- TracFone Wireless
Type Subsidiary of América Móvil
(NYSE: AMX, BMV: AMX NASDAQ: AMOV)
Industry Prepaid Cellphone Services Founded 1996 Headquarters Miami, Florida, USA Key people Fredrick J. Pollak (President and CEO) Revenue $1.480 billion USD (Jan-Dec 2008) Net income $269 million USD (Jan-Dec 2008) Employees 400+ (2008) Parent América Móvil (98.2%)
Website www.TracFone.com www.NET10.com www.SafeLinkWireless.com www.StraightTalk.com/
TracFone Wireless or TracFone is a prepaid mobile phone provider and is a subsidiary of Mexican América Móvil, it provides service in the United States, Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands.
TracFone was established in 1996 as Topp Telecom Inc., a prepaid cell phone company, in Miami, Florida. In February 1999, Topp received a major infusion of capital from Teléfonos de México (NYSE: TMX), Mexico's largest telephone company. TelMex paid $57.5 million for a 55 percent controlling interest in the company.
TracFone provides four brands of service: TracFone, NET10, Safelink Wireless, and Straight Talk. These brands differ not only in their logos and prepaid minute rates but their underlying networks:
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. Photos can be downloaded from and uploaded to phones via MMS only, and custom ringtones must be purchased from TracFone.
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 determines what type of network the service uses.
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 0.30 units from the user's account (earlier TracFone models deducted 0.5 units from the user's account to send or receive a text message); 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 is a related offering, using GSM 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 (three or 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"), or at the company's website. Minutes from one month carry over to the next, as long as service remains active. NET10 offers business plans and international calling, and number portability is advertised on their site as being available.also
Net10 currently launched Android phones - LG and Samsung and can be used with $50 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 that almost every US taxpayer contributes to via their existing land-line and wireless service provider, 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.
Straight Talk is one of TracFone's newest brands. The Straight Talk brand offers five different value-based 30-day rate plans: a $30 limited plan, and a $45 Unlimited text, web and minutes plan, a $135 three-month Unlimited plan, a $270 six-month Unlimited plan, and a $540 one year Unlimited plan. Straight Talk is a Mobile Virtual Network operator (MVNO) offering both CDMA and GSM support. The CDMA side of the network uses Verizon's or Sprint's CDMA 1xRTT wireless networks, which was introduced in 2001 and is said to deliver between 40 and 60 kb/s to customers, while the GSM side makes use of either T-Mobile's or AT&T's GSM networks.
Fourteen phones are available for use with Straight Talk: the LG 100C, LG 200C, LG 220C, LG 290C, LG 420G, LG 620G, Motorola W385, Motorola RAZR V3A, Samsung R451C, Samsung T401G, Samsung T404G, Samsung R355C, Samsung Finesse R810C, Nokia E71, and Nokia Surge (6790). There are exceptions to 1xRTT-only service. The Finesse R810C, an EV-DO-capable handset, performs at higher speeds where such coverage is available. The Nokia E71 and Nokia Surge (6790) are the first smartphones to be offered by Straight Talk. They offer 3G coverage through AT&T. Users of these phones are required to purchase the $45/30 day Unlimited plan. All other phones can be use with either the $45 Unlimited plan or the $30 "All You Need" plan which provides 1000 minutes, 1000 texts, free 411 and 30MB of data. All plans provide a service period of 30 days.
Straight Talk is currently exclusive to Wal-Mart stores because of a joint-venture program between the two companies.
Straight Talk currently launched an Android phone - Samsung Galaxy Precedent and can be used with $45 Unlimited plan and makes use of the Sprint CDMA network.
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 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, 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.
TracFone Wireless released its first touch screen model, the LG800G, on April 22, 2011. On April 26, 2011, it was released for Net10. However, many of these phones had various software defects. TracFone offered to replace any defective LG800G on any brand with the Motorola EX124G for free on the condition that the LG phone had to be sent back within 30 days.
Currently, TracFone Wireless uses the networks of major cell phone network providers to carry their signal.
For GSM models:
For CDMA models:
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".
Notes and references
- ^ a b "4Q 2008 Financial and Operating Report": americamovil.com (retrieved 18 Dec 2009)
- ^ "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"
- ^ "Verizon Wireless Embarks on 'Express Network,' Previewing 1XRTT High-Speed Data", prnwire.com (retrieved 18 Dec 2009)
- ^ "Walmart To Launch Straight Talk Exclusively, Nationwide", walmart.com (retrieved 18 Dec 2009)
- ^ Profile: Brightpoint, Inc. (CELL.O): reuters.com (retrieved 18 Dec 2009)
- ^ http://news.nky.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/AB/20070301/NEWS0103/703010331NKY.Com[dead link]
- ^ "TracFone Wireless Inc. Roaming Fees Class Action Settlement". http://www.lawyersandsettlements.com/settlements/07360/tracfone-settlement.html. Retrieved 6 February 2011.
Claro-branded Telmex-branded Other AMX Group brands US mobile network operators National Super-regional Minor-regional Virtual DefunctAirTouch · Amp'd Mobile · AT&T Wireless Services · Common Cents Mobile · Disney Mobile · Dobson Cellular · Edge Wireless · Helio · Jump Mobile · Midwest Wireless · Nextel Communications · Northcoast PCS · Powertel · PrimeCo · Rural Cellular · SunCom · Unicel · Upoc Networks · Voce · Western Wireless Corporation Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands mobile network operators Major Virtual
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