mobile I need a new SIM card, but I thought I read/heard that you reuse SIM cards with Sprint lines. Can anyone shed some light on this? TIA.

    1. Sprint SIMs are reusable and work across all Sprint MVNOs.

  25. Tello has great service. One can chat online too. I have two lines.
    They also have referral program. Let me know if you want a referral.

  26. Tello reduced pay-go call rates from 3 to 1 cent/minute. This coincides with reduced international rates. Other pay-go terms are unchanged.

    1. When did they do that, how long ago?

    2. > When did they do that, how long ago?

      Mid-July 2019.

  27. how can i reach tello

    1. You can activate a FreedomPop Sprint CDMA phone on one of Tello's low rate or Paygo plans and obtain a $10 credit on a new account. Use my code P3P1KD52 and we both receive the credit.


  28. Can I receive calls on the Tello App over Wifi or just make calls?

  29. Aug 27, 2019 - Tello promotion for new customers: "unlimited" data, minutes, texts for $39 per month. "Unlimited" means 25 GB LTE and no limit 2G speeds in this case. The 12 GB data plan option is gone.

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