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How to get a different Wireless Carrier than the Tracfone-preferred one?
Topic Started: October 15, 2011, 10:45 am (4,717 Views)
DoctorM
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UNDERSTAND THE BUSINESS MODEL
TracFone consists of a parent corporation TRACFONE, and several subsidiaries (TracFone, Net10, Straight Talk), each subsidiary offering a different retail service plan or model. At the parent level, TRACFONE buys bulk airtime from wireless carriers such as AT&T, T-Moblie, Verizon, and Sprint. Reportedly there are about 35 different wireless carriers that TRACFONE contracts with. The wireless carriers offer TRACFONE a very substantial discount on the bulk airtime TRACFONE buys. The wireless carriers, as part of their contracts with TRACFONE, are guaranteed that TRACFONE will assign certain areas of the US market to a preferred wireless service provider. TRACFONE, through its subsidiaries, then repackages and offers its retail customers airtime at a substantial price savings over what an individual customer could get direct from the wireless carrier.

TRACFONE does not provide wireless carrier service directly to its customers. Instead, it serves as an airtime retailer, using contract carriers to provide the actual wireless service. TRACFONE divides up the US market by Zip Code for its convenience. The zip codes for an entire metropolitan area, even an entire state, may be assigned to one preferred contract carrier. Even though several carriers may compete in a zip code, there will only be one TRACFONE-preferred contract carrier for that zip code. In most cases, if adequate service is not available from the preferred wireless carrier, TRACFONE may provide service through an alternate carrier.

Your service contract will be with a subsidiary – TracFone, Net10, or Straight Talk. You do not have a contract with the parent company TRACFONE, or the actual carrier(s) (AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint, etc.). You have nothing to say about which preferred carrier you are assigned by TracFone, Net10, or Straight Talk. That is a contractual matter between TRACFONE and the wireless carriers, and an internal policy matter between TRACFONE and its subsidiaries.

Phone numbers (lines) are “owned” by a wireless carrier. Under its contracts with the various wireless carriers, TRACFONES subsidiaries have access to separate blocks of unused phone numbers for each wireless carrier. TracFone is obligated to use a phone number belonging to the preferred carrier for a designated Zip Code. If the preferred carrier has no available unused phone numbers, TRACFONE subsidiaries may assign an alternate carrier and select an unused phone number from the alternate.

While federal law requires phone numbers to be portable from one service provider to another, your service provider is a TRACFONE subsidiary (TracFone, Net10, or Straight Talk). Within a subsidiary, such as TracFone, phone numbers are not portable from one wireless carrier to another. This is because YOU do not have a contract with the actual carrier. Your contract is with TracFone, Net10, or Straight Talk.

If you already have an activated phone, and you want to change to another wireless carrier than the one assigned you, it will require a change in phone numbers – which will be very difficult to do, because generally TRACPHONE procedures do not allow it.

That being said, there are avenues for you to influence which wireless carrier you are assigned:

•Live in an area (or say you live in an area) where the preferred provider is the one you also prefer

There is a disadvantage to this approach – you may have to use an area code far from your actual location. And the carrier you want must service the area where you actually are.

•Avoid buying a phone direct from TracFone (or Net10 or Straight Talk). Instead buy a phone already assigned the wireless provider you prefer.

For example, if AT&T is your preferred provider, TracFones sold by HSN and Amazon.com are usually already assigned AT&T. As long as AT&T service is in your area, even if it is not the preferred wireless provider, TracFone will assign you an AT&T phone number on activation.

•Port a phone number from the carrier you prefer. For example, if you have an old cell phone with the wireless carrier you prefer, port that phone number to the new phone.

If your old phone is already deactivated, its phone number has been released (probably no longer available.) So you will have to reactivate it with a new number, and port the new number.

How do you know what TRACFONE’s preferred wireless carrier is in your area? TRACFONE does not publish this information directly. But you can get it from the subsidiaries indirectly. The procedure is the same for TracFone, Net10, or Straight Talk. Here is how:

1.To determine TRACFONES preferred wireless carrier for any particular zip code, first determine if your phone uses a SIM card. (typically found under the battery).
a.If your phone has a SIM card, it is a GSM Phone. An "IMEI" number also signifies a GSM based phone.
b.If your phone does not have a SIM card, it is a CDMA phone. An "ESN" number also signifies a CDMA phone.

2.Then go to the official TracFone (or Net10, or Straight Talk) website and type the zip code you want to use in the "Zip code" entry area and press "Continue." Press "Yes" when asked if the phone will be used in the area of the zip code you chose. You will have a url that looks like this:

http://www.tracfone-orders.com/bpdirect/tracfone/Start.do?action=view&market=GSM5AT......

3.The URL that shows up after you have confirmed your area will have one of the following codes embedded in it:

GSM4, GSM5, GSM5AT, CO, COGSM4 or COGSM5.

a.GSM phones
i.AT&T -GSM4, GSM5AT, and COGSM4
ii.T-Mobile GSM5, GSM5AT and COGSM5

b.CDMA phones
i.Verizon - CO COGSM4 and COGSM5
ii.Alltel - CO COGSM4 and COGSM5
iii.Cellular - CO COGSM4 and COGSM5

4.EXAMPLE: In the Austin area, zip codes run from 78701 through 78759. Every one of them will come up with GSM5, which is T-Mobile. In fact, every city and county I checked in Texas was GSM5 – T-Mobile. I have to go outside Texas to get AT&T as the preferred contract carrier. Yet all my phones that came with an AT&T SIM card (purchased on HSN and Amazon.com) work just fine in Texas, and the phone number assigned by TracFone on activation had a phone number with the Austin area code (512) assigned to it. In fact. The only phones I have that are T-Mobile are the ones I bought directly from TracFone.
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