Shareware software portal operator Tucows has officially taken the wraps off of its latest venture in Ting, which is a new virtual operator powered by the Sprint network that brings two key features to cellular service in usage based billing and has done an end run around carriers such as AT&T and Verizon in implementing shared data plans.
Other key features of the service include support for up to 20 lines for an additional fee, included mobile hotspot and tethering access. Continue reading for a breakdown of the new service.
As Ting does not feature standard service agreements, phones must be purchased at full price and consist of the following in the Kyocera Zio ($105) LG Optimus S ($155) Samsung Transform ($245) Conquer 4G ($295) HTC Detail ($395) and Motorola Photon 4G ($545). Two feature phones are also available the Samsung Reclaim ($45) and the M360 ($65). Each of the 4G-capable handsets may use Sprint’s WiMAX network as well as EVDO for data access and tethering and is reflected in the pricing for monthly data access which starts at $3 for 100MB and goes all the way up to $42 for 3GB per month.
Monthly pricing for messaging is broken down in a similar manner for 100 messages at $3 all the way up to 6000 messages for $14. Plans can be selected individually based on initial needs, but this is where Ting’s approach to usage-based billing is different from other attempts. When plans are initially selected for the first month of service, if usage falls far below the limits for each particular plan, whether it be voice, messaging or data use, the remainder of each plan is carried over to the next month and the difference is credited to the monthly cost.
Conversely, if usage tends to be above the limits for each plan up to XXL, the account is automatically moved to each successive plan and usage is charged based on the rates in each plan up to XXL levels. If usage happens to surpass the XXL plans for voice, messaging and data, the additional charges then move to individual overage rates of $0.02 for voice, $0.0025 per message and $0.0225 per MB.
While the service may not be conducive to single line use based on the regressive rates of the standard service plans, the capability to add up to 20 lines of service and shared data access plans means that Ting undercuts family plans from AT&T and Verizon when factoring in the additional $6 fee for four lines, making it a better deal for families. Individual plans can exclude voice service and can be activated with data and messaging only, though per minute rates without a voice plan end up being more expensive in comparison.
With Ting, Tucows may have stumbled on the perfect hybrid of plan options while adding additional flexibility not seen since the days of Sprint’s Fair and Flexible plan and expanded to include both messaging and data access without the need for service agreements. Time will tell whether Ting will make an impact, but the initial plan seems to work in its favor, as AT&T and Verizon have yet to roll out their own shared data plans and the Ting implementation may be the best example of the idea.