Tucows is probably best known for their slew of web services and their extensive reseller network, but CEO Elliot Noss sees room to grow in another space: mobile. After spending months conducting a private beta for a few hundred users, Tucows has officially opened up their Ting wireless service to all comers. The goal? To offer wireless customers “a whole different type of carrier relationship.”
“Big name carriers have services meant to maximize their profitability, not their service to customers,” Noss told me.
That customer-centric vision extends from Ting’s selection of voice plans (there are six, with minute buckets ranging from 0 to 3,000) to customer service (there are no tiers, and all reps can provide “geek-powered” support) to their handling of overages.
Like I mentioned earlier, Ting has six tiers of voice plans. If you’re signed up for the 500 minute plan and go over on your allotment, you’re automatically bumped up to the next plan. While thoughtful, it can at times be worse than the standard overage model imposed by other carriers, especially if you only tiptoe over your limit. Even so, Ting attempts to make up for this by having it work in the opposite direction too — you’ll automatically be bumped into a lower plan and credited accordingly if you use fewer minutes than the month before.
Just for kicks, I threw my own Verizon bill into the Ting savings calculator to see how much I could potentially save should I decide to make the switch. For my two-person 700 minute Verizon family plan with 2GB of data and 1,000 messages per person, Ting estimates that I could save nearly $436 each year.
Maybe not the most impressive savings I’ve ever seen, but it’s certainly enough give me pause. There are more savings to be had if you or your loved ones aren’t huge data hogs (like me), as their data packages are easily the priciest parts of the Ting formula.
At this stage in the game, hardware choices are a bit limited. Ting service uses Sprint’s mobile network to provide the actual connectivity, so most of the handsets in Ting’s lineup should seem familiar to Sprint customers and phone enthusiasts. The newest device in the lineup is Motorola’s angular Photon 4G, while mid-range Android devices, flip phones, and mobile broadband devices fill out the rest of their roster. In typical MVNO fashion Ting doesn’t bind users to long-term contracts, but that leaves those users paying the full retail price for their hardware.
While it’s still usually a better deal that getting a subsidy on a phone and paying higher bills each month for two years, people could get (understandably) gun-shy when it comes to taking the plunge on an unknown entity like Ting. Even so, Ting may be able to drive adoption thanks to some help from its parent company.
MVNOs historically haven’t had much sticking power, but Ting could potentially lean on Tucows prodigious list of reseller partners. According to Noss, Tucows resellers will also be able to offer Ting wireless service to their own customers, while Tucows handles payment processing and billing. If reseller reception of Ting is positive — and Noss tells me that so far, it is — then Ting’s lack of a physical retail presence could be offset by leveraging existing Tucows affiliates.
Noss’s plan for Ting is to start off small, with their first promotional efforts slated to begin in the middle of this month. Frankly, I wish them all the best — while Ting isn’t a perfect service, their twist on wireless service has some facets that I think every carrier could benefit from absconding with. In the meantime though, Noss is content to keep his expectations pretty grounded.
“If in one year, we were known as the carrier that sophisticated users were using, that’s fine by me.”