Whether we like it or not, U.S. cellphone carriers, for the most part, require customers to sign two-year contracts. Signing that contract gets you a phone at a discounted price, but requires you to pay for service with that carrier for the next two years of your life. If you want out, have to pay a sometimes-hefty termination fee.
Tucows, an Internet service company based in Toronto, is going to war against service contracts with its Ting cellular service. The company, like U.S. Cellular, NetZero and Virgin Mobile, provides cellphone service without tying you to a network or a contract. And the company is so passionate about contract-free cell service that this month it is even offering to get some people out of their contracts by paying their termination fees.
In what it is calling "Dump Your Contract Month," the two-month-old company offers to pay the early termination fee - which ranges from $150 to $350 at carriers like Verizon and AT&T - for one person every day in May.
"The promotion is to get people talking about the whole idea of going with a no-contract option," Michael Goldstein, Tucows' Vice President of Marketing, told ABC News. "People can submit, and we will pay the fee for 30 people."
Ting doesn't even require those who win to buy a Ting phone and sign up for a month of service. But Goldstein said the company hopes that those who do win will be interested in signing up for Ting. "You probably have some intention of signing up if you've entered," he said.
Ting's network is actually Sprint's 3G or 4G WiMax network. Ting, known as a mobile virtual network operator (or MVNO), doesn't own the wireless network or spectrum, but rather has an agreement with Sprint to offer the service. Ting offers a selection of six Android phones, ranging from $190 to $580, and then has monthly service plans. The phones are pricier than equivalent ones at Verizon, AT&T and other networks, since they are unlocked.
The plans aren't structured like the ones from Verizon, AT&T or Sprint. They are more like a la carte menus; you can mix and match different text message, voice calling, and data offerings. And the plans are affordable: 1,000 minutes cost $18 for a month, 2,000 text messages cost $8, and 2GB of data cost $42. Included with any service are voicemail, picture and video messaging, and tethering/hotspot functionality, so you can use your phone's Internet connect on your laptop or tablet.
Ting's "Dump Your Contract" promotion is up and running on its site now.