|Predecessor||Topp Telecom, Inc.|
|Founded||Miami, Florida, United States (1996)|
|Headquarters||Miami, Florida, United States|
Number of locations
|90,000 retail locations|
|United States (incl. Hawaii, Alaska, and Puerto Rico)|
|Services||Prepaid mobile virtual network operator|
Number of employees
|Parent||América Móvil (98.2%)|
|Footnotes / references|
TracFone Wireless, Inc. is a prepaid mobile virtual network operator 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, Page Plus Cellular, GoSmart Mobile, and Walmart Family Mobile. 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 Wireless had 25.668 million subscribers in 2015.
- 1 History
- 2 TracFone Family Brands
- 3 Calling outside the U.S.
- 4 Company operations
- 5 Class actions
- 6 Networks and coverage
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
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.
In May 2012, TracFone's parent company, América Móvil, announced it had 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. On January 6, 2014, regulatory approval was received and Page Plus Cellular joined other América Móvil subsidiaries like TracFone. At the time of sale, Page Plus Cellular had 1.4 million subscribers.
TracFone Family Brands
TracFone provides ten brands of service: TracFone Wireless, NET10 Wireless, Total Wireless, Safelink Wireless, Straight Talk, Telcel América, SIMPLE Mobile, Page Plus Cellular, GoSmart Mobile, and Walmart Family Mobile. 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 would not accept TracFone SIM cards, because Tracfone SIM cards were locked to the handset to which they were 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 among 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. For smartphones, card values (except service days) are tripled and minutes, text messages, and internet data are tracked discretely (e.g a 60-minute card will add 180 minutes, 180 text messages, and 180 megabytes of 3G/LTE data usage).
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 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.
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.
SafeLink Wireless provides a free cell phone and a limited number of voice minutes each month for eligible low-income 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 Safe Link Wireless provides two kind of services, according to the previous customer's choice:
- 350 MINUTES TALK and UNLIMITED TEXT
- 500 MB 4G DATA
Note: The 500 MB Monthly Plan does not Carry-over the MB on the next month, i.e., if the SafeLink customer does not use all of his/her MB's in first month, in the second month he/she will lose those remaining MB's being renewed by the next 500 MB monthly data . 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 is another operator, through a partnership between TracFone and Walmart, offering several different rate plans; a $30 limited plan, $35, $45, and $55 30-day unlimited plans 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. This plan is exclusive to basic phones, and is not compatible with 3G or 4G LTE smartphones.
The $35 unlimited plan provides unlimited talk, texts, 2GB at 3G or 4G LTE speeds; data beyond that is transmitted at 64 kbit/s speeds.
The $45 unlimited plan provides unlimited talk, texts, 10GB at 3G or 4G LTE speeds (LTE handset required); data beyond that is transmitted at 64 kbit/s speeds.
The $55 unlimited plan provides unlimited talk, texts, and data at high speeds (3G or 4G LTE where available). The plan does not include any tethering (mobile hotspot), while video streams at a resolution of 480p or lower. Also, Straight Talk customers' speeds will be prioritized behind customers on the network it uses during times of congestion (i.e. A Verizon Straight Talk will be slowed before a Verizon Post Paid Beyond Unlimited customer).
Straight Talk is currently exclusive to Walmart stores through of a joint-venture program between the two companies. Phones and service can also be purchased directly from Straight Talk via its website, StraightTalk.com or by telephone, bypassing WalMart.
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.
Other phone brands also include Alcatel, LG, Huawei, Samsung and ZTE.
Total Wireless is a Mobile Virtual Network operator (MVNO) that uses Verizon's CDMA and LTE networks. Before early 2017, Total Wireless products were only sold at Walmart. They are now sold at other major retail stores such as Target and Dollar General as well as independent dealers and TracFone Exclusive Retailers. They offer 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 5GB of data. Multi-line "family" plans are available as well. Before May 2016, only 3G phones were sold and supported by Total Wireless. In May 2016, Total Wireless gained support for Verizon's 4G LTE network, and started selling phones with that support on its own website (as well as Walmart's website.)
America Movil, TracFone's parent company, acquired SIMPLE Mobile in June 2012 and has since been incorporated with its operations alongside TracFone's.
Simple Mobile (stylized SIMPLE Mobile) is a prepaid mobile network operator which was founded in November 2009 and is headquartered in Irvine, California, in the United States and functionning as T-Mobile US MVNO. It became a subsidiary of America Móvil (parent of TracFone Wireless Inc.) after it was acquired in June 2012. On February 16 of 2011 SIMPLE Mobile celebrated their one millionth activation. Simple Mobile has activated more than 2.5 million subscribers since they opened in November 2009.
The initial plans offered prepaid month-to-month wireless services including unlimited texting, voice, and capped data. In June 2010 the company began to advertise unlimited data on their prepaid monthly plans.
According to SIMPLE Mobile customer service representatives, they are unable to submit IMEI numbers to the global stolen phones database or comply with law enforcement subpoenas to track stolen phones or those belonging to abduction victims, missing persons at risk or dangerous fugitives. Simple Mobile is an MVNO on T-Mobile's Network. This means that all information is stored on T-Mobile's servers. A law enforcement professional would need to give the subpoena/court order to the Law Enforcement Relations Group. They will be able to process the subpoena. This applies to all MVNOs since their hosted carrier supports all the network and backend. Simple Mobile should refer the parties direct to their host entity T-Mobile US.
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 Mexican businessman Carlos Slim.
Page Plus Cellular
Page Plus Cellular was established in 1993 by Abdul Yassine, as Page Plus Communications, selling pager services in the Toledo, Ohio area. In August 1998 the company was renamed Page Plus Cellular and launched services in Ohio and Michigan, followed by a nationwide launch in 2000.
Page Plus was originally headquartered in Holland, Ohio, and owned by Abdul Yassine.
In May 2013, Mexican telecommunications company 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 América Móvil subsidiaries like TracFone. At the time of sale, Page Plus Cellular had 1.4 million subscribers.
Page Plus Cellular offers both pay-as-you-go and no-contract monthly plans. Both monthly and pay-as-you-go customers add voice minutes, data and text messages to their account by purchasing refill cards.
GoSmart Mobile was a T-Mobile US subsidiary service that launched in beta on December 7, 2012, and became officially available nationwide on February 19, 2013. GoSmart offers no-contract SIM wireless services. GoSmart Mobile sources its services to dealers who work as independent contractors under their own company name. Such sellers are known as "Authorized Dealers" with either physical or online stores. TracFone Wireless acquired GoSmart, along with Walmart Family Mobile, from T-Mobile US in September 2016.
Walmart Family Mobile
Walmart Family Mobile offers no-contract prepaid plans. GoSmart, along with Walmart Family Mobile, were purchased by TracFone from T-Mobile in September 2016.
Calling outside the U.S.
TracFone provides several options to let customers communicate with phones outside the U.S.:
- Any customer can call a designated U.S. toll-free number and follow recorded instructions to initiate calls to some telephones in over fifty countries. In some of these countries, cellphones cannot be reached.
- By providing the phone number and serial number at TracFone.com, a customer can associate up to ten toll-free (1-800) numbers with designated phone numbers outside the U.S. When the customer dials the 1-800 number, TracFone identifies the customer's phone and places the call to the associated number. The customer could place the 1-800 number in the Contact List as the "phone number" of the relevant person, but the contact could not be copied to another phone unless the customer registered with TracFone the same association for the destination phone.
- By providing the phone number and serial number at TracFone.com, a customer can obtain up to three local telephone numbers in any of several Mexican cities. Calls to these numbers are forwarded to the TracFone customer in the United States.
The only charge for these services is the deduction of connect time from the prepaid minutes on the customer's phone.
Misleading "Unlimited" plan claims by Straight Talk, Net10 Wireless, Simple Mobile, And Telcel America - 2015
Roaming and repair issues - 2007
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, 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|
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".
- "About Us". TracFone Wireless,. Retrieved December 27, 2012.
- "Miami Company Prepares Prepaid Cell-Phone Invasion". South Florida Business Journal. Retrieved December 18, 2009.
- " FCC approves TracFone acquiring Page Plus Cellular", Prepaid Mobile Phone Reviews, 2014-01-07
- "Available Phones". NET10.com. Retrieved December 17, 2009.
- Saabedra, Humberto (March 7, 2012). "Tracfone Quietly Cancels LG Optimus 2X Launch". PhoneNews. Retrieved March 13, 2012.
- "TracFone Wireless Launches SafeLink Wireless to Aid Nearly 500,000 Low-Income Households in Georgia". Reuters. February 5, 2009. Archived from the original on October 29, 2009.
- "TracFone Wireless Launches SafeLink Wireless to Aid Nearly 585,000 Low-Income Households in Pennsylvania". Business Wire. February 9, 2009.
- "Information on Subsidized Phone Service". Federal Communications Commission.
- "Battle Heats Up in Lifeline Mobile Market". Freegovernmentcellphones.net. May 28, 2011. Retrieved September 23, 2013.
- " Straight Talk Adds New $55 Plan With 10GB Of High Speed Data", Prepaid Mobile Phone Reviews, 2016-03-11
- "Walmart to Launch Straight Talk Exclusively, Nationwide" (Press release). Walmart Stores, Inc. Archived from the original on January 2, 2010. Retrieved December 18, 2009.
- "iPhone Now at Straight Talk Wireless". Straight Talk. Retrieved September 23, 2013.
- "Verizon MVNO Total Wireless Now Has 4G LTE Data, Ups Data On Its Plans Featuring 5GB For $35". bestmvno.com. 13 May 2016. Retrieved 9 June 2016.
- "TracFone acquires Verizon MVNO Page Plus Cellular and its 1.4M customers". FierceWireless.com. Retrieved 2016-08-09.
- "America Movil to Buy Page Plus Cellular Parent Start Wireless Group". PhoneNews.com. 2013-05-20. Retrieved 2016-08-09.
- "No Contract Prepaid Plans | Cellular Prepaid Plans". Page Plus Cellular. 2014-08-26. Retrieved 2016-08-09.
- " TracFone Acquired GoSmart and Walmart Family Mobile", Prepaid Mobile Phone Reviews, 2016-09-20
- TracFone web page on International Long Distance
- "Profile: BrightPoint Inc (CELL.O)". Retrieved August 19, 2012.
- "Straight Talk, Net10, Simple Mobile, and Telcel America Refunds | Federal Trade Commission". Ftc.gov. 2015-01-01. Retrieved 2015-12-23.
- "Billionaire Carlos Slim's TracFone Wireless To Pay $40 Million To FTC For 'Deceiving' Consumers". Forbes.com. Retrieved 2015-12-23.
- http://news.nky.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/AB/20070301/NEWS0103/703010331NKY.Com[dead link]
- "TracFone Wireless Inc. Roaming Fees Class Action Settlemen". Class action news consumers can use. Retrieved February 6, 2011.
- Family Brands
- America Móvil
- NET10 Wireless
- Page Plus Cellular
- Safelink Wireless
- SIMPLE Mobile
- Straight Talk
- Telcel América