Tello UK Review: Flexible Plans With Low UK & International Rates

June 28th, 2016

Tello is a low-cost mobile network with flexible plans and competitive rates for UK & international calling.

Tello

In the UK, Tello is a low-cost mobile network specialising in flexible 30-day plans and low-cost UK and international phone calls. The network, which uses 3G & 4G coverage from Three, allows you to build a 30-day plan from £3/month. For out-of-plan usage, Tello charges just 3p/minute, 3p/text and 1p/MB for usage in the UK. International phone calls start from 1p/minute.

In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at the Tello UK mobile network. We’ll start by looking at the price plans available and at how the prices on Tello compare to other UK mobile networks. We’ll also look at the coverage on Tello, how you can join as a new customer and how you can keep an existing phone number.

Pricing & Tariffs

30 Day Plans

Tello Build Your Own Plan

You can build your own custom plan on the Tello website.

The core of Tello’s UK offering is their flexible 30-day plan. With a 30-day plan, you’ll get a certain amount of minutes, texts and internet to use at any time over the next 30 days. You’ll pay a fixed amount for your plan based on the allowances included within it.

Uniquely, Tello allows you to build your own custom plan based on how many minutes, how many texts and how much data you require. You’ll be able to choose an option from each of the columns below when making your own customised bundle:

Minutes
100 minutes £2
200 minutes £3
500 minutes £4
Unlimited minutes £6
+
Texts
20 texts Free
100 texts 50p
Unlimited texts £1
+
Data
100MB data £1
500MB data £3
1GB data £5
2GB data £6
3GB data £7

You can build your custom plan through the interactive tool on Tello’s website:

Build Your Own Plan (tello.co.uk) »

By default, the same plan will automatically renew itself at the end of 30 days. If you like, you can change your plan at any time through the My Tello website or mobile application (available for iPhone and Android smartphones). As of July 2016, you must have an active plan on your Tello account at all times.

UK Rates

Top Up LogoFor any out-of-plan usage, Tello allows you to pay on a per-minute, per-text and per-megabyte basis. You can top-up from a minimum of just £2 each time, but it’s worth remembering this is in addition to the cost of your monthly plan.

Tello’s out-of-plan rates are amongst the lowest in the UK (they charge just 3p/minute, 3p/text and 1p/MB). The only mobile network offering slightly lower rates is Three who charge 3p/minute, 2p/text and 1p/MB on Pay As You Go. Although Three is slightly cheaper for this out-of-plan usage, they also have a number of downsides e.g. more expensive bundles, costly international calls and lack of tethering on Pay As You Go.

The following table shows Tello’s out-of-plan rates:

Calling Rates:
Voice Calls 3p/minute (any network, any time)
Calls to Voicemail 3p/minute
Calls to Special Rate Numbers 15p/minute access charge
+ service charge from the company you’re calling
Messaging Rates:
Text Message (SMS) 3p
Picture Message (MMS) Not available.
Internet Rates:
Mobile Internet 1p/MB

Order Tello SIM Card »

You can check the remaining balance on your Pay As You Go account by calling the automated line on 32123. Alternatively, you can log in to the My Tello website or app (available on iPhone and Android).

Your Tello account can be topped up through the website or app using a credit card, debit card or PayPal account. For convenience, there is an optional auto top-up feature which will recharge your account automatically when your Pay As You Go balance falls below £2.

International Rates

EarthA major selling point of the Tello network is their low rates for international calling. With a Tello SIM card, you can call abroad from as little as 1p/minute. The exact rate depends on the country you’re calling, but we’ve shown the cost for some frequently-called countries below.

International text messages range from 6p to 10p each (again, this depends on the country you’re sending a text message to).

CountryCalls to MobileCalls to LandlineText Message
China (+86)2.4p/minute2.4p/minute-/message
India (+91)2.7p/minute2.7p/minute-/message
Ireland (+353)4.7p/minute2.1p/minute-/message
Italy (+39)3p/minute2.1p/minute-/message
Pakistan (+92)4.5p/minute4.5p/minute-/message
Poland (+48)3p/minute2.6p/minute-/message
Romania (+40)3p/minute2p/minute-/message
Sri Lanka (+94)14.9p/minute15.5p/minute-/message
Turkey (+90)11.9p/minute3.7p/minute-/message
United States (+1)2p/minute2p/minute-/message

Cost of international calls & international text messages on the Tello network (calls & texts made to a phone number in another country whilst you're in the UK). Last updated on 1st October 2016. Source: tello.co.uk.

For anyone who frequently calls abroad to other countries, Tello also has a range of international bundles. The international bundles give you a large number of international minutes for a fixed price every month (e.g. you’ll get 500 minutes to the US for £8/month).

International bundles are currently available for calling Australia, Bangladesh, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Kenya, Lithuania, New Zealand, Nigeria, Pakistan, Poland, Portugal, Romania, South Africa, Spain, Thailand and the United States of America.

Credit Expiry

Phone Call

On Tello, your credit will not expire providing you use your SIM card at least once every 180 days.

On Tello, your Pay As You Go credit won’t expire providing your SIM card remains active. To keep it active, you’ll need to use the SIM card at least once every 6 months. This is stated in the terms and conditions for Tello UK SIM:

If Tello SIM is not used for a period of 6 months (no calls, texts or data usage is registered), the SIM will be deactivated and all unused balance will be lost. Upon SIM deactivation, Tello recalls no obligation to refund any lost data, Pay As You Go credit, minutes or any other account balance.

Most Pay As You Go networks for international calling have a much stricter policy on credit expiry. On Delight Mobile, Lebara Mobile, Lycamobile and Vectone Mobile, your credit will expire 90 days after it’s added to your account. Coupled with a smaller minimum top-up (just £2 on Tello), this makes Tello a much better choice for occasional mobile users wanting low international rates.

Comparison To Alternatives

£5 per month bundles

5 Pound Note

Tello has some entry-level bundles at £5/month.

On Tello, you’d be able to choose one of the following two bundles for £5/month:

  • 100 minutes, 20 texts, 500MB data
  • 200 minutes, unlimited texts, 100MB data

This compares fairly favourably to rival £5/month bundles being offered by ASDA Mobile and giffgaff:

NetworkMinutesTextsInternetMonthly
Cost
giffgaff125500100MB£5.00
ASDA Mobile1002,000100MB£5.00
ASDA Mobile2002,000-£5.00

You’ll get a free SIM card when you choose your bundle from Tello.

£10 per month bundles

10 Pound Note

Tello has a choice of six bundles for £10/month.

For £10/month, you’d be able to get one of the following six bundles on Tello:

  • 100 minutes, unlimited texts, 3GB data
  • 200 minutes, 20 texts, 3GB data
  • 200 minutes, unlimited texts, 2GB data
  • 500 minutes, 20 texts, 2GB data
  • 500 minutes, unlimited texts, 1GB data
  • Unlimited minutes, unlimited texts, 500MB data

On rival Pay As You Go mobile networks, you’d be able to get the following for £10/month:

NetworkMinutesTextsInternetMonthly
Cost
ASDA MobileUnlimitedUnlimited20GB£10.00
ASDA Mobile600Unlimited1.5GB£10.00
giffgaff500Unlimited1GB£10.00
Three1003,0001GB£10.00
O21001001GB£10.00
O22501,000500MB£10.00
EE150Unlimited500MB£10.00
Vodafone150Unlimited500MB£10.00

£15 per month bundles

15 Pound Notes

For £14/month, you’ll get unlimited minutes, unlimited texts and 3GB of data on Tello.

On Tello, you’ll get unlimited minutes, unlimited texts and 3GB data for £14/month.

On rival Pay As You Go mobile networks, you can pick up the following bundles for £15/month:

NetworkMinutesTextsInternetMonthly
Cost
giffgaff1,000Unlimited4GB£15.00
ASDA Mobile1,000Unlimited3GB£15.00
O27502,0002GB£15.00
EE500Unlimited2GB£15.00
Vodafone250Unlimited1GB£15.00

For a full in-depth comparison, see our guide to the UK’s best value Pay As You Go bundles.

UK Rates

Tello charges 3p/minute, 3p/text and 1p/MB for usage in the UK. This makes it one of the cheapest mobile networks for out-of-plan usage. Three is the only network offering slightly lower rates (3p/minute, 2p/text and 1p/MB). For a full comparison, see our guide to Pay As You Go rates in the UK.

International Rates

The following table compares the per-minute costs of calling abroad on Pay As You Go networks:

CountryCost of calling abroad from the UK (per minute)
EEgiffgaffLycamobileO2TelloVodafone
China (+86)2p
(2p to landline)
2p
(2p to landline)
3p
(1p to landline)
1.5p
(1.5p to landline)
2.4p
(2.4p to landline)
1.5p
(1.5p to landline)
India (+91)2p2p2p2p2.7p1.5p
Ireland (+353)8p
(1p to landline)
5p
(2p to landline)
19p
(7p to landline)
5p
(1p to landline)
4.7p
(2.1p to landline)
25p
(5p to landline)
Italy (+39)7p
(2p to landline)
7p
(3p to landline)
19p
(7p to landline)
10p
(2p to landline)
3p
(2.1p to landline)
25p
(5p to landline)
Pakistan (+92)10p
(10p to landline)
8p
(8p to landline)
8p
(8p to landline)
6p
(6p to landline)
4.5p
(4.5p to landline)
30p
(12p to landline)
Poland (+48)5p
(1p to landline)
5p
(2p to landline)
5p
(1p to landline)
5p
(1p to landline)
3p
(2.6p to landline)
25p
(5p to landline)
Romania (+40)5p
(1p to landline)
2p
(2p to landline)
4p
(1p to landline)
4p
(1p to landline)
3p
(2p to landline)
25p
(5p to landline)
Sri Lanka (+94)20p
(10p to landline)
14p
(14p to landline)
15p
(12p to landline)
14p
(14p to landline)
14.9p
(15.5p to landline)
30p
(12p to landline)
Turkey (+90)15p
(5p to landline)
11p
(3p to landline)
12p
(3p to landline)
12p
(3p to landline)
11.9p
(3.7p to landline)
25p
(5p to landline)
United States (+1)3p2p6p2p2p1.5p

Cost of calling abroad from a UK mobile network (per minute). As the headline figure, we've shown the per-minute cost of calling a mobile phone number. Where a lower price applies for calling landline numbers, this is shown separately in brackets. Last updated on 1st October 2016. Source: ee.co.uk, giffgaff.com, lycamobile.co.uk, o2.co.uk, tello.co.uk, vodafone.co.uk.

On Tello, you’ll automatically get the lowest rates available. However, other mobile networks may require you to opt-in for the lowest rates. For more information, please see our guide to international calling. If you’re frequently calling another country, Tello’s international bundles may be a better value choice.

Network & Coverage

3G & 4G Coverage from Three

Tello UK Coverage Map 2016

Tello offers 97% population coverage, using the 3G & 4G networks from Three.

Tello is a low-cost virtual network operator that uses Three as its network coverage provider. Customers with a Tello SIM card will therefore get the exact same coverage as customers on Three. At the time of writing, this is 97% population coverage for calling, texting and browsing on 3G. About 65% of the population will get the faster 4G service, with download speeds about five times faster than regular 3G.

Before ordering a SIM card from Tello, we strongly recommend checking the coverage in your area. You can do this by entering your postcode on the Tello website:

Check Tello UK Coverage Map »

For a list of virtual network operators and the company they each use to provide their mobile coverage, please see our guide to mobile phone coverage in the UK.

Tethering

Tethering or personal hotspot refers to the process of sharing your smartphone’s internet connection with another device (for example, with your laptop or tablet).

On Tello, it’s possible to tether on all of their tariffs. This is a key benefit compared to other low-cost Pay As You Go networks as many others prohibit the use of tethering.

The full tethering policy in listed in the Tello help centre:

Do you offer tethering?
Yes, tethering is available on Tello. You can share data through tethering (creating a hotspot) with any device capable to use a data connection. There are no limitations and no extra charges, besides the data usage that will be deducted from your national plan or Pay As You Go balance.

International Roaming

Going Abroad

Tello does not provide an international roaming service.

Unfortunately, Tello doesn’t yet offer international roaming as part of their service. This means if you leave the UK with a Tello SIM card inside your handset, you won’t receive any mobile coverage on your phone.

To make phone calls when you’re travelling abroad, it’s still possible to use the My Tello app (available on iPhone and Android). To use this, you’ll need to connect your smartphone to a wi-fi network. The call will use your normal phone number and you’ll pay the same rates as you normally pay in the UK. Unfortunately, it isn’t possible to receive phone calls in the My Tello app.

Joining Tello

Tello is a SIM-only mobile network so you’ll need to have an unlocked handset to use with the service. This can either be your existing smartphone (see our guides to unlocking an iPhone and unlocking a Samsung Galaxy) or you could buy a new unlocked smartphone.

You can order a SIM card from the Tello website. You can pay for your plan and/or initial top-up either by credit card, debit card or PayPal.

When you order your SIM card, you’ll be asked to specify the size of SIM card you required (you can choose from Standard 2FF, Micro 3FF and Nano 4FF). If you aren’t sure which size of SIM card is required by your phone, see our guide to smartphones and the required SIM card for each one.

Keeping Your Phone Number

Transfer Phone Number to Tello

It’s a straightforward process to transfer your phone number to Tello.

If you’re switching from another mobile network to Tello, it’s a straightforward process to keep your existing phone number.

To do so, you’ll need to contact your old mobile network to ask for a PAC Code. This will authorise the transfer of your phone number to Tello. Once you’ve received the PAC Code, you can order your new SIM card from the Tello website.

When your new SIM card arrives, you can contact Tello customer services on 32100 (or 020 3514 7110 if you’re calling from another network). After you give them your PAC Code, they’ll arrange for the transfer of your phone number (this will normally take place on the next working day after you give them your PAC Code).

For a step-by-step guide on moving your number to Tello, please select your current mobile network from the drop-down menu below:

PAC Code Finder: Transfer Your Phone Number to Tello

Your current network provider:

  More Options

For more information, please see our in-depth guide on transferring your mobile number from one network to another.

More Information

For more information about the Tello mobile network, please see their official website.

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About Ken

Ken Lo

My passion is helping people to get the most out of their mobile phone. I've been blogging at Ken's Tech Tips since 2005.

Aside from writing about mobile technology, my interests are in software development, digital marketing and physics. Outside of the blog, I work with numerous technology companies helping them to explain their product and helping them to market it to consumers. Please get in touch for more information.

Your Comments

We'd love to hear your thoughts and any questions you may have. So far, we've received 17 comments from readers. You can add your own comment here.

  1. Lee said:

    Very good payg rates but unfortunately you need to take out a plan when you first order a sim & keep a plan active to top up your payg balance once it runs out, so if you cancel your plan before it auto tops up every 30 days then you cannot top up your payg balance later on. The other catch is that you lose your unused credit for plans after 30 days (no roll over), however your payg credit does not expire unless your sim remains inactive for 6 months. So in effect your forced into taking a monthly contract to keep using their payg service & any unused credit from their monthly plans i assume goes towards their profits as its non refundable. Only a good option for moderately to heavy users & not a light user like me who wants a simple payg service.

  2. A G said:

    The 070/084/087/09 access charge is 15p/min now. Still low enough for me to tease my parents on decidedly old fashioned 12 month contracts

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi AG,
      Thanks for the heads up about this! I’ve just amended the special rate in the table above to 15p/minute.
      Thanks again!
      Ken

  3. Amir said:

    Anyone know when roaming starts on this? Good service but not if you can’t roam and most of europe is cheap now i.e 4p a min and 1p to receive a call!

    1. A G replied:

      I’m going to drop the CEO an email regarding this. Also a suggestion for competitive cost reflective country specific rates outside EU (ie India isn’t same as Dubai, even though underlying cost is very different).

  4. Paul said:

    One thing I can’t see (unless it’s a recent change) is that if you buy another 30 day plan before your current one expires it adds the remaining plan balance to it.

    Also they’ve recently stopped the purchase of just payg credit, you can only add credit when you buy a plan

  5. A G said:

    I am now on Tello. Connecting to 3g data takes a while but is worth it because data speeds are quite fast by any standard. Currently I am unable to connect to 4g at all even though I am supposed to have coverage. I am hoping it is temporary as I am paying for a 4g service. Great company though.

    1. A G replied:

      I have confirmed that I am unable to get 4g in South Croydon (even if the Three map says so). I suspect this is because Tello do not have Band 20 (800mhz). I hope 3 give this to them soon. As a company, Tello deserve to grow to millions. The crux is how they will handle it with CS.

  6. Paulll said:

    I’m on the Tello plan. It has bad signal so I don’t receive calls, and 4 days now I haven’t be able to send text.

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi Paulll,
      Sorry to hear about your coverage problems on Tello 🙁 Just out of interest, what’s your coverage like on the Three network? It would be interesting to compare the predicted coverage with the actual coverage you’re getting, and whether there might be any temporary maintenance which might affect the service you’re getting.
      Ken

    2. John replied:

      Hey Paulll

      Also on Tello and just like you have not been able to send text for the past 4 days.
      Must be a problem on their side but I got nothing back from tech support.
      If you hear of a solution, please let me know.

      -John

    3. John replied:

      I just received a mail back from Tello tech support saying that they are having some problems with SMS and investigating with the provider.
      I still can’t send SMS so this will be 5 days soon for the problem to be found and fixed: (
      I’ve been happy with the service until this so hopefully it gets worked out soon but its just taking much longer than I would have ever expected.

  7. David said:

    Thanks for another great article , the only thing I’m not clear about is , if you have a 30 day bundle of say 100 minutes what are the charges per minute if you use more than 100 minutes

    1. Ken Lo
      Ken replied:

      Hi David,
      Thanks for your comment. Based on my understanding, you’ll pay Tello’s standard Pay As You Go rates (3p/minute, 3p/text and 1p/MB) once you’ve used up the allowances in your bundle.
      Hope this helps,
      Ken

      1. A G replied:

        Just a note. Charges will come out of your credit balance. So having no credit means you will be cut off when you use your allowance.

      2. A G replied:

        Is it possible to get a refund on any remaining balance once I load it (£4 loaded, £3.45 that I’d like to return)?

        1. A G replied:

          Confirmed. I sent a message on their email service. They began processing the refund immediately. It arrived in 5 days (their maximum). Very smooth.

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