Two affordable cell phone plans with some important caveats
Tello vs. Spectrum Mobile: The Difference Comes Down to Network
Tello and Spectrum offer similar plans and pricing, but with a major difference: Tello uses T-Mobile’s network for coverage, and Spectrum uses Verizon’s network. It’s also important to note right off the bat that Spectrum Mobile really only makes sense if you already pay for Spectrum internet. If you don’t already pay for Spectrum internet, you’ll need to pay an extra $10 every month on your Spectrum Mobile bill.
Both Tello and Spectrum made our list of best cell phone plans for 2023, but we would only recommend Spectrum Mobile to those of you who are already Spectrum customers.
Tello vs. Spectrum data plans
Tello has several cheap limited data plans, whereas Spectrum only offers two unlimited plans. Here’s a comparison of both carrier’s data plans that offer 10GB of data or more:
We like that Tello offers a variety of cell phone plans—not just unlimited options. If you’re looking for a limited plan, then this decision just got a lot easier for you: You should choose Tello.
Spectrum’s basic unlimited data plan costs $5 more than Tello's. We’d base the choice on whether you prefer Verizon’s or T-Mobile’s wireless network. Don’t forget that you need to be an existing Spectrum customer to get the price listed above; otherwise, you’ll need to shell out an extra $10 a month.
Spectrum offers a premium unlimited plan in the sense that it costs more than the base cell phone plan, but it doesn’t offer much in the way of value. The Unlimited Plus Data Option provides higher-quality streaming, but that won’t make a difference if you’re streaming live TV with a Wi-Fi connection.
Free international calling with Tello
Tello doesn’t pride itself on offering a bunch of perks, but it’s pretty cool that you get international calling to landlines in over 60 countries, including Canada and Mexico. Spectrum also offers free calling to landlines in Mexico and Canada, but doesn’t give you the extra 60 countries for free. If you have loved ones to call abroad, Tello will be a better match.
Tello vs. Spectrum family data plans
Unfortunately, neither Tello nor Spectrum offers family plan discounts. Check out our roundup of the best family plan discounts if you need to pay for multiple lines.
Tello vs. Spectrum coverage and performance
Prepaid carriers like Tello and Spectrum don’t own wireless networks. Instead, they pay rent to big carriers (like T-Mobile and Verizon) to use their network coverage. In this case, Tello rents the T-Mobile 5G network, and Spectrum rents from Verizon’s 5G network. Verizon offers the most coverage in the country, but it’s all relative to where you live.
Before deciding between Tello or Spectrum, we highly recommend checking out the coverage map below. Just enter your zip code and see what kind of coverage you can expect on both the Verizon and T-Mobile networks. The more purple you see, the better coverage you should experience.
Tello vs. Spectrum data speeds
Based on our research and testing, T-Mobile’s 5G network provides faster speeds on average than Verizon’s 5G network: 54.1Mbps vs. 30.2Mbps. Like coverage, data speeds depend on location, but expect speeds somewhere within the average range. We highly recommend asking some neighbors what kind of coverage and data speeds they get with their cell phone plans. Take note if your neighbor complains about getting a bad experience with carriers on T-Mobile or Verizon’s networks.
Occasional data throttling
The downside of opting for budget-friendly prepaid carriers like Tello and Spectrum is the occasional slowdown of your internet speeds. If tons of people are using wireless data at the same time, major carriers will give priority data to its own customers over folks using prepaid carriers like Spectrum or Tello.
Imagine this scenario: You're paying for Tello, and your friend pays for a pricey T-Mobile unlimited plan. Both of you need a ride home after a crowded concert, and to your frustration, your Uber app struggles to connect to the internet. Meanwhile, your friend effortlessly requests a ride without any connectivity issues. What's the key difference? Your friend's network request received priority over yours, leaving you to grapple with data throttling. This sort of thing shouldn’t happen often, but throttling is annoying when it rears its ugly head.
Tello vs. Spectrum Recap
Tello and Spectrum offer a very similar unlimited plan, but Tello offers better value overall. Tello gives you free international calling to landlines across the globe and a wider variety of plans to choose from. Spectrum’s mobile plans cost more if you’re not a Spectrum Internet customer, which might be a dealbreaker for some.
- Data plans: As long as you already pay for Spectrum internet, the basic unlimited plan from Spectrum and Tello virtually costs the same. Spectrum has a premium plan with HD-quality streaming for those who watch a lot of content on the go.
- Coverage: Tello uses T-Mobile’s network, and Spectrum uses Verizon’s network. Coverage reliability heavily depends on where you live, although Verizon’s network (which Spectrum uses) has better national coverage overall.
- Performance: On average, Tello users should get faster data on T-Mobile’s 5G network. Spectrum customers will also get solid speeds on Verizon’s 5G network, but typically not quite as fast.
This review is based on monitoring the plans, pricing, and performance of Tello and Spectrum. We have incorporated the most up-to-date plan details from both providers, considered customer input, conducted firsthand assessments, and leveraged our database of over 100,000 customers to assess the merits and drawbacks of each carrier.