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TracFone Wireless, Inc. (TFWI) is an American prepaid, no-contract mobile phone provider. TFWI is a subsidiary of Mexico's largest telecommunications company, América Móvil,[3] and offers products and services under several brands. It operates as a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), holding agreements with the United States' largest wireless network operators to provide service, including Verizon Wireless, AT&T Mobility, T-Mobile US, Sprint Corporation, and U.S. Cellular.[citation needed] TracFone Wireless had 25.668 million subscribers in 2015.

TracFone Wireless, Inc.
Subsidiary
IndustryTelecommunications
PredecessorTopp Telecom, Inc.
FoundedMiami, Florida, United States (1996 (1996))
Headquarters
Miami, Florida
,
United States
Number of locations
90,000 retail locations
Area served
United States (incl. Hawaii, Alaska, and Puerto Rico)
ServicesPrepaid mobile virtual network operator
Number of employees
400+ (2008)
ParentAmérica Móvil (100%)[1]
Websitewww.tracfone.com
Footnotes / references
[2]

Contents

HistoryEdit

TracFone Wireless, Inc. (TFWI) 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.[4]

In 2012, América Móvil acquired rival network Simple Mobile.

In 2013, TFWI unveiled a tweaked logo. Later that year, TFWI also introduced four Android phones, all CDMA.

In May 2013, América Móvil purchased Page Plus Cellular, which had 1.4 million subscribers. On January 6, 2014, regulatory approval was received and Page Plus Cellular began operating as a subsidiary of América Móvil.[5]

TracFoneEdit

Originally, TracFone service was limited to TracFone-branded phones, which are locked to the TracFone service using an internal SIM card. Other GSM phones, even those that were unlocked from another carrier, could not accept a TracFone SIM card, because these are bound to a specific handset. However, in 2013, TracFone unveiled Bring Your Own Phone, selling SIM cards that could be inserted into qualifying non-TracFone phones (such as Verizon CDMA phones) to register them with TracFone. In 2015, this program, renamed "Bring Your Own Device", was extended to compatible unlocked GSM phones.

Basic Phone Plans

  • Non-Android phones have a usage account denominated in units. Each minute of a phone call (initiated or received) is 1.0 unit. Sending or receiving a text is charged as some fraction of a minute (typically 0.3, but 0.5 on some models). A minute of Web access is 0.5 unit. Earlier TracFone models charged double (2.0 units per minute) for roaming outside the user's home phone area, but all current phones operate independent of location in the United States.
  • Android phones have separate accounts for phone minutes, texts, and megabytes of data exchanged. Thus, a service card for 60 minutes adds 60 phone minutes, 60 texts, and 60 megabytes.
  • On specific phones with the "triple minutes for life" feature, the same 60-minute card instead adds 180 minutes, 180 texts, and 180 megabytes. The days of service stated on the card do not triple. Newer phones do not feature "triple minutes for life", but TracFone honors the promise on any phone for which it was given. Newer cards, providing only minutes, only texts, or only megabytes without augmenting other aspects of the service, do not triple on any phone.[6]

Smartphone Plans

  • Since 2015, Tracfone has offered a variety of smartphone plans, which offer various talk, text and data allotments. Current plans start at $15 for 200 minutes, 500 texts and 500 MB of data.

TracFone occasionally discloses promo codes that will provide additional service units if the customer enters the code when redeeming a service card.[6]

Calling outside the U.S.Edit

TracFone provides several options to let customers communicate outside the United States:[7]

  • Any customer can call a designated toll-free number and follow recorded instructions to initiate calls to 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 numbers with designated phone numbers outside the United States. When the customer dials the toll-free number, TracFone identifies the customer's phone and places the call to the associated number.
  • 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.
  • Tracfone also offers a $10 Global card, which allows customers to call mobile and landline number anywhere in the world, including countries that are not included in the Basic International Long Distance offer. The balance on the care expires in 180 days of last use or 30 days after inactive service.[8]

The only charge to the Tracfone customer for these services is the deduction of actual connect time from the prepaid minutes on the customer's phone. There is no roaming program by which a TracFone phone can be used outside the United States.[7]

Other brandsEdit

In addition to its namesake product, TracFone Wireless offers products under the brands 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 network options.

NET10 WirelessEdit

NET10 Wireless supports both GSM and CDMA phones which support voicemail and text messaging at a minimum. Depending on the device, some models also offer Bluetooth, camera, hands-free speaker, qwerty keyboard, and wireless web.[9]

NET10 offers a variety of plans, which can be purchased either from their website or from designated retailers. Minutes from one month carry over to the next, as long as service remains active. NET10 Wireless offers a variety of service plans, ranging from $20-$65, with as little as 1GB of data up to 12GB. Additional data can be purchased throughout the month if the allotted is used up. For non-data users, plans with only text and talk minutes can also be purchased.[10]

NET10 Wireless sells Android phones by LG and Samsung, and some generations of the iPhone, and sells SIM cards that can be inserted in unlocked AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, Verizon, or unlocked GSM phones.

SafeLink WirelessEdit

SafeLink Wireless is a Lifeline supported service, a government benefit program. Lifeline is a non-transferable, limited to one per household cell phone service only offered to eligible consumers.[11] It is funded through the Universal Service Fund[12], and customers can apply for service using the SafeLink web page, by fax, or by mail. Eligible participants receive up to 1,000 minutes, unlimited text messages and a fixed amount of data each month. The customer can choose from a variety of Smartphones offered by Tracfone or a SIM Card along with free minutes, texts and data each month for qualified customers.[13] Service units can carry over to the next month depending on the plan used[14]; if the customer exceeds the allocation, there is no service until the start of the next month unless the customer buys more units. The customer can use TracFone airtime cards, including promotions for free bonus minutes.

In California, customers receive unlimited talk and text plus a fixed amount of data per month, but can purchase an extended data package.[15]

Straight TalkEdit

Straight Talk is a Mobile Virtual Network operator (MVNO) offering both CDMA and GSM support. The CDMA service uses Verizon's or Sprint's CDMA 1xRTT wireless networks and the GSM service makes use of either T-Mobile's or AT&T's GSM networks.

Straight Talk has a joint-venture agreement with Walmart that makes Walmart its exclusive retailer,[16] though customers can buy phones and service directly from Straight Talk via its website or by telephone.

Straight Talk offers several different rate plans. Depending on price, these deliver limited or unlimited service over a 30-day period. Monthly prices are reduced when plans are activated with Auto-Refill, which automatically activates the same service plan once the 30-day period is complete. High-speed data is unlimited on the $55 Ultimate Unlimited Plan, and it is limited on the $45, $35, $30 and $10 plans, with speeds lowering to 2G after stated data allotments.[17]

Service plans do not include hotspot tethering. Video streams at up to 480p. Straight Talk customers' speeds are prioritized behind customers on the network they are using during times of congestion.[18]

Total WirelessEdit

Total Wireless is a Mobile Virtual Network operator (MVNO) that uses the Verizon network.

Total Wireless offers a variety of Smartphones which can operate on Verizon's 4G LTE network. Devices and service plans can be purchased via the Total Wireless website, Walmart website, as well as in-store at Walmart, Target and Dollar General.[19] These phones use CDMA for voice, not Verizon's VoLTE; they use LTE only for data exchange.

Service plans include single line options or multi-line family plans, with prices ranging from $25 up to $100. All plans include unlimited talk minutes and texting; and a variety of data options to choose from.[20]

SIMPLE MobileEdit

América Móvil, TFWI's parent company, acquired SIMPLE Mobile in June 2012 and has incorporated the brand into operations alongside TFWI’s other subsidiary brands.

SIMPLE Mobile is a prepaid mobile network operator founded in November 2009 and functions as an mobile virtual network operator of T-Mobile US. It became a subsidiary of America Móvil (parent of TracFone Wireless Inc.) after it was acquired by them in June 2012. On January 31, 2011, SIMPLE Mobile celebrated their one millionth activation.[21] SIMPLE Mobile has activated more than 2.5 million subscribers since they opened in November 2009.

SIMPLE Mobile offers no-contract, 30-day plans including unlimited talk and text and various amounts of high-speed data, including 2GB, 3GB, 10GB and unlimited.[22]

Telcel AméricaEdit

Telcel América is a wireless service from TracFone Wireless, Inc. (TFWI) that allows its users to call internationally as a built in part of the service plans. Telcel América offers a variety of monthly plans, including unlimited nationwide-minutes, unlimited SMS/MMS messaging, and unlimited data. Plans start at $20 and can cost up to $60. 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 América Network. Telcel América is a brand of TracFone Inc. in the United States, while Telcel in Mexico is a fully owned subsidiary of TFWI's parent company, América Móvil.

Page Plus CellularEdit

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. In May 2013, Mexican telecommunications company América Móvil purchased Page Plus Cellular.[23] As of January 6, 2014, regulatory approval was received and Page Plus Cellular has joined other América Móvil subsidiaries like Tracfone Wireless, Inc. At the time of sale, Page Plus Cellular had 1.4 million subscribers.[24]

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. Prices for no-contract phone plans with Page Plus Cellular range from $12 to $55, and pay-as-you-go start at $10 and go up to $80. Customers can choose whether they would like to bring their own phone, or purchase one of the smartphone options on Page Plus’ website. The carrier offers a variety of Samsung, Apple and Android devices.[25]

GoSmart MobileEdit

GoSmart Mobile was previously a T-Mobile US subsidiary that launched in beta on December 7, 2012, and became officially available nationwide on February 19, 2013. TracFone Wireless acquired GoSmart along with Walmart Family Mobile from T-Mobile US in September 2016.

GoSmart offers five no-contract phone plans, starting at $15 going up to $55 per month. GoSmart does not sell any devices directly, but customers can purchase a SIM card to bring their own phone to the provider. Customers can purchase the plans and SIM cards either online at GoSmartMobile.com or in-store at one of their authorized retailers.[26]

Walmart Family MobileEdit

Walmart Family Mobile offers no-contract prepaid plans. GoSmart, along with Walmart Family Mobile, were purchased by TracFone from T-Mobile in September 2016.[27]

The company offers a range of family-friendly phone plans exclusively through Walmart, ranging in price from $25 to $50 for single line plans. Service plans can also be bundled together for families needing more than one line. Customers can decide if they would like to bring their own phone or purchase a new one through Walmart Family Mobile. Apple, Samsung and Android devices are all available for purchase through the company either online or in-stores.[28]

All brandsEdit

Company backgroundEdit

TracFone Wireless, Inc. (TFWI) brands sells phones by many manufacturers. Each phone contains a SIM card applicable to that brand. TFWI brands sell phones for several networks; models using 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. The choice of phone thus determines the network used and the quality of service in specific locations. A typical retail display includes a coverage map (or several, one for each relevant network), indicating the parts of the U.S. where the phone can be used.

Purchasing serviceEdit

The customer must buy a service card through their chosen TFWI brand. These are available at many retail store locations, including Best Buy, Target, Walmart, Home Depot and Sam’s Club. A typical service card carries a specified number of service days and usage units (such as minutes). Each service card contains an "Airtime PIN" or “Service PIN” beneath a mask that the customer scratches off. The customer can use a brand website, use TFWI customer service, or send a text, to redeem the card. Redemption loads the phone with the resources specified on the card, and prevents the PIN from being reused. The service card has a bar code that is scanned on purchase, so that PINs from stolen service cards never become valid.

Activating serviceEdit

Having bought a phone, the customer must register it with their chosen TFWI brand. This process assigns a phone number to the phone and loads the phone with service days and usage units from the initial service card. The assigned phone number has an area code and exchange based on a ZIP code that the customer specifies. This choice of a geographic location does not affect service or cost, but it lets customers of landlines in that vicinity reach the TracFone as a local call.

Class actionsEdit

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

The Federal Trade Commission made a lawsuit towards TracFone, saying that they limited their "unlimited" data. This led to $40 million in consumer refunds as a result.[citation needed]

Roaming and repair issues - 2007Edit

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.[29][30] 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 coverageEdit

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

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ García-Moreno, Carlos. "América Móvil's first quarter of 2019 financial and operating report" (PDF). www.americamovil.com. Retrieved June 13, 2019.
  2. ^ "About Us". TracFone Wireless. Retrieved December 27, 2012.
  3. ^ Lunden, Ingrid (March 18, 2019). "America Movil acquires Nextel in Brazil for $905M". TechCrunch. Retrieved May 31, 2019.
  4. ^ "Miami Company Prepares Prepaid Cell-Phone Invasion". South Florida Business Journal. Retrieved December 18, 2009.
  5. ^ " FCC approves TracFone acquiring Page Plus Cellular", Prepaid Mobile Phone Reviews, 2014-01-07
  6. ^ a b Peter Vanosdall (December 18, 2018). "How Do Minutes Work on Tracfone Smartphones?". TracfoneReviewer (blog).
  7. ^ a b TracFone web page on International Long Distance
  8. ^ "International Long Distance Rates". TracFone Wireless. Retrieved June 1, 2019.
  9. ^ "Available Phones". NET10.com. Retrieved December 17, 2009.
  10. ^ Wireless, Net10. "Live Your Best Wireless Life". Net10 Wireless. Retrieved June 1, 2019.
  11. ^ "SafeLink Wireless About Us". www.safelinkwireless.com. Retrieved June 1, 2019.
  12. ^ "Information on Subsidized Phone Service". Federal Communications Commission.
  13. ^ "SafeLink Wireless Welcome Center". www.safelinkwireless.com. Retrieved June 1, 2019.
  14. ^ https://www.safelinkwireless.com/Enrollment/Safelink/RetrieveDocument/NewPublic/terms_conditions.html
  15. ^ "Safelink Wireless CA". Safelink CA Website. January 17, 2019. Retrieved January 17, 2019.
  16. ^ "Walmart to Launch Straight Talk Exclusively, Nationwide" (Press release). Walmart Stores, Inc. Archived from the original on January 2, 2010. Retrieved December 18, 2009.
  17. ^ "Service Plans". StraightTalk. Retrieved June 1, 2019.
  18. ^ " Straight Talk Adds New $55 Plan With 10GB Of High Speed Data", Prepaid Mobile Phone Reviews, 2016-03-11
  19. ^ "Prepaid Operator Profile: Total Wireless". Retrieved June 1, 2019.
  20. ^ Wireless, Total. "Get Total Confidence No-Contract Wireless Plans". Total Wireless. Retrieved June 1, 2019.
  21. ^ "SIMPLE Mobile Delivers Record Breaking Subscriber Growth With One Millionth Activation" (Press release). IRVINE, Calif: BB Public Relations. Business Wire. February 16, 2011. Retrieved May 3, 2019.
  22. ^ "What Is Simple Mobile, and Is It Worth It?". Tom's Guide. February 8, 2019. Retrieved May 3, 2019.
  23. ^ "TracFone acquires Verizon MVNO Page Plus Cellular and its 1.4M customers". FierceWireless.com. Retrieved May 8, 2019.
  24. ^ "America Movil to Buy Page Plus Cellular Parent Start Wireless Group". PhoneNews.com. May 20, 2013. Retrieved August 9, 2016.
  25. ^ "No Contract Prepaid Plans | Cellular Prepaid Plans". Page Plus Cellular. August 26, 2014. Retrieved May 8, 2019.
  26. ^ "GoSmart Mobile Plans & Services". GoSmart Mobile. Retrieved May 8, 2019.
  27. ^ " TracFone Acquired GoSmart and Walmart Family Mobile", Prepaid Mobile Phone Reviews, 2016-09-20
  28. ^ Mobile, My Family. "Low Price Unlimited Plans | No Contract". Walmart Family Mobile. Retrieved June 1, 2019.
  29. ^ http://news.nky.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/AB/20070301/NEWS0103/703010331NKY.Com[dead link]
  30. ^ "TracFone Wireless Inc. Roaming Fees Class Action Settlemen". Class action news consumers can use. Retrieved February 6, 2011.

External linksEdit