The People's Operator Review: Carrier with a Cause


WhistleOut
13 March 2017

Every MVNO has its own unique value proposition, and The People’s Operator’s is this: customers can donate a portion of what they pay to a charity of their choice. In addition, the company gives 25% of its profits to social causes. 

If that were all the People’s Operator did well, the company would have gone under by now. But TPO’s smartly priced plans have kept it competitive. 

The People’s Operator (TPO for short) started in the United Kingdom in 2012 with the express purpose of serving as an “ethical” mobile carrier. The company’s seen its share of ups and downs within its short life span, but seems poised to thrive in the crowded MVNO market in coming years. Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales (pictured above) came onboard as chairman in 2015, the same year the company opened for business in the U.S. 

Beyond its do-good business model, the thing to know about The People’s Operator is that single user talk and text packages are priced cheaply—among the cheapest you’ll find. The company operates on Sprint and T-Mobile’s networks, so both GSM and CDMA phones will work, and customers can also enjoy the reliability of these well-established networks. 

TPO allows users to bring their own devices, or purchase/lease from the company directly. There are no TPO stores, so everything is done online or over the phone. Fortunately, the customer service department is U.S.-based, and agents are prompt to answer calls (no more interminable holds). 

There's also a TPO social network, where you can connect with fellow altruistically-minded individuals. 

TPO’s prices and charitable business approach make it an appealing option for many. Why not talk, text and browse your way to some good in the world? 

The People's Operator Breakdown

Strengths
  • Talk and text plans inexpensive
  • No annual contracts or hidden fees
  • Feel good about where your money goes
  • No credit check or activation fees
Weaknesses
  • No retail stores, everything done online or over the phone
  • No coverage map; you have to go to Sprint or T-Mobile websites to check it
  • Site is a mixture of UK and U.S. info; requires some sorting
Value for Money
9/10
90%
Coverage & Speed
94/100
94%

How TPO compares on pricing

TPO spends little on marketing, relying instead on viral growth to expand its customer base. According to chairman Jimmy Wales, this lack of a marketing budget is how the company is able to price its cell phone plans so competitively. 

Indeed, TPO offers a variety of reasonably priced packages, shining especially when it comes to unlimited talk and text. Another nice part of signing up with TPO is the absence of activation fees or credit checks, something that is de rigueur amongst major carriers. Check out the table below to see what an unlimited talk and text plan -- with 2GB of data, mind you -- will cost you on TPO compared to other carriers (something to keep in mind: unlimited plans are only offered for CDMA phones; also, these prices are always changing).

TPO also offers a competitively priced international plan, and a data-specific plan for tablets. And of course, not only are TPO's plans priced favorably, but a not-insignificant portion (25%) of the company's profits go to good causes like Habitat for Humanity, World Wildlife Fund and Save the Children. You can also earmark a portion of what you pay (beyond $50) to a charity of your choosing. 

Enjoy the Reliability of Sprint and T-Mobile Networks on TPO

The People's Operator leases mobile bandwidth from T-Mobile and Sprint in the U.S., so both GSM (T-Mobile and AT&T) and CDMA (Sprint, Verizon and U.S. Cellular) phones will work, and users will enjoy the same level of coverage as Sprint and T-Mobile subscribers. 

So how is coverage on Sprint's network? Generally, quite strong in urban areas, less so in rural areas. Sprint's coverage trails that of Verizon and AT&T, though the company claims this deficit only amounts to a 1%. However, RouteMetrics (a third party network testing company) found that Sprint trailed Verizon by 3.6% and AT&T by 2.4% in 280 metro areas. Whatever the case, you're unlikely to notice this difference in most situations (like video streaming), and you can rest assured that Sprint's network provides, on the whole, solid coverage. 

As for T-Mobile, they've been saddled for years with a reputation for having the weakest of the four major networks and, indeed, they lag behind their competitors in rural areas. However, T-Mobile's network coverage in urban areas is mostly stellar; in fact, OpenSignal named T-Mobile's 4G LTE network the fastest in 2016. The company is aggressively expanding into rural areas like the southeastern and southwestern United States, so there's reason for optimism that T-Mobile's network will catch up with the likes of Verizon, AT&T and Sprint in America's hinterlands in the near future.

Here's a snapshot of the coverage and reliability scores for the four major networks, including Sprint and T-Mobile, in 280 major markets in the U.S.:

It's important to keep in mind that the latest phones always get the best coverage: wireless coverage is a combination of the network from the carrier (towers, antennas, infrastructure) AND your phone.

Things to Consider with The People's Operator

1. Great value on unlimited talk and texting  

If you use your phone primarily for talking and texting, you'll find some great values with TPO; if you're shopping specifically for data-heavy plans, you'll find prices are a bit more middle-of-the-pack.

2. Easy to give back

When you sign up, you'll be given a menu of charities to contribute to; you can change your charity preferences anytime via the customer portal on the TPO website.

3. TPO's social network a work in progress

Company leadership --namely, Jimmy Wales-- sees TPO's social network as a central component of the business, believing revenue will occur as an organic outgrowth of this site (he's stated that he hopes it will "be massive"). However, it's yet to really take hold, and you may not find yourself using it that much. Fortunately, the company has more than this to offer regular phone owners. 

4. Verify Coverage

You'll want to ensure that T-Mobile's or Sprint's (depending on whether you have a GSM or CDMA phone) networks provide solid coverage to the places you spend the most time, as these are the networks that TPO runs on.

How Much Should You Expect To Pay?
From $12.80 (500MB of data)
Compare
Want to contact TPO?
Twitter @TPOus
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/tpous
Phone
Sales & Service
1-844-876-8326 (Monday - Friday: 9am-7pm EST; Saturday and Sunday: 9am-6pm EST)

Website http://www.store.tpo.com
Contact Page https://help.thepeoplesoperator.com/hc/en-us/articles/207301495-Contact-us

WhistleOut Staff Review

Rob Barnes
WhistleOut in California
TPO Customer
“Good cause, good service!" 

WHY DID YOU CHOOSE IT?

I was paying $50 a month to T-Mobile and was looking to save some money,  and I already had an iPhone 6 so was looking for a BYO option. With TPO I get to use the T-Mobile network for half the price, and I get 2GB of 4GLTE data for $25 a month

WHAT HAS IT BEEN LIKE?

It's been awesome, to be honest, I received the sim card in the mail a couple of days after placing my order, popped it in my phone and activated everything online through tpo.com. Super simple and I even got to keep my number. Service is great, coverage and speed is exactly the same as TMobile (as it runs on their network).

WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT IT?

I love the price - its all in, no taxes or fees, I signed up for auto recharge each month so that saves me $5. Oh and i get to give 10% of my monthly bill to my charity. Amazing value.

WHAT WOULD YOU CHANGE?

TPO offers a more limited phone range than some of the major carriers, although Apple and Samsung phones are available

WHO WOULD YOU RECOMMEND THIS TO?

Anyone who is looking to save some money, keep their number and already owns their own phone. Switching couldn't have been any easier. I'm saving $25 a month and have exactly the same service as I did before. I even switched my wife's line to TPO as well.

FAQs
Via TPO's website: "TPO do not cap customer data usage and you are responsible for setting alerts via your online account to ensure you avoid out of bundle data charges as per our advertised rates."
Yes, you can always keep your number when switching to a different provider.
Check Sprint and T-Mobile's coverage maps to see how coverage is in your area. TPO runs on these networks.

Compare phones and plans from the following carriers...

Mobile Deals

Cell Phone & Wireless Deals Every Week

Cell Phone & Wireless Deals Every Week

Our pick of the Hot Deals from every carrier, handpicked and fresh

T-Mobile Cell Phone Deals

T-Mobile Cell Phone Deals

All the deals on T-Mobile every week

Sprint's Wireless Deals & Best Plans

Sprint's Wireless Deals & Best Plans

All the deals from Sprint, updated every week

Straight Talk Cell Phone Deals

Straight Talk Cell Phone Deals

All the deals from Straight Talk, updated every week