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Thread: Comparison of Consumer Reports' Two Highest Rated MVNOs: Consumer Cellular and Ting

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    Comparison of Consumer Reports' Two Highest Rated MVNOs: Consumer Cellular and Ting

    Consumer Cellular and Ting were recently rated as the top two MVNO carriers by Consumer Reports. While they cost about the same, there are big differences between the two services.

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    CC Advantages over Ting:

    1. CC uses AT&T network versus Sprint or T-Mobile (coming soon) for Ting. AT&T has far better coverage than Sprint or T-Mobile.

    2. Roaming, including data roaming, onto other GSM networks, is included on CC. On Ting's Sprint CDMA service, voice and text roaming onto Verizon and other CDMA carriers is included, but not data roaming. And on Ting's upcoming T-Mobile GSM service, there is not only no data roaming, there is not full roaming onto AT&T even for voice and text. At least with Ting's Sprint service you get pretty good nationwide voice and text coverage, but you won't get that with their new GSM service. Remember, a lot of text messages are now being sent as MMS which requires data. It's stupid for senders to do this, but many phones are set up to always send texts as MMS if the text is going to more than one recipient.

    3. On CC, minutes between users on the same account are not counted. This is a biggie on a group plan since a lot of minutes tend to be between family members. On Ting you'll need a plan with more voice minutes to compensate for the lack of "free" in-plan calling.

    4. On CC you can use any unlocked or AT&T GSM/LTE phone. On Ting's Sprint service you are limited to non-current Sprint postpaid phones and the Nexus 6 purchased from Google Play. Ting's upcoming T-Mobile service will allow unlocked or T-Mobile locked phones (be sure that the unlocked phones support T-Mobile's LTE and HSDPA bands).

    Ting Advantages over CC:

    1. Automatic Tiers. On Ting, when you reach the end of one tier you're automatically bumped into the next tier. On CC they notify you that you're likely to go over your plan minutes or texts or data but you have to manually move to the next tier.

    Cost

    Since each carrier's tiers are different comparing costs is challenging but you can get a good idea from the image of the spreadsheet I've included. The costs are pretty close. Note that anyone can join AARP to get the 5% discount, you do not need to be age 50 or over. Be sure to take into account the fact that on CC minutes between plan members are not counted so you can probably get by with several hundred fewer minutes than on Ting.

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    Conclusion

    Unless you already have Sprint smart phones that you will bring over to Ting, Consumer Cellular appears to be a better choice. The much better native network, the included data roaming, the much better selection of handsets, the free minutes between users on the same family plan, are all features not available on Ting.

    Consumer Cellular's Image Problem

    Consumer Cellular has an image problem since they are marketing mainly to seniors. There is also the reputation of AARP to push overpriced and inferior products and services to their members which scares people away. But for a family plan, with moderate data needs, Consumer Cellular is a very good deal compared to most other MVNOs. No other MVNO in the country offers native coverage, with LTE, on Verizon or AT&T and includes off-network roaming for voice, text, and data.

    Howard Forum's?

    Since Consumer Cellular and Ting are the two top-rated MVNOs it's odd that neither has its own forum on Howard Forums.
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    Regarding the creation and deletion of subforums: I think there are a number of issues going there. I'd like to think that HF tries to keep up with the subforum needs here by adding relevant forums when there is a lot of specific traffic. We did get an Airvoice forum after a flurry of threads started scrolling the general forum. At the same time, they deleted the Republic Wireless forum which still seems relevant, with a growing population of users. Now we've got a forum for Solavei that hasn't seen traffic in months. My conclusion is that there is no ruleset for creation and deletion - it just happens when someone gets a whim, or has time to do maintenance operations (pruning and grafting) on the whole here.

    On the other hand, Consumer Cellular doesn't seem to get all that much thread activity really. I suspect that in the past it was considered more of an AARP related marginalized operator that had little interest among such hip forum users such as ourselves. I don't think that's the case anymore but change happens slowly. The AARP relationship also gives you an indication of why CC was rated highly in Consumer Reports. AARP members (old people) are much more likely to subscribe to Consumer Reports. What surprises me is that Ting even made it onto the radar at CR.

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    Quote Originally Posted by samatman View Post
    Regarding the creation and deletion of subforums: I think there are a number of issues going there. I'd like to think that HF tries to keep up with the subforum needs here by adding relevant forums when there is a lot of specific traffic. We did get an Airvoice forum after a flurry of threads started scrolling the general forum. At the same time, they deleted the Republic Wireless forum which still seems relevant, with a growing population of users. Now we've got a forum for Solavei that hasn't seen traffic in months. My conclusion is that there is no ruleset for creation and deletion - it just happens when someone gets a whim, or has time to do maintenance operations (pruning and grafting) on the whole here.

    On the other hand, Consumer Cellular doesn't seem to get all that much thread activity really. I suspect that in the past it was considered more of an AARP related marginalized operator that had little interest among such hip forum users such as ourselves. I don't think that's the case anymore but change happens slowly. The AARP relationship also gives you an indication of why CC was rated highly in Consumer Reports. AARP members (old people) are much more likely to subscribe to Consumer Reports. What surprises me is that Ting even made it onto the radar at CR.
    Consumer Reports subscribers also tend to be frugal and more highly educated. As such they are a) more likely to evaluate the cost of services over time (including the cost of purchasing an unsubsidized phone), b) they are less likely to be streaming large amounts of video and audio, or using online mapping, and c) more likely to take advantage of available Wi-Fi.

    Personally, I keep my mobile data turned off most of the time, I use my phone or tablet as a GPS but with stored maps (which works better than using mobile data anyway since often we go through areas with no coverage), and I store massive amounts of music on the MicroSD card and MicroUSB memory stick so I don't stream Pandora or Spotify over the mobile network. I also have installed an app that blocks apps that have no need for data from using data to serve up advertising. I also have sideloaded AdBlock (since Google banned it from the Play Store).

    I'm not that old, but it would pain me to spend $200 per month on wireless service for four people.

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    Quote Originally Posted by samatman View Post
    What surprises me is that Ting even made it onto the radar at CR.
    That is surprising considering that even Page Plus, which offers far better service than Ting, never made it into Consumer Reports despite it having far more subscribers, like 50x as many. Page Plus is also much less expensive, at least for a single line.

    I was very surprised to see Ting rank so highly considering their relatively high price compared to other MVNOs with better network coverage. If you're going from Sprint to Ting and want to keep your current phones then Ting might makes sense, but you'd never choose Ting if you're coming from a carrier other than Sprint.

    I think that the CC association with AARP hurts them in some ways but clearly they see it as a net positive.

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    My problem with Consumer Cellular is that they seem expensive for what they offer. For $20 on BYO Wireless, I can get 500 minutes of talk (compared to 600 minutes of talk for Consumer Cellular) -- but then, with BYO, I also get unlimited texting and 500 MBs of data. And this is on the Verizon network. If I want to add texting and data to Consumer Cellular, that's another $10 and it's still 200 MB less than on BYO. And BYO has "unlimited" texting compared to 2,000 texts (both would pretty much be unlimited for me as I never get anywhere near 2,000 texts, but there may be others who actually use that many texts). I never thought Ting offered that good of a value either -- at least not for light users.

    When it costs $30 for 600 minutes, 2,000 texts and 300 MBs of data, why not add $5 and go with Cricket if you want AT&T? -- and get unlimited talk, text and data (1GB of LTE)?
    Blackberry Q10 on Twigby

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    did that CR review come from their magazine? I am a subscriber, but I haven't seen mvno reviews in any of them. Can you tell me what issue this was in? Just a guess but maybe CR gave ting and CC such a high rating b/c of their really good customer service? That might have counted more heavily in their score compared to lower price of other mvno companies.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rcentros View Post
    My problem with Consumer Cellular is that they seem expensive for what they offer. For $20 on BYO Wireless, I can get 500 minutes of talk (compared to 600 minutes of talk for Consumer Cellular) -- but then, with BYO, I also get unlimited texting and 500 MBs of data. And this is on the Verizon network. If I want to add texting and data to Consumer Cellular, that's another $10 and it's still 200 MB less than on BYO. And BYO has "unlimited" texting compared to 2,000 texts (both would pretty much be unlimited for me as I never get anywhere near 2,000 texts, but there may be others who actually use that many texts). I never thought Ting offered that good of a value either -- at least not for light users.

    When it costs $30 for 600 minutes, 2,000 texts and 300 MBs of data, why not add $5 and go with Cricket if you want AT&T? -- and get unlimited talk, text and data (1GB of LTE)?
    For lighter users, CC can be a great deal for family plans. For instance, if a couple can share 600 minutes/5000 texts/1gb of data, that's $40 for the base plan + $10 to add a line = $50 + tax, and a little less if you have an AARP discount. It also gives you the advantage of roaming, which many people do not need. I have been torn between taking my line and my wife's line there for 600 minutes/15000 texts/2.5gb of data - looks like it would come in at the low $60s for both of us. Hard to match that on AT&T. Just have too much in Cricket credits to make the switch right now.

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    Quote Originally Posted by samatman View Post
    Regarding the creation and deletion of subforums: I think there are a number of issues going there. I'd like to think that HF tries to keep up with the subforum needs here by adding relevant forums when there is a lot of specific traffic. We did get an Airvoice forum after a flurry of threads started scrolling the general forum. At the same time, they deleted the Republic Wireless forum which still seems relevant, with a growing population of users. Now we've got a forum for Solavei that hasn't seen traffic in months. My conclusion is that there is no ruleset for creation and deletion - it just happens when someone gets a whim, or has time to do maintenance operations (pruning and grafting) on the whole here.
    There seems to be no way to request that a new sub-forum be created. It can't cost much to add more forums and the upside is potentially more users of Howard Forums which would help with selling advertising. OTOH, I suspect that most HF users are like me and have all advertising and tracking blocked so selling advertising is probably a hard sell. I didn't even realize that there was any advertising until I used a public computer to access the HF site!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Shade00 View Post
    For lighter users, CC can be a great deal for family plans. For instance, if a couple can share 600 minutes/5000 texts/1gb of data, that's $40 for the base plan + $10 to add a line = $50 + tax, and a little less if you have an AARP discount. It also gives you the advantage of roaming, which many people do not need. I have been torn between taking my line and my wife's line there for 600 minutes/15000 texts/2.5gb of data - looks like it would come in at the low $60s for both of us. Hard to match that on AT&T. Just have too much in Cricket credits to make the switch right now.
    So, $25 each at Consumer Cellular you get 300 minutes, 2,500 texts and 500 MBs of data (if each used the same amount). At BYO it would be $20 each for 500 minutes, unlimited text and 500 MBs of data. For Red Pocket it would be $20 for 300 minutes, unlimited text and 1GB of data. Although, for a couple, it might work out where one does most of the talking and another uses most of the data, etc., so it depends on the situation.

    As for Cricket ... for $70 (two times $35) and with the $10 discount for the 2nd line $60, wouldn't that come out better? Each would get unlimited talk, texting and data (with 1GB of 4G).

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    Two lines at Cricket is $70. The discounts don't double up. I really like BYO's $20 plan but the problem is handset selection. If their Verizon side gets LTE I'm moving my line there.

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    Quote Originally Posted by smsgator View Post
    There seems to be no way to request that a new sub-forum be created.
    We went through that a while back when Selectel and Lycamobile showed up. It looks like what is, is what it is going to be.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Shade00 View Post
    Two lines at Cricket is $70. The discounts don't double up. I really like BYO's $20 plan but the problem is handset selection. If their Verizon side gets LTE I'm moving my line there.
    Okay. I didn't realize that about Cricket discounts. And I didn't think about no LTE at BYO.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rcentros View Post
    My problem with Consumer Cellular is that they seem expensive for what they offer. For $20 on BYO Wireless, I can get 500 minutes of talk (compared to 600 minutes of talk for Consumer Cellular) -- but then, with BYO, I also get unlimited texting and 500 MBs of data. And this is on the Verizon network. If I want to add texting and data to Consumer Cellular, that's another $10 and it's still 200 MB less than on BYO. And BYO has "unlimited" texting compared to 2,000 texts (both would pretty much be unlimited for me as I never get anywhere near 2,000 texts, but there may be others who actually use that many texts). I never thought Ting offered that good of a value either -- at least not for light users.

    When it costs $30 for 600 minutes, 2,000 texts and 300 MBs of data, why not add $5 and go with Cricket if you want AT&T? -- and get unlimited talk, text and data (1GB of LTE)?
    Cricket has a few issues. 1) Very long latency for data. 2) No off-AT&T roaming at all, not even for voice and text (GoPhone has the same issue). 3) LTE data is throttled (though really it's still fast enough).

    BYO has a lot of issues. There is no roaming on their Verizon CDMA service or their T-Mobile GSM service. This is less of an issue with Verizon CDMA since there's not all that many areas with no Verizon service, but there are still some gaps (like all of Alaska where Verizon has only an LTE-only network and all other service is roaming, and parts of Oregon served only by U.S. Cellular). The big issue with BYO is the same issue that Page Plus used to have--not only does BYO not offer LTE data, you can't even use an LTE capable phone but just on 3G (unless you enter the world of donor phones and flashing). Not having 4G data is no big deal, but not being able to use any recent vintage phones is a big deal. Bottom line, BYO is best avoided. If you want a Verizon MVNO use Page Plus where there is voice and text roaming (extra-cost for voice) and LTE phones are okay on their $30 and up plans (less 10% if you buy refills wisely).

    The lowest possible cost is not necessarily the best choice.

    Three basic things to look for in an MVNO (or carrier owned) service:

    1. AT&T or Verizon native network.
    2. Roaming onto partner networks, for both voice and data.
    3. LTE service, especially on Verizon because many Verizon MVNOs not only lack LTE data but don't allow LTE capable phones even on 3G.

    My theory on how Consumer Cellular became the only MVNO in the U.S. that meets these three basic criteria is based on some of their advertising. Some of their ads show senior citizens by their RVs. RVers are very particular about their wireless service because they tend to travel to out-of-the-way places. You will almost never find an RVer with T-Mobile or Sprint service because their networks are mainly to serve urban areas. I think that Consumer Cellular convinced AT&T that in order to market a wireless service to seniors that full roaming was an absolute requirement.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rcentros View Post
    Okay. I didn't realize that about Cricket discounts. And I didn't think about no LTE at BYO.
    3G data only is not a huge deal, but not being able to use an LTE phone, but only on 3G, is a very big deal. It means entering the dark underworld of donor phones and flashing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Shade00 View Post
    Two lines at Cricket is $70. The discounts don't double up. I really like BYO's $20 plan but the problem is handset selection. If their Verizon side gets LTE I'm moving my line there.
    There's more to it as well. In Alaska, where Verizon has no spectrum for CDMA, they recently started up an LTE only network. I would expect to see this sort of thing happening more. So even though there is no roaming onto the Alaska CDMA carrier by MVNOs (not even on Page Plus apparently) the LTE network will offer coverage. Either via VOLTE or via a VOIP app.

    http://www.adn.com/article/20140826/...alaska-rollout

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