When my Verizon contract ended a couple months ago, I decided it was time to shop around for a new mobile provider. I’ve never been completely comfortable with the pricing for mobile phones, even though my employers have always paid the bill. In particular, I’ve been somewhat irritated by the lack of consumption-based pricing, charging for text messaging, and the lack of shared data plans. I mean, does it really cost the same if I use 300 minutes versus 700 minutes in a month, or if my son uses 500MB instead of his allotted 2GB per month? And let's be honest with each other: how much does it really cost to move 140 characters across a wireless network?

I’m finishing my second month with my new provider, Ting, which is a service from Tucows. The company was founded in Michigan, is headquartered in Toronto, and is probably best known as a shareware, domain and internet provider from the 1990s (sadly no Boston connection for me to plug).

The basic approach of Ting is simple: pay a small fee ($6) for each device you connect, and then pay only for what you consume across those devices. So if you had two smartphones and a wireless hotspot, you would pay $18 per month to have them on the Ting network. If you consumed 500 MB of data, 400 minutes of voice, and 75 text messages across these three devices, you would pay $43 ($18 device fee + $25 consumption fee). The equivalent setup on Verizon would cost you $190 per month  - 441% more than Ting.

Some additional features I appreciate are the real-time view of consumption, and the ability to send proactive emails based on usage. The downsides of Ting: the only available carrier is Sprint, and the phone selection is limited (no iPhone). But if you can live with these limitations, Ting will give you a glimpse of what the stodgy old mobile providers may become when they decide to enter the 21st century.

If you decide to give Ting a try, I suggest you get a referral from an existing customer to get the $25 discount on your first device (person referring gets a credit too). Drop me an email if you want a referral.

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