TracFone Wireless

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For the TracPhone satellite system by KVH Industries, see KVH Industries.
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TracFone Wireless, Inc.
Industry Telecommunications
Predecessor Topp Telecom, Inc.
Founded Miami, Florida, United States (1996 (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 Increase US$9.48 billion (Jan-Dec 2008)[1]
Increase US$269 million (Jan-Dec 2008)[1]
Number of employees
400+ (2008)
Parent América Móvil (98.2%)
Others (1.8%)
Footnotes / references

TracFone Wireless, Inc. is a prepaid wireless service provider in the United States, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands. TracFone Wireless is a subsidiary of Mexico's largest telecommunications company América Móvil, and offers products and services under multiple brands which include TracFone, NET10 Wireless, Total Wireless, Straight Talk, SafeLink Wireless, Telcel América, Simple Mobile, and Page Plus Cellular. TracFone Wireless operates as a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), holding agreements with the United States' largest wireless network operators to provide service using their networks, including Verizon Wireless, AT&T Mobility, T-Mobile US, Sprint Corporation, and U.S. Cellular.


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 (NYSETMX), a.k.a. TelMex, Mexico's largest telephone company. TelMex paid $57.5 million for a 55 percent controlling interest in the company.

In 2000, TelMex spun off their mobile unit, creating América Móvil, of which Topp Telecom became a subsidiary. In November 2000, Topp Telecom Inc. changed its name to TracFone Wireless Inc.[3]

In May 2012, TracFone's parent company, América Móvil, announced it has reached an agreement to acquire rival MVNO Simple Mobile. The deal was completed in June 2012.

In 2013, Tracfone unveiled a tweaked logo. Later that year, TracFone also introduced Android phones (4 models), all CDMA.

In May 2013, América Móvil purchased Page Plus Cellular for an undisclosed amount. As of January 6, 2014, regulatory approval was received and Page Plus Cellular has joined other Américan Móvil subsidiaries like TracFone.[4] At the time of sale, Page Plus Cellular had 1.4 million subscribers.

TracFone Family Brands[edit]

TracFone provides eight brands of service: TracFone Wireless, NET10 Wireless, Total Wireless, Safelink Wireless, Straight Talk, Telcel América, SIMPLE Mobile, and Page Plus Cellular. These brands differ not only in their logos and prepaid minute rates but their underlying networks options:


Until late 2013, TracFone service was 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 unlocked GSM handsets will not accept TracFone SIM cards, because Tracfone SIM cards are locked to the handset to which they are programmed. Additionally, on most handsets, some features like USB and Bluetooth have been modified by the manufacturer to prevent direct transfer of user files. In December 2013, TracFone unveiled "Bring your own phone," which allows customers to use a Verizon Certified CDMA phone on the TracFone network. Since June 2015, Tracfone has also allowed compatible or unlocked GSM phones to be used on the Tracfone network through the Bring Your Own Device program.

The TracFone-branded service allows a customer to buy airtime units to use on selected phones by Alcatel, Huawei, Kyocera, LG, Motorola, Nokia, Samsung, Unimax, and ZTE amongst others. 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 AT&T or T-Mobile 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.

Tracfone typically offers new service promotions each month. These promotions consist of Free Bonus Minutes in the form of Tracfone promo codes and are able to be used by Safe Link users as well. The most popular Tracfone promotions are Triple Minutes for Life Phones, Double Minutes for Life Cards, and Promo Codes for Free Bonus Minutes. Free texting is capable with certain Tracfone GSM handsets that are Wi-Fi equipped also.

NET10 Wireless[edit]

NET10 Wireless logo.png

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.[5] 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.

NET10 Wireless also allows customers to bring AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, Verizon, or unlocked GSM phones to NET10 by buying a SIM card or activation kit and air time from the company. This program does not work with Blackberry and branded Straight Talk, SafeLink, TracFone, Total Wireless, and NET10 phones.[6]

SafeLink Wireless[edit]

Safelink Wireless logo.png

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[disambiguation needed] 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.[7][8] It is similar to the Lifeline and LinkUp government subsidized service for home telephones.[9] 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,[10] the largest Lifeline cell phone provider in the United States.

The Safe Link Wireless provides three kind of services, according to the previous customer's choice:

  • 68 Minutes Monthly Plan
  • 125 Minutes Monthly Plan
  • 350 Minutes Monthly Plan

Note: The 350 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 350 monthly minutes. Safe Link does offer optional Tracfone Airtime Card Compatibility and Promotions for Free Bonus Minutes. These options allow Safe Link users to add more minutes anytime and for use after their allotted plan expires for the month.

Straight Talk[edit]

Straight Talk Logo.svg

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 ("All You Need") plan provides 1500 minutes, unlimited texts, free 411 calls, 100 MB of data for a service period of 30 days.

The $45 unlimited plan provides unlimited talk, texts, 5 GB at 3G or 4G LTE speeds (LTE handset required); data beyond that is transmitted at 1xRTT speeds.

Straight Talk is currently exclusive to Walmart stores because of a joint-venture program between the two companies.[11]

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 AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, Verizon, or unlocked GSM phones to Straight Talk by buying a SIM card or activation kit and air time from the company. This program does not work with branded Straight Talk, SafeLink, TracFone, Total Wireless, and NET10 phones.[6]

Straight Talk is now selling Straight Talk branded iPhones including the iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPhone 5S, iPhone 5C, and iPhone 6 available online and at Walmart in addition to the BlackBerry Curve.[12]

Other phone brands also include, Alcatel, LG, Huawei, Samsung and ZTE.

Total Wireless[edit]

Total Wireless is a Mobile Virtual Network operator (MVNO) that uses Verizon's CDMA network. Total Wireless is another partnership between TracFone and Walmart, offering several different rate plans starting at $25/month, and all plans include unlimited talk minutes and texting. Data is also available on plans starting at $35/month for 2.5GB of data, but only on Verizon's 3G data network. Access to Verizon's 4G LTE data network is not offered.[13]

SIMPLE Mobile[edit]

Main article: Simple Mobile

America Movil, TracFone's parent company, acquired SIMPLE Mobile in June 2012 and has since been incorporated with its operations alongside TracFone's.

Telcel América[edit]

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 seven 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". Some plans offer roaming in Mexico at no extra charge.

Telcel América's current GSM phones are compatible with Mexico's Telcel wireless network and services. Telcel America also permits customers that have an unlocked GSM or compatible T-mobile phone to use the Telcel America Network. 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.

Page Plus Cellular[edit]

Main article: Page Plus Cellular

TracFone's parent company, America Movil, acquired Page Plus Cellular in 2014.

International long distance[edit]

In keeping with its marketing to immigrant communities,[citation needed] 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.

Company operations[edit]

TracFone's logistics are managed by BrightPoint.[14]

Class actions[edit]

Misleading "Unlimited" plan claims by Straight Talk, Net10 Wireless, Simple Mobile, And Telcel America - 2015[edit]

The Federal Trade Commission reported that "TracFone’s limits on “unlimited” data lead to $40 million in consumer refunds" as result of a lawsuit the FTC brought.[15][16]

Roaming and repair issues - 2007[edit]

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.[17][18] 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[edit]

TracFone Wireless uses the networks of major wireless providers to offer service, the coverage of which varies by the provider for each device. Retail boxes indicate the network with a code printed in the lower right corner on the back of the box.

Network Box code Technology LTE since
AT&T GSM-A GSM September 2013
T-Mobile GSM-T GSM March 2014
Sprint CDMA-S CDMA May 2013
Verizon CDMA-V CDMA December 2014

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.[citation needed] 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".

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b 4Q 2008 Financial and Operating Report (PDF) (Report). Retrieved December 18, 2009. 
  2. ^ "About Us". TracFone Wireless,. Retrieved December 27, 2012. 
  3. ^ "Miami Company Prepares Prepaid Cell-Phone Invasion". South Florida Business Journal. Retrieved December 18, 2009. 
  4. ^ " FCC approves TracFone acquiring Page Plus Cellular", Prepaid Mobile Phone Reviews, 2014-01-07
  5. ^ "Available Phones". Retrieved December 17, 2009. 
  6. ^ a b Saabedra, Humberto (March 7, 2012). "Tracfone Quietly Cancels LG Optimus 2X Launch". PhoneNews. Retrieved March 13, 2012. 
  7. ^ "TracFone Wireless Launches SafeLink Wireless to Aid Nearly 500,000 Low-Income Households in Georgia". Reuters. February 5, 2009. 
  8. ^ "TracFone Wireless Launches SafeLink Wireless to Aid Nearly 585,000 Low-Income Households in Pennsylvania". Business Wire. February 9, 2009. 
  9. ^ "Information on Subsidized Phone Service". Federal Communications Commission. 
  10. ^ "Battle Heats Up in Lifeline Mobile Market". May 28, 2011. Retrieved September 23, 2013. 
  11. ^ "Walmart to Launch Straight Talk Exclusively, Nationwide" (Press release). Walmart Stores, Inc. Retrieved December 18, 2009. 
  12. ^ "iPhone Now at Straight Talk Wireless". Straight Talk. Retrieved September 23, 2013. 
  13. ^ Choose a no-worry plan for your phone or hotspot Official page
  14. ^ "Profile: BrightPoint Inc (CELL.O)". Retrieved August 19, 2012. 
  15. ^ "Straight Talk, Net10, Simple Mobile, and Telcel America Refunds | Federal Trade Commission". 2015-01-01. Retrieved 2015-12-23. 
  16. ^ "Billionaire Carlos Slim's TracFone Wireless To Pay $40 Million To FTC For 'Deceiving' Consumers". Retrieved 2015-12-23. 
  17. ^[dead link]
  18. ^ "TracFone Wireless Inc. Roaming Fees Class Action Settlement". Retrieved February 6, 2011. 

External links[edit]