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As you probably know, Tello Mobile has some of the cheapest cell phone plans, with even the option to build your own package. The prepaid phone carrier started as an MVNO of Sprint, which had coverage even in rural areas. But now Sprint is dead, what network does Tello use? Will I still get a usable signal when visiting Oregon?
In this article, these two are the main questions I’ll be trying to answer if you’d like to join Tello Mobile. I have covered the network towers Tello uses for native coverage, as well as when outside its zone.
Tello Mobile as a Mobile Virtual Network Operator
Tello Mobile is one of the many MVNOs (mobile virtual network operators) here in the US. The Atlanta-based phone company has been around for about seven years.
Despite its young age, Tello has managed to win a stounding positive score from 10,000+ users on Trustpilot. One of the best-selling points of the carrier is their super-flexible service, which is not only so cheap to get. But also has a custom tier you can build your own plan with preferred talk minutes, text messages, and high-speed data.
In the Tello vs Ting review, we can also see the MVNO has some decent browsing speeds, peaking at up to 280Mbps. Then, it has a FREE international calling to 60+ countries on all its standard plans, something its pricier competitors lack.
Nonetheless, the international perk on Tello owes all the thanks to its parent company KeepCalling. KeepCalling, which started in 2002, is an international calling company. The company aims to help locals and travelers communicate with their loved ones and business associates at affordable rates.
Back to Tello, the carrier is an MVNO, which translates to a phone provider without its own cell towers. So, it serves its subscribers through the network infrastructure of a Main Carrier.
What Network Does Tello Use for Native Coverage
At first, the network Tello used to serve its users was Sprint (CDMA). Sprint was the fourth Major Carrier Network at the time, with connectivity on both 4G LTE and 3G.
LTE wasn’t the only beauty of Sprint. The CDMA network also had coverage in various rural areas, something it shared with Tello and its other MVNOs.
Sadly, T-Mobile (GSM) and Sprint (CDMA) merged into one company in early 2020. The merger posed some uncertainties for existing Sprint customers and those from subcarriers like Tello.
However, the companies assured customers they would continue using their services on their respective networks. Bust was it going to be permanent? Nope.
After the merger, T-Mobile announced they would be retiring the legacy Sprint network in January 2022. The Sprint 3G was the first to retire in January 2022, followed by the LTE spectrum later in April.
Some of the MVNOs that were still on the Legacy Sprint network weren’t happy with this announcement. A good example was DISH, which had 9 million subscribers through the CDMA frequencies on its brand, Boost Mobile. And what later followed was DISH getting other towers for Boost Mobile to use.
Nonetheless, Tello Mobile was okay with the network change. In fact, the MVNO started enrolling its new customers on the new GSM network in January 2021. The existing Tello customers had until the end of 2021 to have migrated to the new GSM network.
The New GSM Network Tello Use for Native Coverage
Tello, like most other MVNOs, doesn’t state a clear answer to the question of the network they use. I’ve always wondered why they did this. But Tello claims part of the agreement with its partner is that they shouldn’t publicly use their name in marketing.
Regardless, T-Mobile is the GSM network Tello uses for native coverage here in the US. What this means is that wherever you have T-Mobile towers, your Tello Mobile phone service will also have a signal.
T-Mobile is currently the leading and most reliable 5G network, thanks to the early adoption of the mid-band (C-band) spectrum. In a recent press release, the T-Mobile Ultra Capacity 5G is available to 98% of the population or over 300 million People.
Tello Mobile service offers both 5G and 4G LTE connectivity. So, as a subscriber, your cheap phone will also have a good signal as T-Mobile users.
When you actually compare Tello vs T-Mobile coverage status, they’re about the same. In areas where you get “no coverage” on Tello, it’s the same story on T-Mobile.
How Good is the Network Tello Use in Rural Areas
Before the merger with Sprint, T-Mobile, the current Carrier Network of Tello was strongest in urban areas with dense populations. However, the GSM company is now becoming accessible even in less populated states.
For instance, the Tello/ T-Mobile network works best for almost everywhere in the eastern states. If in the Western states, the network signal is best on the metropolises. Once, you start driving outside the cities, the signal starts getting weaker to a point where you can’t get bars.
A good example is when driving through Suplee highway in Paulina and other remote areas of Oregon. I have also heard some people say downtown California (like Brentwood areas) and Madison don’t have the best T-Mobile coverage. That means our Tello Mobile won’t perform well either.
What Network Does Tello Use Outside Native Coverage
In case you’re wondering, native coverage is where a phone provider offers its services through the Primary Network. Say, the native coverage of Tello is all the areas T-Mobile signal is available.
When outside the native T-Mobile network, Tello users will have to use other means to complete their communication needs. One of these ways would have been through roaming.
However, Tello has no roaming agreements with any local carrier currently. To make it worse, T-Mobile usually doesn’t share its roaming partners with its MVNO, unlike Verizon which has its subcarriers on even the LTEIRA networks.
Therefore, to keep in touch with your contacts when outside the Tello native coverage, you’ll have to use other means. The various means include:
· WiFi calling:
One of the ways to use Tello Mobile when outside the native coverage is WiFi calling. The MVNO introduced the feature at the time they were transitioning to a GSM network.
If your phone can connect to wireless internet, the WiFi calling feature allows you to make calls and even text. It requires neither extra payment on your Tello service account nor special tools/ apps.
WiFi calling and texting works by routing your communication over your carrier. So, the person on the other end will see your call or text as usual, including your cell phone number. Likewise, you’ll also receive calls and texts like you would over an LTE or 5G network.
That said, only phones with WiFi calling support can take advantage of this feature. Apple fans have nothing to worry about here as the iPhone 6 and later support it.
As for Android users, confirm your phone brand supports WiFi calling before buying. Many options still don’t support the feature, even though it’s crucial around spotty coverage or dead zones.
For the phones with WiFi calling support, you will still need to enable the feature before you can use it.
The process to enable WiFi calling is as simple as going to Settings >> Cellular >> WiFi Calling. Then, toggle the feature ON. (On Android phones, activate the feature by going to Settings >> Networks & Internet >> Mobile network >> Advanced >> Wi-Fi Calling).
· Use My Tello App
Tello also allows you to make calls through the “My Tello” mobile app when outside native coverage. The feature is more like WiFi calling, as you must connect your phone to the internet to proceed. However, you won’t be able to receive calls and make (or receive) texts via the app.
· Use Social Platform
The third way you can communicate when outside the native network Tello uses, T-Mobile, is to use social platforms. Some of these platforms include WhatsApp, Skype, Snapchat, Instagram, and Google Chat, which allow chatting and calling.
In most of these platforms, you can receive and send texts free of charge. Some like WhatsApp also allow you to make and receive calls at no additional cost.
Nevertheless, the social platforms function by connecting through their company servers. And for that, you will need to connect your Tello phone to the internet (through fixed WiFi or mobile hotspot).
The network deal Tello has with T-Mobile is on the lower tier of the QCI standard- i.e. QCI 7. Thus, your phone will experience deprioritization.
During deprioritization, your Tello phone data speeds will drop lower than the T-Mobile customers on high-priority QCI 6 during network congestion. If your service still has high-speed data, your phone can perform most online tasks, including browsing, reading, and streaming videos.
However, after depleting your high-speed data, Tello will throttle your account to 2G speeds. If deprioritized when on 2G speeds, your phone won’t be usable for online tasks.
If looking to join, that’s everything you should know about the network Tello uses for native coverage. That network is T-Mobile, which we’ve concluded has the most reliable 5G in the country.
We’ve also seen Tello has 5G connectivity, which has decent data speeds of over 250Mbps. You’ll only need a phone compatible with Tello on 5G, preferably at mid-band/ C-band (N41) spectrum.
But to make the most of your Tello service, the phone you use should also have the necessary 4G LTE technology. The LTE tech includes bands 12 and 71 for extended-range coverage, plus bands 2/ 4/ 5/ 66 for high-capacity.
Speaking of coverage, we’ve seen the Carrier Network of Tello, T-Mobile, has poor connections in remote western states. If travelling in these areas, you may have to really on WiFi calling and texting to connect with loved ones. For the areas where the signal is weak, a signal booster may help strengthen the connection.
If you reside in these areas with weak Tello/ T-Mobile signal, I’d recommend choosing a phone provider best in the region.
For those attracted by the super-low pricing, some competitors of Tello, like Ting, also have cheap service from as low as $10/ month. Ting is an MVNO of Verizon, which has coverage even in rural areas through the LTEIRA partners.