If you have been wondering like me when Sprint MVNO's will begin to switch over to the T-Mobile network, we finally have an answer. Thanks to Sprint MVNO Tello Mobile, there's now a rough timeline in place. Tello posted a blog article detailing the transition plans.
When Will The Transition Occur?
For Tello, they are working on implementing T-Mobile based service by the end of 2020. Due to contractual reasons, they are not allowed to mention the T-Mobile network by name so in their blog post they refer to that network as "GSM."
Although the GSM transition may begin to occur by the end of the year, service for those with a CDMA only compatible phone will not just be cut off at that point in time. Tello says the switch will be gradual and customers will have lots of opportunities to switch over to T-Mobile based service and a new phone (if needed). Tello says that they will provide their customers with at least 3 months of notice prior to the complete shutdown of the Sprint network. Keep in mind, not all providers will follow Tello's lead with their timelines. Some may provide more sudden notices. But I would still expect the transition timelines to be fairly similar and close together between all the different Sprint MVNOs. Tello is just the first to formally announce it.
When Will A New Phone Be Needed?
According to Tello, Sprint plans to keep basic CDMA voice service available to older phones until at least mid-2021. So if you have a phone currently with Tello or any other Sprint MVNO that is NOT VoLTE capable and can only connect to Sprint's CDMA network for voice, this is a very important time frame for you to watch out for. You WILL need a new phone when CDMA service does get shutoff.
Tello is also warning customers that have Sprint-branded phones released prior to 2018 that they may begin to notice declines in quality of service as T-Mobile transitions Sprint's 4G LTE network spectrum over to T-Mobile's 5G network. For optimal service, subscribers will need a phone that supports VoLTE and that can connect to T-Mobile 4G LTE bands 2, 4, 12, 66, and 71.
Changes In Coverage
When the transition from Sprint to T-Mobile begins, coverage should improve greatly for Tello subscribers particularly if their phone has support for all the LTE bands described above. And for the best coverage possible, subscribers will want a phone that can tap into T-Mobile's low-band and mmWave networks as well as Sprint's mid-band 5G spectrum. Such phones include the Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus 5G and Ultra 5G. Of course, other 5G compatible phones will also work.
What Will Happen To Tello Mobile Plan Prices?
Tello currently offers some of the best pricing in the business for single line pay by the month customers. For $10 subscribers can pick up a plan with unlimited talk, text, and data with the first 1GB of data available each month at high-speeds. For $19/month an unlimited talk and text plan with 4GB of high-speed data is also available. Tello says it will not be making any changes to the value or cost of their plans.
In summary, Tello is telling its customers to expect improved coverage, faster data speeds, and a super stable network at all the same great rates as before. Hopefully, this holds true for the long term, as its completely unknown what will happen when Tello's current contract with its carrier partner runs out and it's time to negotiate a new one. T-Mobile could elect to move the pricing needle higher.