|Predecessor(s)||Topp Telecom, Inc.|
|Founded||Miami, Florida, United States (1996)|
|Headquarters||Miami, Florida, United States|
|Number of locations||80,000 retail locations|
|Area served||United States (incl. Hawaii, Alaska, and Puerto Rico)|
|Key people||Frederick J. Pollak (President and CEO)|
|Services||Prepaid mobile virtual network operator|
|Revenue||US$9.48 billion (Jan-Dec 2008)|
|Net income||US$269 million (Jan-Dec 2008)|
|Parent||América Móvil (98.2%)
TracFone Wireless, Inc. is a prepaid wireless service provider operating in the United States including Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands and is a subsidiary of Mexico's largest telecommunications provider, América Móvil. As a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO), TracFone Wireless holds multiple agreements with the US largest wireless telecommunications companies to utilize their networks to provide service including those of Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile.
TracFone Wireless offers its wireless products under multiple brands which each also offer distinctive service plans, the brands include TracFone, NET10 Wireless, Straight Talk, SafeLink Wireless, Telcel América and Simple Mobile.
TracFone was established in 1996 as Topp Telecom Inc., a prepaid mobile phone company, in Miami, Florida. In February 1999, Topp received a major infusion of capital from Teléfonos de México (NYSE: TMX), a.k.a. TelMex, Mexico's largest telephone company. TelMex paid $57.5 million for a 55 percent controlling interest in the company.
TracFone provides six brands of service: TracFone, NET10 Wireless, Safelink Wireless, Straight Talk, Telcel América, and SIMPLE Mobile. These brands differ not only in their logos and prepaid minute rates but their underlying networks options:
TracFone service is limited to TracFone-branded handsets (all TracFone handsets are pre-programmed by the manufacturer; therefore, the handset is locked including its latest GSM models). Other GSM handsets will not accept TracFone SIM cards, even if unlocked. Additionally, on most handsets, some features like USB and Bluetooth have been modified by the manufacturer to prevent direct transfer of user files.
The TracFone-branded service allows a customer to buy airtime units to use on selected digital phones by Kyocera, LG, Motorola, and Samsung. Which handset the user purchases decides what type of network the service uses and thus the coverage map. Phone models utilizing the Verizon or Sprint CDMA network have the letter C in the model name, while phones using the GSM network have the letter G.
Tracfone minutes (known as "units") are purchased in blocks that vary in price with the quantity of minutes being purchased. Text messages and mobile web access are measured in fractions of units: sending or receiving a text message deducts 0.3 units from the user's account (some TracFone models, like the Motorola EX124G, deduct 0.5 units from the user's account to send or receive a text message, which also existed on older phones); each minute of mobile Web access deducts 0.5 units, rounded up to the next whole minute. Though earlier TracFone models charged double (2.0 units per minute) for roaming outside the user's home phone area, the current phones all offer the "single rate" plan, which charges the same 1.0 unit-per-minute rate regardless of location. Tracfones have expiration dates; purchasing more airtime typically adds 90 days of service, with a 365-day extension package available.
NET10 Wireless is a related offering, using both GSM and CDMA phones which support voicemail and text messaging at a minimum. Some models also offer Bluetooth, camera, handsfree speaker, qwerty keyboard, and wireless web. The "10" in NET10 signifies that each voice minute costs ten cents (five cents for text messages), with no additional fees.
NET10's slogan is No Bills, No Contracts, No Evil. Both airtime cards and auto-pay plans called "Easy Minutes" are available. Time can be added using the phone itself ("Rapid Refill"), at the company's website, or using the Customer Care Center. Minutes from one month carry over to the next, as long as service remains active. NET10 Wireless offers business plans and international calling, and number portability is advertised on their site as being available. A $50 a month unlimited use plan is also available, this service provides unlimited SMS, phone calls (not including International Long Distance Calls, for this type of calls there is an Unlimited Monthly Plan or $65) unlimited MMS (within the United States) for only one month to the customer's account. The customer can add more than one Unlimited card and this/these plan(s) are added to the "Phone's Reserve" and is charged on the phone in a monthly basis (when the cell phone has run out of service days) automatically.
Android phones made by LG and Samsung are available through NET10 Wireless, and can be used with their $50 Unlimited plan. NET10 Wireless also has the 'mini SIM cards' for unlocked iPhones with the $50 Unlimited Monthly plan.
In December 2012, NET10 Wireless began offering "Family Plans", offering the first line for $50/month, reducing each additional lines (up to 4) with a discount of $5. They also entered into a title sponsorship agreement with the Arena Football League.
On March 1, 2013, the NET10 Wireless Bring Your Own Phone AT&T-compatible SIM will be limited to 1.5GB of high speed data usage per month on the Unlimited plan.
SafeLink Wireless provides a free cell phone and a limited number of voice minutes each month for low-income-eligible families (one per family) who do not use Lifeline services offered by any other phone or wireless company. It is funded through the Universal Service Fund, but is only operational in a limited number of states. It is similar to the Lifeline and LinkUp government subsidized service for home telephones. Applications for service may be done via their web page, or by having them fax or mail an application form. No choice of phone handset is provided by the application process. Additional minutes over the free monthly benefit may be purchased. As of May 2011, Safelink Wireless had almost 4,000,000 subscribers, the largest Lifeline cell phone provider in the United States.
The SafeLink Wireless provides three kind of services, according to the previous customer's choice:
- 68 Minutes Monthly Plan
- 125 Minutes Monthly Plan
- 250 Minutes Monthly Plan
Note: The 250 Minutes Monthly Plan does not Carry-over the minutes on the next month, i.e., if the SafeLink customer does not use all of his/her minutes in first month, in the second month he/she will lose those remaining minutes, being renewed by the next 250 monthly minutes.
Straight Talk is another operator, through a partnership between TracFone and Walmart, offering several different rate plans; a $30 limited plan, $45 30-day unlimited plan and a $60 unlimited international calling plan. Discounts are available for purchasing multiple months of the unlimited plan. Straight Talk is a Mobile Virtual Network operator (MVNO) offering both CDMA and GSM support. The CDMA network uses Verizon's or Sprint's CDMA 1xRTT wireless networks and the GSM side makes use of either T-Mobile's or AT&T's GSM networks.
The $30 limited plan the "All You Need" plan which provides 1000 minutes, 1000 texts, free 411 and 30MB of data for a service period of 30 days.
The $45 unlimited plan, provides unlimited talk, texts and data. The data does not include streaming.
Straight Talk offers a variety of prepaid, no contract, phones on their website for use with their plans. Straight Talk also allows customers to bring a T-Mobile GSM phone or an unlocked domestic GSM phone to Straight Talk or NET10 by buying a SIM card and air time from the company. This program does not work with Blackberry and branded Straight Talk, SafeLink, TracFone and NET10 phones. The program does not work with phones designed to work on CDMA networks such as Verizon's due to incompatibility issues between CDMA phones and GSM networks. However, there are specific phones available from Straight Talk that use Verizon's network. The list of compatible phones with the program includes the iPhone Family, Nokia Lumia Family, LG Phoenix/LG Thrive, HTC Inspire and Motorola Atrix 2.
Straight Talk formerly allowed customers to bring an AT&T GSM phone or to purchase a SIM card that offers service on AT&T's network. As of February 2013, America Movil has discontinued both options from both the Straight Talk and NET10 websites. In addition, most references (besides support articles) have been edited to remove any mentions to AT&T-compatible service. It is unclear as to whether AT&T-compatible sales have been permanently discontinued or not. Existing customers are not impacted by this change.
Telcel América is a wireless service from TracFone that is mainly targeted for hispanic consumers, primarily the Mexican community living in the United States. Telcel América offers two monthly plans, both including Unlimited nationwide-minutes, Unlimited SMS, MMS messaging, and Web browsing, Telcel América also offers an international calling plan for call to "over 1,000 destinations".
Telcel América phones are in no way compatible with Mexico's Telcel wireless network and services. Telcel América is a brand of TracFone Inc. in the United States, while Telcel in Mexico is a fully owned subsidiary of TracFone's parent company, América Móvil. Both companies are owned by the world's wealthiest person as of 2013, Mexican businessman Carlos Slim.
International long distance
In keeping with its marketing to immigrant communities, TracFone provides international calling options to all its customers. A toll-free number in the US is dialed to make phone calls to at least some telephones (not including cellphones) in over fifty countries. The International Neighbors plan allows TracFone customers to obtain up to three local telephone numbers in any of several Canadian or Mexican cities. These are forwarded to the TracFone customer in the United States at the standard rates.
On February 9, 2007, a preliminary settlement in a class-action lawsuit against TracFone was carried out by Jeanette Wagner, and approved in the Boone (County) Circuit Court in Kentucky. The complainants alleged that Tracfone misled consumers by charging a roaming rate in their home calling area (they were charged for 2 units per minute, not the usual 1 unit per minute), and that it refused to extend their prepaid service time during handset repairs. Tracfone gave each of their customers an extra 20 units of airtime.
Networks and coverage
TracFone Wireless uses the networks of major wireless providers to offer service, coverage varies by provider/device.
|GSM models:||CDMA models:|
|Claro (Puerto Rico)|
On TracFones with SIM cards, the carrier can be identified in the same manner as any other SIM-based phone, by interpreting the SIM number. On T-Mobile phones, the first line of the SIM number will end in "SIMT5", on AT&T/Cingular, the first line will end in "SIMC4", on Claro phones, the first line will end in "SIMCL7".
- "4Q 2008 Financial and Operating Report": americamovil.com (retrieved 18 Dec 2009)
- "About Us". TracFone Wireless, Inc. Retrieved 27 December 2012.
- "Miami company prepares prepaid cell-phone invasion": South Florida Business Journal (retrieved 18 Dec 2009)
- "Available phones": NET10.com (retrieved 17 Dec 2009)
- "TracFone Wireless Launches SafeLink Wireless to Aid Nearly 500,000 Low-Income Households in Georgia", Reuters, Thursday, February 5, 2009
- "TracFone Wireless Launches SafeLink Wireless to Aid Nearly 585,000 Low-Income Households in Pennsylvania", Business Wire, February 09, 2009
- Information on subsidized phone service: lifeline.gov (FCC site)
- "Battle heats up in Lifeline mobile market"
- "Walmart To Launch Straight Talk Exclusively, Nationwide", walmart.com (retrieved 18 Dec 2009)
- "Tracfone Quietly Cancels LG Optimus 2X Launch By Humberto Saabedra on March 7, 2012", phonenews.com (retrieved 13 Mar 2012)
- "LIST-Good-smartphones-to-get-with-Straight-Talk-sim", howardforums.com (retrieved 13 Mar 2012)
- "Profile: BrightPoint Inc (CELL.O)". Retrieved 19 August 2012.
- http://news.nky.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/AB/20070301/NEWS0103/703010331NKY.Com[dead link]
- "TracFone Wireless Inc. Roaming Fees Class Action Settlement". Retrieved 6 February 2011.
- Official website
- America Móvil
- NET10 Wireless
- Safelink Wireless
- Straight Talk
- Telcel América
- SIMPLE Mobile