Ting has the right idea, but the price isn't right

Taylor Martin
 from Concord, NC
Published: February 2, 2012

As of late, I've been harping on all of the wireless services that we pay (and often overpay) for. The more we rely on said services, the more we use them and the higher the prices will go. Despite the way we use our cell phones having almost completely flipped from just a few years ago, pricing, structure and everything in between has remained almost exactly the same – only new services have been tagged on to the bill, causing some wireless customers' bills to be astronomically high. And more friendly and comforting unlimited data plans are quickly being replaces by pricey tiered plans.

I've been saying for some time now that wireless customers need the option of smaller minute plans for voice calling, even the option of using a line as data-only. And text messaging needs a radical overhaul on pricing – 5,000 text messages (without a messaging plan) can run the bill up as much as $1,000 while the equivalent in instant messages may only cost you approximately $0.075. If either of these were to happen, I would be more than willing to fork over the extra cash for something I might actually use, like more data, possibly tethering or even a dedicated mobile hotspot.

Unfortunately, it doesn't seem as if any of this is going to happen anytime soon – not with any of the four major carriers in the US, at least. It's all just the opinion of a journo who thinks about and quantifies things entirely too much. Hopeful thinking, if you will.

But that doesn't mean US customers are without options when it comes to mobile solutions and smartphones. Pre-paid services like Virgin Mobile, Boost Mobile, Straight Talk and the slew of others have great offers available while piggybacking off of the major four providers.

Late yesterday evening, Tucow announced their new service, Ting, which operates as a MVNO on Sprint's network and looks to compete with other pre-paid providers. Ting is a no-contract provider that promises to offer "mobile that makes sense." Below, you will be able to catch a glimpse of Ting's plan offerings, and since devices come sans contract, you can expect to pay full price for them. Devices range from $105 (Sanyo Zio) to $545 (Motorola Photon), and there are some mobile broadband devices that range from $45 to $105.

The whole idea behind Ting, and what really makes it different, is that you choose exactly what you want. You can customise your own plan to cater to your needs, and you don't pay for what you don't use (sort of). For example, if you only need one line with 100 minutes, 1,000 text messages and 2GB data, you would be looking at a monthly bill of $56 per month, plus surcharges. However, say you don't use any minutes and you only used 100 text messages that month. Ting would automatically credit you for the stuff you didn't use. You would be credited $5 – $2 for only using 100 text messages and $3 for not using any minutes. And if you used more than your plan allows, it simply bumps you up to the next bucket for that month instead of charging you overages. Pretty nifty and convenient.

If you exceed the maximum allotment for either voice calling, text messaging or data, however, you will be charged overages. Beyond 3,000 minutes, you will be charged $0.02 per minute, text messages beyond 6,000 will cost you $0.0025 per message and data is $0.0225 per MB after 3,000MB.

That's where Ting really falls short. (Not to mention, it's a drag that you can't bring your own devices.) It's not for power users. People who use a ton of data each month aren't going to save any money, which is the whole point of Ting in the first place. Just 3GB of data costs $60. In comparison to Verizon's smallest smartphone data plan, which is 2GB for $30, you're paying $5 more per gigabyte with Ting. And overages with Verizon are $10 per gigabyte, compared to Ting's overage of $22.5 per gigabyte.

Between two phones, I average 5 to 6GB per month – I would easily still use this much if I only used one line. Upfront, I would be paying $60 per month for a 3GB plan. But I'm certain I would go over every month. If I used 5GB, I would end up paying $105 for 5GB of data. On Verizon's 2GB data plan, if I used 5GB, I would only be charged $60. The differences are pretty major.

The most appealing part to Ting, though, is that they don't care how you use the data (see the picture above). Tethering is free of charge (of course it is, because they're charging outrageous overages for data). Also, I really like the idea behind users who don't use all of their data, messages or minutes. It'd be nice if major post-paid providers did something similar to this.

All things considered, Ting certainly has its advantages, especially for those who don't need a lot. The cheapest pre-paid plans I know of (other than pay-by-the-day options) are $30 per month. On Straight Talk, that includes 1,000 minutes, 1,000 text messages and 50MB data. And $35 per month on Virgin Mobile will get you unlimited data and texts with 300 minutes. But if that's more than you need, you could get 100 minutes and 100 messages on Ting for $12 per month.

I got kind of excited when I saw the Ting announcement, thinking it might be something worth checking out. It still may be for many of you lightweight users out there. But anyone who is serious about their data might want to stick to a post-paid carrier or a different pre-paid service like Boost or Virgin. Their heart is in the right place, but there is no way I'm going to pay nearly double for my data on a MVNO – remember, I said I would be willing to pay for more bytes overall, not more per byte.

Tell me, readers. Does Ting appeal to you at all? Would you consider getting them if their data prices were a tad lower? Could you see yourself leaving your post-paid service provider for something like Ting?