Home - , , , - Tracfone Acquiring Page Plus Cellular

Tracfone Acquiring Page Plus Cellular

America Movil announced today that its US prepaid MVNO subsidiary has reached an agreement to acquire all assets of Start Wireless, better known as Page Plus Cellular.

The purchase price wasn't announced but I suspect it was substantial and represents a happy exit for Start Wireless' principals and investors. It remains to be seen what the acquisition means for Page Plus' customers and employees.

Family owned Page Plus was founded in 1993. It started small and grew to 1.4 million subscribers largely by word of month, first on the streets of Toledo and Cleveland and then via online social media.

Tracfone is nearly as old as Page Plus, launching in 1996. In 1999 it was acquired by a predecessor of Mexico based America Movil, the fourth largest mobile operator in the world. Like Page Plus, Tracfone started as a Verizon-only MVNO. It grew quickly to become the largest US prepaid operator and the largest MVNO thanks largely to a national distribution network that put Tracfone devices and airtime cards in virtually every convenience, grocery, big box and drug store in the country. Tracfone currently has 23.2 million subscribers.

America Movil expects the deal to close by the end of June. I don't foresee any immediate changes in Page Plus' service, plans or pricing. But based on last year's American Movil acquisition of Simple Mobile, sometime in the next six months I expect AM will move Page Plus customer support offshore. I  expect the support change will be bad news for Page Plus employees and customers alike. Page Plus has a reputation for better than average support. Tracfone support generally gets poor marks, especially when it comes to providing accurate information and solving technical problems quickly and efficiently.

On the other hand, the acquisition could mean better phones and lower pricing for Page Plus. If could even mean a quicker path to Verizon allowing Page Plus customers on its LTE network. Support hassles can probably be avoided by using a full service Page Plus dealer like the well regarded Kitty Wireless. I sincerely hope that Tracfone retains Page Plus robust and customer friendly Bring Your Own Phone (BYOP) processes and policies which lets you activate just about any CDMA phone as long as you know how to program it to work on the Verizon network.

For lots of customer reaction (almost entirely negative) to this news see these threads on HowardForums and the Kitty Wireless Forums.

Related: Prepaid Operator Profile: Page Plus

60 comments:

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  1. That sucks. I was thinking about switching to Page Plus from Straight Talk for the $30 plan.

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  2. Too funny! Ok tracphone bashers from Pageplus, where are you? Matt? Are we still supposed to avoid tracphone or will your tune change now?

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    1. I'm right here, Jeff! I'm looking for alternatives as I write this. I was left with such a sour taste in my mouth after Tracfone "lost" two phone numbers of mine. More likely they were reassigned while I still had airtime remaining. I refuse to give America Movil a dime of my money. It looks like I will become an Aio Wireless customer once they launch nationwide.

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    2. I might even just go to Verizon prepaid directly.

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    3. Yes. It would be aggravating to lose phone numbers. I have never had a problem with Net10 and found them helpful with problems except for the recent fiasco with BYOP CDMA.
      I see Kitty is still standing firm and is encouraging others to remain with PP. I would assume she will send out the alarm if she sees problems.

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    4. "I would assume she will send out the alarm if she sees problems."
      Page Plus customers should not assume this. Kitty says she has $10M at stake. "If she sees problems" and "sends out the alarm," what do you think her customers will do? Lobby America Movil? Many of them will find alternative phone service. Not too smart, and she is smart. No, you will see more Kitty like the 6 pages and counting that went up on her Forum, while she figures out whether and how she can solve all the problems. So the customers stay put.

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  3. OMG... When Tracfone acquire other company, The Company always to be messed up.

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  4. I am a satisfied Pageplus user for my business line (3.5 years). I will use my balance and switch to AirVoice, where I can use my nicer iPhone and Blackberry for the same 4c/minute (-5%) and data for 1/3 the price/mb. I will miss Kitty Wireless' service, but AirVoice also has very good customer service and Autopay, and I will no longer need ESN changes, swaps, releases, etc. Goodbye, Verizon.

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  5. Further proof that Carlos Slim is a greedy cerdo. The more he has, the more he wants.
    CS most likely will no longer be U.S. based for PagePlus. Quality service goes down the toilet.

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    Replies
    1. you are correct they are closing call center Jan 16,2015 in Ohio , I have been a employee for 11 years and now need to look for new employment

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  6. I think PagePlus customers should give NextG and Talk4Good a look.
    Am Movil still needs regulatory approval, but they will get it. Within a year or so, the control freaks at Am Movil will probably migrate PagePlus' backend system to Trac's, and that would likely break the automated services that successful PagePlus dealers like Kitty have developed at great expense. They would either have to pay again to redo that software, or kiss their value-add and extra services revenue goodbye. Heartburn moment.

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    1. Would TracFone let dealers into their system to perform services? I wonder. If they do move Pplus into their system, and do not let dealers in with automation, there is no way that the big, automated dealers can support all of the customers they have signed up. Kitty Wireless, who says she is the biggest dealer, only has a few employees. They could not do everything manually, and they probably could not afford to hire enough people to service their current customer base manually either. CDMA with ESN control is more work than GSM customer support, where the user can just move the SIM. Would Trac provide software access for dealers into their system? Would it be uniform, or could dealers enhance it? If they level the dealer playing field with uniform software, there could be new winners and some big losers.

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  7. As good as NextG Mobile and Talk For Good look, they are likely candidates to be assimilated into the America Movil portfolio. My next jump is to Aio Wireless (wholly owned by AT&T) or just go directly to Verizon prepaid.

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    1. Aio looks like good value for what they offer, but unlimited plans do not make sense for most people, especially most Pageplus smartphone customers. Your smartphone bill almost doubles if you are on their most popular $29.95 plan. You have a 38% bump up if you are on the $39.95 Unl. TnT plan. PayGo $80 plan? Forget it - no PayGo. You will pay at least $40 on Aio and can't even use a smartphone for that price. AirVoice looks a lot better for all these folks.

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    2. Aio is no good if someone needs the Vz network.

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  8. I think Germain B, who owns ACRS in W. Palm Beach will get a good bump in business. He sells both NextG and TfG. I'll bet he is cooking up an activation special right now.

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    1. That guy has the worse customer service in the world....
      Every time I've flashed a phone there, always have to go
      back because some sort of issues with the flash, it never works well, wouldn't recommended.

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    2. ACRS gave me excellent deals on two Platinumtel phones and airtime, better than Ptel. These phones can be BYOD to Ting, while other ex-Boost Ptel phones could not. Germain sent me prompt replies to my questions. I recommend ACRS.

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  9. I have nowhere to go. I use to the $29.95 on PagePlus. I can't use TMobile either. This sucks.

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  10. i refuse to give slim a dime i just stay away from tracfone and every other company that it owns.

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  11. I switched to NextG.so far its great..a bit more money for the bottom plan..But no roaming charges like PP..CS had Been American and excellent

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  12. If Simple mobile was any indication, expect customer service and dealer support to be devastated. There is a lot of commotion over how Tracfone has completely royally screwed up the Simple mobile dealers right now and I see it no different for Page Plus. There is a petition against this going on right now to fight Carlo Slim's takover over Page Plus. Whether it will get 100,000 signatures like the anti Dmca one did is another story but it's something go fight with. https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/stop-america-movil-monopolizing-prepaid-wireless-industry-stop-purchase-start-wireless-group-inc/cjQGHVyl

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    1. Thank you! I just signed it

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    2. Don't forget to buy a kazoo so you can join in the next protest of Slim's public speeches! That will teach him a good lesson.

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  13. Slim is one greedy sob.

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    1. Agreed .... Slim is the Mexican Gordon Gekko

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    2. Yeah. Anyone who is highly successful is definitely evil. If you are the biggest at what you do than you should be vilified, taxed and ridiculed! Walmart, Amazon, Am. Movil, Shell Oil. Just because you have no motivation to be the best at something does not mean others who do are bad people. Sheeesh!

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    3. Agreed, one company acquiring another is just business as usual. It happens all the time. It isn't personal and it's no more greedy than any other way of growing your business.

      As a Page Plus customer, I'll do what's best for me. If Page Plus is no longer the best value for my usage I'll switch to whoever is.

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    4. Matt,

      Slim is of Lebanese heritage. Mexican by geographical birth only, Arab by blood. Hence the Sheikh-like Gordon Gekko greed.
      Tragic to witness another U.S. based company go down the toilet. Hopefully the employees in Ohio get a decent severence package.

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    5. Carlos Slim was not just born in Mexico. He is a Mexican citizen (if we were citizens by blood or heritage, only American Indians would be North American citizens). Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are not the only billionaires to give away their money. Slim has given $3.5 billion for his charitable 'Foundation Carlos Slim.' He also donates his time to the World Education & Development Fund, which backs infrastructure, health and education projects.

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  14. Im all for capitalism, but the endless greed , no.

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    1. As am I but unrestrained capitalism is ultimately bad for everyone. This was evidenced in the housing boom and bust.

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    2. There is no such thing as "unrestrained capitalism" in developed countries. Government regulates companies and commerce and conducts oversight. It was congressional interference with mortgage companies and Fannie and Freddie Mac operations, and restrictions on oversight of them, that caused the housing bubble, not "unrestrained capitalism." You can't believe the talking points of the politicians who caused mess and tried to deflect blame.

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  15. I just got nausea after hearing this news. Hopefully Carlos Slim keeps his cloven hoofs off of other CDMA and GSM MVNOs. Customer Service quality goes down the toilet. Hopefully some more MVNOs spring up to take the place of PagePlus. NextG and TalkforGood are the only VZW MVNOs left with decent plans.

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  16. Who cares what Carlos Slim has donated his money to. Have you ever been to Mexico. Have you ever seen the rampant class warfare. The rampant corruption. The rampant poverty.
    He has the money, why not invest it in domestic customer service. Or does he think he has to pay too much for that. Every cell company he touches goes to garbage in regards to quality of customer service. Does he not have enough billions to invest into that.

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    Replies
    1. I have been to Mexico, and the poverty is sad. It would be worse, though, if Mr. Slim had not learned the business lessons his father taught him, worked hard, invested, taken risks and grown many successful businesses there. He earned his billions. I am not defending all his business methods and tactics, but he is much more of a 'maker' than a 'taker.' From his point of view as a Mexican, providing jobs at call centers in Mexico is "investing in domestic customer service." People want great customer service, but many are not willing to pay more for it, especially when they don't use it very often. America Movil decided people in the US want low prices more than great customer service, and their success here shows they made the right business decision.
      Hiring a lot of US workers does not guarantee great customer service. At my local Verizon store, if you want to activate a prepaid phone or resolve a bill problem, they herd you into a line. One person stands near the line, and if they like the way you look, they tell you to sign in at a terminal to get your place. Sometimes they wait until someone else comes in after you and signs in before you, and then they tell you to sign in. You wait, while you watch quite a few other workers standing around, goofing off, joking, playing with their personal phones. You wait longer, and longer because they only have two people working the line, while about 8-10 people selling and goofing off. You have two choices, wait longer, or leave. This is Vzw's idea of investing in domestic jobs. Customers pay more, but this is not great customer service.

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    2. Hahahaha. Yes, it's very ironic that cell phone users in the USA can get so demanding about getting the lowest prices for their cell phone plans. And then those same cell phone users in the USA then complain about the crappy customer service provided by outsourced call centers in non-USA countries. So, you gets what you pay for. All of the non-USA countries with their call centers win by employing their call center employees in their countries. And, meanwhile, the cell phone users in the USA, who want to pay less and less for service, keep on complaining that they are not getting better customer service. LOL LOL LOL

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  17. America Movil monopolizing the pre-paid phone industry would be an absolute tragedy and catastrophe. What more needs to be obvious.

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    1. America Movil will never monopolize the prepaid phone business here. The carriers will not let them. There are low barriers to entry into this market, and if they try to charge too much, like they do as an oligopoly in Mexico, other players will take business away from them. Mexico has taken steps recently that should reduce Telcel market share (~70%) and increase competition, and they may even have a breakup like Ma-Bell here in the US. Their stock dropped, and Carlos is no longer the world's richest man (now Bill Gates).

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  18. Carlos Slim is trying to do here in the U.S. what Mexico is breaking up over there. This acquisition would be devastating to the competition that keeps smaller retail prepaid stores going. PagePlus would be totally ruined the way Simple Mobile got ruined which we don't sell anymore. We don't get any spiffs, ($), if we port numbers from any of the carriers under the Tracfone umbrella and that would just add one more. This is going too far. I suggest everyone get in on the petition to stop it! Here goes: https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/stop-america-movil-monopolizing-prepaid-wireless-industry-stop-purchase-start-wireless-group-inc/cjQGHVyl

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  19. This move is clearly a business strategy to aid America Movil in many areas:

    1. More Verizon lines of service. This will allow America Movil to renegotiate their wholesale price so that they ultimately pay less to Verizon.

    2. Learn how to add and expand the aging CDMA phone selections. America Movil would gain more expertise from PagePlus in importing CDMA phones. Presently, America Movil hasn't had as much success with BYOD as PagePlus does.

    3. With a higher number of subscribers, America Movil may be able to be the first to provide prepaid LTE from Verizon.

    Or this could be an attempt to dominate and control the MVNO prepaid market. I certainly hope it's not though :-(.

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  20. All this is understandable in its own perspectives.
    Hopefully it all works itself out in the long run.
    Calling customer service and getting someone that sounds like a Tijuana parrot repeating everything you say with less command of any grammar is shameful. Even if customers were to pay more for phones, etc., the pi$$ poor training in all Americal Movil call is horrendous. Regardless Mr. Slim can put a few more pesos of his hard earned money in that direction.

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  21. The big carries CAN NOT stop America Movil/Tracfone from monopolizing the U.S. prepaid market because the FCC allows independently owned MVNO's to make separate agreements and contracts with the large carriers. The MVNO's can get swallowed up by Carlos Slim with no problem at all and without any say-so by the big carriers. The only ones that can stop this is the FCC regulatory committee. Join the petition now or thousands of small retail prepaid businesses around the country will eventually fold! Here goes the link:
    https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/stop-america-movil-monopolizing-prepaid-wireless-industry-stop-purchase-start-wireless-group-inc/cjQGHVyl

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    1. American Movil does not have their regulatory approval to buy Start Wireless. The government looks at the impact on competition before they grant approvals. The FCC does not negotiate carrier MVNO deals. If the carriers have no negotiating power over their MVNOs then you could still be able to buy an AT&T BYOD SIM from Straight Talk, and there would be no Aio launch. No carrier wants one company to control all MVNO business and have the negotiating leverage that would bring.
      You can worry all you want, but monopoly will never happen here. Mexico learned their lesson, and are headed in the opposite direction. We are seeing more MVNOs, not fewer. And the carriers continue to launch their own new brands targeting specific customers.

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    2. Another great post! Yeah, let's get the government involved even more in the private sector. We need more government because they have a great track record of good business decisions (see Amtrack, Solaria, USPS, Fanny Mae, Freddy Mac, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley .......................
      If you don't like a business you can either A. Stop whining and start your own company /Or/ B. Take your business elsewhere. This petition is absolutely stupid. It's prepaid cell phone companies and they are a dime a dozen.

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  22. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  23. I moved two lines to AirVoice, and their customer service (in MI) is excellent. Their prices are good, too.
    The PureTalk Unl+ plan with 600 mb data for $44/month is another good alternative. It is $3.50 less than the PagePlus $29.95 plan with that amount of data. PureTalk has very good customer service (in GA) in my experience.
    Wallmart Family Mobile included AT&T roaming (w/2g data?) and charges $40/month +tax for Unlim TnT with 1 GB data. About $45 in my state. Tmobile customer service, which has been very good for me on my Tmobile prepaid line.
    Lots of good alternatives if you look. I have not heard bad things about T4G or NextG.

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  24. on behalf of my elderly parents, who have been years-long tracfone users since forever it seems: GO TRACFONE!!!

    lol lol lol lol lol

    (sorry but had to throw some levity into all of this silly discussion nonsense :-)

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    1. Je-Lo agrees with you. She will be selling Am Movil products to help their new retail stores take over the world ;-)
      http://www.fiercewireless.com/story/jlo-verizon-target-latino-market-viva-m-vil-branded-stores-online-shopping/2013-05-22?utm_medium=nl&utm_source=internal

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    2. Just Kidding! Je-Lo is betting on Verizon Wireless. Here is the real Am Movil retail store news, from Fierce Wireless:
      "TracFone said it will set up retail stores that exclusively sell its prepaid brands, according to a Twice report. The report, citing comments from Tim Garrett, the company's regional senior vice president for indirect-channel marketing, said TracFone is working with master agents to launch the stores, which will be owned and operated by independent parties and run under the name Simple Mobile Solutions. TracFone acquired T-Mobile US' (NYSE:TMUS) MVNO Simple Mobile last year, where Garrett was an executive.

      The report said TracFone launched five stores in New York City and five in Miami in the past month, and plans to launch up to 30 more by the end of the year and expand beyond that in 2014. The stores will sell the TracFone, Telcel America, Simple Mobile, Net10 and SafeLink Wireless brands. Straight Talk will continue to be offered exclusively though Walmart."

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    3. America Movil retail stores should provide better customer service than the call center, something that many customers want.

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    4. Here are 44 American jobs with Tracfone in Miami, if anybody is interested.
      http://www.indeed.com/q-Tracfone-Wireless-l-Miami,-FL-jobs.html

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  25. PureTalk, Airvoice, TalkforGood, NextG, and Jolt are the best remaining domestic based CS MVNOs left. None of the T-Mobile MVNOs are domestic CS based from my experience. Shameful

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    1. Have you heard of Ptel? Their customer service is in IL, and they are one of the oldest and best MVNOs. They use the Tmobile network.

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  26. For Ptel formerly Platinumtel, you are right. Their lowest plan is $40 which is at least $10 higher than all the other T-Mobile MVNOs. Ultra.me has a $19.99/month and a $29.99/month plan. Hopefully other T-Mobile MVNOs except for Ultra pick up on that.

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    1. Ptel has PayGo (for as little as $5/month), something we will probably never get with Ultra.
      Ptel also includes a lot more high-speed data than Ultra does for about the same price.
      Ultra CS is in the Philippines.

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  27. Just went to the whitehouse.gov petition site...122 signatures...only 99,000+ to go...

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  28. GRRRR!!! I have spent the last few of weeks researching my alternatives for finally upgrading my flip-phone to a smart-phone, and because of Net10 recently ticking me off, have been looking for a better prepaid service provider too. I was really liking everything that I keep reading about PagePlus, and was going to contact them to ask a few questions before jumping ... Now, I read this ... GRRRR!!!

    On a side note: In my research, I found this TOTALLY AWESOME SITE!!! Thank you for all the great information!!!

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  29. I absolutely love having Page Plus. I really hope it doesn't change too much, but I'll go where the best value and coverage is.

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