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TracFone LTE Proves Elusive For Early Adopters

Over three weeks ago we reported that TracFone might now be allowing LTE phones on TracFone BYOP. The story was based on the fact that when you enter the IMEI or MEID of a Verizon LTE capable phone like a Samsung Galaxy S III or iPhone 5s into TracFone's BYOP page you are asked to enter an LTE SIM ID or check a box labeled "I don’t have a SIM (you will receive your SIM within 2 business days. Check the box to proceed)". If you follow the prompts to purchase a $9.99 Network Access Code (NAC) and you are supposed to get the SIM and NAC via FedEx.

Unfortunately the possibility of LTE on TracFone is starting to look like a false alarm. A number of people have ordered the TracFone SIMs but very few have received them and only one person has reported being able to actually activate an LTE phone and SIM on TracFone.

You can follow the still ongoing saga on Howard Forums (first thread starting with post 2296, newer thread) and Turk Forums. The Howard Forums threads are very long (over 670 posts combined) with a lot of off topic chit chat so I've summarized them in terms of success and failures below:

What seems to be happening is that after a user orders the SIM and Network Access Code on the TracFone BYOP page none of the usual things that occur after ordering from TracFone happen, there's no confirming email and no FedEx tracking number. Checking the order's status online reports "no information available". Ticket status reports "We are unable to get the status of your case at this time. Please contact our Customer Care Center, at 1-800-867-7183 , and provide your case number." If the user then contacts TracFone by email or phone one of two things happens:

  • They are told that TracFone doesn't support LTE and their order is being canceled with no refund of the $9.99 that they paid for the NAC and SIM. That's what happened to hukim0531, IsLand_BoY, Nicko99 and rchang
  • Or they are told that their order is "incomplete" and asked to verify their address or the size SIM they need and then told a SIM will be shipped. When the SIM arrives it fails activation on the TracFone site with an error that "SIM serial number not found in the system" This is what happened to robhedrick and annepani. When robhedrick called TracFone he was told that his activation was failing because LTE is not available at their location. This is obviously a bogus excuse as the same phone in the same location gets LTE using a Verizon SIM.
The one user who actually has a working LTE phone on TracFone is IsLand_BoY, who is one of the people who was told by TracFone that his order was canceled. Without further action on his part he got an email confirmation that his order was shipped on Feb 13. The SIM and Network Access code arrived Feb 16. He entered the NAC and the phone serial number on the TracFone BYOP site and then put the SIM into a Verizon Galaxy S III which automatically activated and worked. IsLand_BoY is getting typical TracFone family throttled LTE speeds of about 5 Mbps down and 2.7 Mbps up. He swapped the SIM into a Samsung ATIV Odyssey Windows phone and it worked there too.

So far we have one reported success and five failures from users trying to get LTE phones on to TracFone. There are a least six more users on Howard Forums who have ordered SIMs but haven't gotten them yet. So we may see some more successes or failures.

At this point I think that either LTE is something that TracFone is working on but isn't quite there yet or else coding errors on the TracFone BYOP page are allowing users to order SIMs for an LTE service that isn't supposed to be available on TracFone. If you're interested in putting a Verizon LTE phone on TracFone and have $10 to gamble, go for it. But I recommend waiting a few more weeks to see how this odyssey all shakes out.

Update 3/2/15: A second successful TracFone BYOP LTE activation has been reported. Howard Forums member rchang activated a Samsung Galaxy Nexus on TracFone. He did the activation online using a  TracFone NAC and a Straight Talk Verizon SIM from eBay after TracFone cancelled his SIM order. It's interesting that a Straight Talk SIM worked.  Using a readily available Straight Talk SIM could be faster and more reliable than trying to get TracFone to send you a SIM. It does double the cost however, $9.99 for the NAC plus $9.95 for the SIM. Straight Talk SIMs are also available from Walmart for $9.99.icon

Update 3/5/15: Four more successes.

  • robhedrick finally got his Verizon Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini activated. The TracFone BYOP site had been giving him the error "SIM card serial number not found in system". He tried entering a different ZIP code and the activation succeed.
  • larryoham12 successfully activated a Verizon iPhone 6 Plus using TracFone BYOP site using a TracFone NAC and a Straight Talk SIM. 
  • pbushx2 activated a Verizon Samsung Galaxy S3 on the TracFone BYOP site using a $6.99 NAC from saveontracfone.com and a Straight Talk SIM. He transferred service to the S3 from a TracFone LG Ultimate 2. Like robhedrick he had to use a different ZIP code than his own to get the system to accept his SIM ID.
  • themotorman reported  successful activation of a Verizon Motorola Moto G and a Droid Ultra. He didn't detail the process he followed. 

The secret of activating a Verizon LTE on TracFone seems to be:

  • Obtain a TracFone Network Access Code (NAC) from saveontracfone.com 
  • Get a Straight Talk CDMA SIM from eBay or Walmart
  • Go to the TracFone BYOP site and enter the phone's IMEI, the SIM ID and your ZIP code when prompted (if you get an error try a different ZIP code).
  • Choose the "I have a network access code" option and enter your NAC.
  • Choose either the option to get a new phone number or to transfer service from an existing TracFone if you have one. 
  • If the process succeeds, the TracFone site will give you a set of instructions which are basically say to put the SIM in the phone, turn it on and try to make a call. If making a call fails reboot the phone and try again.

This process is not officially supported by TracFone so it's a gamble whether it will work or not. If you give it a try feel free to leave a comment letting us all know if it worked or not.

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23 comments:

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  1. Thanks for the synopsis Dennis. I have ordered a Verizon LTE phone off of eBay after Net10 corporate confirmed that Verizon phones are indeed eligible now. I know the sister companies operate slightly differently but I'm assuming if one works so should the other. Maybe I'll hang back and watch for a little bit before taking the plunge. This is reminiscent of the Verizon 3G phone fiasco after that was introduced.

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    1. I don't think there's any problem activating Verizon LTE phones on NET10, just TracFone.

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    2. Oh, great! Thanks for letting me know. Full speed ahead

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  2. I was one of the early 3G CDMA BYOP on TF guys. It was a nightmare with hours of calls, chats and emails. I would wait it out until it all shakes out if it is indeed happening.

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  3. Another fail! CDMA + América Móvil = Worse combination that's just a disaster waiting to happen! Yet there will always be apologists for the anti-consumer policies of the CDMA format, Verizon, and América Móvil... "BUT VERIZON HAS THE BEST COVERAGE NETWORK, AND TRACFONE/AMERICA MOVIL HAVE THE MOST CUSTOMER BASE blah blah blah!" As if that really excuses them to employ restrictive policies.

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    1. Like them or not, I've saved so much money with them that I've been willing to put up with the B.S.. They are like the dysfunctional family member who has money. You hate dealing with them but you know it will pay off at Christmas and birthdays :-\

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    2. Yes, just like I put up with Cricket's CS with 30 minute waits, and only one-third of support staff having any idea what they are doing, in order to have great network/value that no one (at this moment) comes close to.

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  4. the tracfone byod has always been a crap shoot. my experience with just an iphone 4 (no LTE of course) is that the order page would not follow through a complete process. and even after you get tracfone working, then you may still have problems getting a refill where your due date is extended to a new date but you get no new minutes, texts, data. the CS is incompetent and you really have to bypass them and go directly to the executive resolutions department to get things fixed.

    it sounds like getting the tracfone LTE is more of the same crappy snafus happening but worse. tracfone once you get things working is a great bargain but is a horrible nightmare to get through in the processing. despite the attractive pricing with the triple buckets, the incompetent design and processing of orders are a big fail that people have to deal with. my guess is that tracfone's website developers think everything works okay on their end, but have no idea that their web processing of orders are failing in various ways all the time.

    if you really want tracfone (personally myself still love tracfone because in the old days only had a tracfone flipphone) then you have to struggle on to hopefully getting the goal of getting it all working on whatever smartphone that you want to get on tracfone.

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    1. put another $19.99 three-month triple-bucket refill on my tracfone account for my iphone. my minutes rolled over and my data rolled over, but my texts did NOT roll over. did not bother to call tracfone's incompetent CS at their 800 number because the CS frontline people are idiots who know nothing about handling these type of accounts and turn out to be unproductive unresolved phone calls every single time have to call in. so instead sent an email direct to tracfone's corporate resolution department. fixed but if get same problem with my next (third) refill in three months, then may think about giving up on tracfone because the problems with tracfone are too annoying.

      now imagine if my problems are for a phone that is not LTE, then you know the problems for getting a LTE-capable phone on tracfone and and any lingering (refill) problems afterwards could be potentially worse.

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  5. I was looking at Smartphones before I found my used Galaxy Note 2 from US Cellular. I was trying to decide between a Motorola Luge from Verizon, a ZTE phone from Straight Talk and I can't remember the 3rd I think it was a LG phone. Anyway long story short a Walmart employee told me they have had numerous issues with Straight Talk's activation's such as people who paid for minutes and didn't get them. Folks who paid for the unlimited plan and didn't get service. They even talked about the poor CS. With that in mind I'll stay clear of anything TracFone related. Even when I had PagePlus I could never get ahold of CS. Only good thing was we had a really cool dealer here so I'd go to the store when I wanted anything done. It was a nightmare. Can't imagine throwing another monkey wrench in the mix. It's AT&T and Verizon for me when my phone dies as you get what you pay for.

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  6. Let's be honest....not Tracfone products/services are absolutely shitty. Net10 is the exception. And for those who own stores that sell the service...The "reps" for Tracfone are embarassing

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  7. Walk away from Tracfone products! Beyond the pathetic CS, and the crappy service, the worst is the field team. I own a multi carrier store in WPB, FL and the rep we had (Liz?) was downright absurd. Literally she would badmouth the company she worked for and never resolved a single problem for us. At that point I went w EPP and have been fully supported and have had maybe 1 service issue since.

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  8. Look: Tracfone and all people related service is the worst (besides Comcast!). But the phone service is reliable and just about the LEAST expensive price.

    Never talk to them. Do all online/automated. You have been warned.

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    1. some people need to just have to talk to customer service and if they can't or if they get no help that way, then they badmouth the company.

      totally agree with you. AVOID TALKING TO CUSTOMER SERVICE. if you can get it done online, then do it that way. or contact tracfone's corporate resolution dept via email.

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  9. Hi Dennis! I understand that TracFone's BYOP plan provides for 3x talk, text and data. It clearly shows this on their website for 90 day airtime cards. Does 3x also apply for the one year airtime cards? Their website is somewhat confusing as it describes the one year cards as "One Year & Double Minutes". Thank you!

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    1. Do not buy the $149.99 One yea, 800 minutes, double minutes for life card if you have a triple minutes phone. The card is intended for single minutes phones and is really a 400 minute card that also turns a single minute phone into a double minute phone. On your triple minute phone you will only get 1200 minutes (400 tripped).

      Buy the $99.99 One year plus 400 minutes card instead as it will give you the same 1200 minutes and one year of service for $50 less.

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  10. Thanks for the clarification Dennis! What about the one year airtime cards for 1000 minutes for $159.99 and 1500 minutes for $199.99. Do these also get 3x talk, text and data? Thank you!

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  11. The Tracfone BYOP website is now showing that 4G LTE is available on TracFone.

    http://tracfonewireless.com/byop/

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  12. I have questions about the TracFone BYOP, but not specific to LTE phones. If I bring a Verizon non-smartphone, does that get triple talk, text and data? Also, does it get the TracFone CDMA coverage with roaming. I understand Android BYOP on TracFone do not get roaming. Also, which has better coverage, TracFone CDMA with roaming or Selectel? Thanks!

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    1. There is no roaming with TracFone BYOP regardless of which phone you use. TracFone CDMA (non-BYOP) roaming coverage is probably about the same as Selectel's.

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  13. Hi Dennis! As of now, there is a Trac branded Sim LTE kit sold alongside the NAC, at two official TF outlets, tracfone.com, and saveontracfone.com. There is talk that you can activate online as described still, and wait for a SIM after activation. I activated my iPhone 4 over a year ago by phone, but no SIM was required for it. The new LTE "kit" is described as containing all 3 sizes of SIM (and presumably a code if that is also needed). Both sites have had it available sporadically for the last week, while a friend of mine has been learning TF, before activating his Note 3. As of last weekend, the tracfone.com site was simply not adding it to your cart, but today it will. However, it will only sell with free shipping and bundled with an airtime card (as of today). The cost for the SIM "kit" is $7 on both sites, meaning $47 shipped at tracfone.com. At the other, dealer site, you can purchase an array of compatible phones for the byop service, as well as airtime cards, and the SIM "kits." The shipping for orders without phones, seems fixed at $12 for 2-day fedex, and $8 for 1st class USPS. The minimum price for a single SIM "kit" seems to be $15. Notably, the shipping was $0, when it was first mentioned on howard forum, but I did not complete a transaction to verify. The kit product having an image, and being for sale at tracfone.com, seems to settle any uncertainty about this being an accident, though.

    Last year, I read the 3G network would be up until 2021. Now I am reading that towers will begin converting away from it to more 4G perhaps as soon as 2017. If this is true it makes sense that 4G should be available for TF "early adopters" now. When ATT was removing 2G coverage, I remember being in a parking lot in Disney World. With full signal on my TF, I could not load a simple map for 5 minutes to get directions. 2 years ago, perhaps few TF users needed reliable data. However, 2 years from now, 80% will expect it!

    The other reason this appears to have taken this moment, was an FCC mandate to the contract carriers, to allow those who own phones to be allowed to use them on any carrier.
    That was the gist of it, and the deadline was February 2015. Almost no one reached full compliance. Traditional TFs may never unlock (AirTank software). This is oversimplifying it, and maybe you covered it in detail already. The bottom line was, if FCC was telling VZ they must allow their phones to go to Sprint if the owner wants, they would certainly prefer them to stay on VZ through TF. So why not get those wheels turning?

    You may wish to edit this off-topic bit, but I have two phones in the family on freedompop.
    Just for the nearly free data.. It seems Sprint completely lost control of their used phone database, around this same time. At least temporarily, many valid ESNs could not be activated anywhere. Existing customers were not affected anywhere. Ting had huge problems, and offered a buyback program. I would enjoy any updates on any of this, especially if what I read about the FCC ordering unlocking and the deadline for it, is true.
    It seems far too coincidental, not to be the root cause of the chaos affecting so many MVNOs.

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    1. The TracFone LTE kits have been available for several weeks. Their launch was covered here TracFone Makes It Official - BYOP LTE Phones Are Now Supported.

      There is no FCC requirement that carriers have to activate phones that they didn't sell. The big four operators and several regionals signed a voluntary agreement that effective 2/15/15 they would unlock customer's phones after they were fully paid for or for prepaid phones after they were used on the operator's network for a period of time, typically 6 or 12 months. TracFone didn't sign the agreement and will not unlock its phones, Sprint signed the agreement but isn't really living up to it. See: Virgin Mobile's Disapointing New Phone Unlocking Policy.

      The problems with Sprint BYOP are documented here: Updated: Sprint MVNO BYOSP is Badly Broken and here: Sprint Partially Fixes the BYOSP Mess It Created

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