Home - , , , - New Policy Requires Verizon Prepaid LTE Phones to be Activated on Verizon Before They Will Work on MVNOs

New Policy Requires Verizon Prepaid LTE Phones to be Activated on Verizon Before They Will Work on MVNOs

Shortly after Verizon started allowing LTE phones on its MVNOs in 2014, users discovered that new, never activated Verizon Prepaid LTE phones could be activated on Verizon MVNOs. That was in sharp contrast to older Verizon non-LTE prepaid phones which have to be used on Verizon Prepaid for a full six months before they would pass the activation process on any Verizon MVNO.

It was widely believed that Verizon allowed Prepaid LTE phones on MVNOs without the usual six month aging period in order to comply with the open access conditions of its Block C (band 13) LTE license which states "Licensees offering service on spectrum subject to this section shall not deny, limit, or restrict the ability of their customers to use the devices and applications of their choice on the licensee's C Block network".

Verizon LTE Prepaid devices became the best source of inexpensive, modern LTE phones that could be used on Verizon MVNOs. The phones were cheap because Verizon subsidizes them to lure customers to it's relatively pricey prepaid service. For example, an unlocked GSM Moto E LTE costs $149.99, the Verizon Prepaid version of the same phone lists for $99.99, but is widely discounted to $40 and was available from BestBuy for $9.99 for an several weeks around Black Friday.

But last month something changed, HowardForums users started reporting that TracFone and other Verizon MVNOs were unable to activate brand new $9.99 BestBuy Moto E LTEs. At the time I thought it was probably just a fluke related to that batch of Best Buy Moto Es.

Then last week a HowardForums user reported that two Verizon Prepaid LG G Vistas failed to activate on TracFone. This week a Kitty Forums user who had activated a Verizon Prepaid LG Transpyre on Puppy Wireless in December tried activating two more Transpyres and they failed to activate.

Around the time these started happening, Verizon Prepaid phones began appearing in stores with this new message on the packaging; "Phone must be activated on Verizon Wireless Prepaid service and first monthly payment must be made before it can be used with any other service.".

It turns out that Verizon made a policy change effective  1/17/16 that requires Verizon Prepaid Phones to be activated on Verizon Prepaid and have at least $30 in airtime applied to them before they cam be used on Verizon postpaid.  A Reddit user posted a copy of an internal Verizon document detailing the new rule:
Effective 1/17/2016, customers who purchase a Prepaid 4G device must activate on a $30, $45, or $60 Prepaid plan and make at least 1 monthly service payment before they are eligible to move the device to a new or active Postpay account . 
  • Device remains locked until first month’s payment is made on their Prepaid plan.
  • Device is unlocked automatically upon successful first month’s payment and can be used on Postpaid plan (new SIM or SIM swap).
  • Attempting to use an active Postpay SIM Card with a new 4G LTE Prepaid PIB smartphone prior to making the required monthly payment, hotlines the Postpay MDN (SFO 83643) . The hotline remains until first month’s payment is made.
  • Customers who activate on the $45 or $60 Prepaid plans and enroll in Auto Pay, receive bonus 1GB data per month.
If account is hotlined:
  • Data access, outgoing calls, and text messaging do not work.
  • Text message is sent to smartphone.
    • *VZW FREE MSG: Phone must be activated on Verizon Wireless Prepaid service and first monthly payment must be made before it can be used with any other service. *
  • Auto-remark is placed on the customer's account.
    • *SIM Swap attempted: MDN Hotlined. Phone must be activated on VZW Prepaid service and first month paid before it can be activated as postpaid. *
Although the new Verizon policy only addresses using prepaid Verizon phones on Verizon postpaid it might also be responsible for the Verizon Prepaid phone activation failures on MVNOs.

At the moment there's a workaround. HoFo'ers discovered that if you ask BestBuy to activate one the failing phones on Verizon Prepaid using the Verizon SIM that comes in the phone, but not add any money to the account, the phone can then be activated on an MVNO with an MVNO SIM. It may also be possible to get around the MVNO activation roadblock without involving BestBuy by activating a Verizon Prepaid phone online and not adding funds.

Verizon's new policy does seem to violate the LTE block C open access rules that Verizon agreed to as a condition of their being able to use that band. A Redditor has filed an FCC complaint against Verizon over the issue. Unfortunately, I fear that if Verizon is forced to live up to its agreement and allow prepaid phones on post paid and MVNOs they will start charging full un-subsidized prices for those prepaid phones.

Please leave a comment if you have had problems activating  a Verizon Prepaid phone on a Verizon MVNO and if you were able to resolve the problem.

Sources: HowardForums, Reddit, Kitty Forums


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  1. I fear that they are following Sprint

  2. I wonder if swapping an active prepaid SIM to a different prepaid device would be enough to make that device eligible for postpaid.

  3. Oh well people may turn to Cricket unless they start to block GoPhones.

  4. Put my postpaid SIM in a Prepaid Moto E and now my Postpaid SIM no longer works. Called verizon and they can't fix it.

  5. Just tested the IMEI of a brand new vzw moto e in the paypal esn validation portal (dealer tool). This was from the holiday promo a few months back. Esn comes back as "available for use".

    Will be interesting to see what happens when I try to activate a new mvno sim in it.

    1. @Chris Howard: Call again. Reddit users have been able to gert Verizon to fix their postpaid SIMs after they put the SIM back in a non-prepaid phone.

      @Anonymous: You should be OK if the Moto E purchased before 1/17. Pleas let us know what happens if you try.

  6. I feel bad for people who MUST use Verizon because they live in an area that is only mainly serviced by Verizon...Thank God that T-Mobile & AT&T utilize GSM SIM phones and both of their branded phones utilize LTE BAND 4, which gives their customers a plethora of MVNOs to choose from!

    Dennis, I believed you mentioned this once awhile ago, but is CDMA eventually going the way of the DINOSAUR in North America? Will it be phased out? Would it be difficult for, say, US CELLULAR to change their network from CDMA to GSM? ( GSM-SIM rules! )

    1. I think CDMA will be phased out eventually, replaced by LTE with VoLTE. EVDO will go in about 3 years with 1xRTT kept for voice until everyone has VoLTE capable phones and the LTE network is robust enough to support VoLTE calls everywhere.

      The same thing will happen with GSM networks with everything being LTE or its successors eventually.

    2. Well, that probably won't be until 2020 or so, and that will probably only for be for the top 2 or 3 networks. I mean Sprint doesn't even employ VoLTE yet. Not to mention that you can not even VoLTE to VoLTE from one network to another yet. Both parties have to to be on the same network right now as far as I've read. I think 5G has to be deployed in at least a decent capacity along with universal VoLTE before carriers can even think of decommissioning 3G technology even just in a limited and select number of areas, and even then you have a lot of people and a whole demographic among seniors who only use and only want to use flip phones like the jitterbug sort. It's not happening any time soon as far as I can see. But that's just my humble human opinion.

    3. OLDNORSEBRUIN, Verizon also utilizes Band 4 on their carriers for their XLTE or enhanced 4G. So that's sort of a moot point I think. The only carrier that really differentiates itself widely with its bands is Sprint. And we all know they're all but failed and bankrupt as a network, as a company, and as an organization not to mention a complete failure in their atrocious customer service and anti-customer policies and hard line attitude against unlocking obviously unlockable phones. Well that's the end of my rant because I don't know what my point was.

    4. A VolTE capable phone can place a VoLTE call to a non-VoLTE capable phone on any network. The packet switched VoLTE call gets converted to a circuit switched call at the network level if needed.

      If VoLTE calls could only be between two VolTE capable phones, Verizon's customers in Alaska where Verizon's network is LTE only and thus only supports VoLTE calls would be pretty unhappy as they couldn't call landlines or people with non-VoLTE phones.

  7. Loopholes being covered are unfortunately not anything new. To exploit a loophole, two things are key, 1) Know that it could go away at anytime. 2)Keeping it downlow as to reduce the chances of item number one. The problem is that once it hits the internet, the growth can't help but be exponential . If it can save a consumer money and more consumers are 1) more deal savvy then before. 2) more tech savvy then before. It almost becomes a natural snowball. A cheap brand new phone from the nation's best network? Whadda I gotta do? It's almost a no brainer.

    But the fly in the ointment is that we get only so much free lunches before there's a backlash from the company with the loophole. Dead phones. Dead sims. Angry customers.


    But the bottomline about loopholes is this , be careful how critical your line is on the loophole you exploit as it can be like an open door that slams shut on your fingers unexpectedly.

    Check out loopholes, even use them if you know what you're getting into but be careful as sometimes that loophole can close on you. And leave you with a mess.

  8. I have a new, never activated Verizon Prepaid Moto E, bought during Black Friday sale @BestBuy.
    Yesterday I checked my Moto E MEID with Puppy Wireless and Expo. It flunked.
    Strangely, the MEID passes Kitty's PagePlus MEID check: "Available for use"
    The MEID passed Puppy last Dec 13. I put in a ticket with Puppy and am waiting for an answer.

    1. I just tried this Moto E's MEID with tracfone byop, and it failed.

  9. This cant effect prior activation's on MVNO's - can it?? I cant see how, but maybe others are wondering too. I have 2 LG Transpyre phones from Verizon PP that I activated out of the box on Tracfon and am enjoying...

  10. Has this been covered? Moto E ($10 from bestbuy) can be unlocked via that android forum should be ok to use on gsm networks? Or this affect that too?

    1. Have you tried it? I did.
      Installed android sdk, java jdk, Moto drivers, followed all instructions.
      My computer will not recognize the Moto E, so it won't program.

    2. Verizon's new policy has no effect on using their prepaid phones on a GSM network.

      Getting ADB to recognize any Android phone can be tricky.

      Some tips that worked for me.
      Be sure ADB is installed and on your path. Before you even plug in the phone, open a cmd prompt and type adb and press enter. You should see a list of adb commands, not an error message. If you get an error reinstall adb. You don't need the full sdk and jdk, you can install just the Minimal ADB and Fastboot tool.

      Once ADB is working and the Motorola drivers are installed without errors:

      Connect the phone and wait for Windows to finish finding the drivers before proceeding.

      Next, have the phone unlocked and on the home screen. Keep your eyes on the phone and type adb devices and press enter. You have to be quick to see and accept the popup on the phone asking you to allow the connection.

      If you aren't even getting the connection permission pop up:
      1.In Settings > Developer options, click "Revoke USB debugging authorizations" and try again.
      2. Still not working, try switching the USB connection mode from MTP to PTP or vice versa.

      When you type adb devices [Enter] after accepting the allow connection pop up you should see a line with
      "device" followed by a bunch of letters and numbers.

      At this point your device is working with adb and you can begin following whichever tutorial for enabling GSM you are following. I think: (5.0.2+5.1) (UPDATED 12/3/2015) How to: Use … | Moto E 2015 on ANY GSM network is what most people are using.

  11. Can data add-ons be used with the Verizon $30 no data plan?

  12. "I fear that if Verizon is forced to live up to its agreement and allow prepaid phones om post paid and MVNOs they will start charging full subsidized prices for those prepaid phones."

    ...full UNsubsidized prices...

    Why fear it, that would be a good thing.

    The price of phones should and need to be separated from the price of service. We may not get cheap $10 phones (that may come with restricted use) but maybe we would get cheaper service, which would be better for consumers in the long run.

    Imagine a 3rd or 4th gen Moto E that's unlocked and truly universal with support for all bands and able to be activated on all 4 major carriers and MVNOs priced at $150 (and still discounted to $100 or less on sale or Black Friday.

    In any case, I'm sure this didn't close the loophole that allows the Verizon PP Moto E to be modified for use on GSM networks.

    "Have you tried it? I did.
    Installed android sdk, java jdk, Moto drivers, followed all instructions.
    My computer will not recognize the Moto E, so it won't program."

    You need to get your computer to recognize the phone. It's probably a driver issue. I've had that happen before and you may need to reinstall the driver.

    If you have a Moto E that's still on 5.0.1, you don't need a computer to the modification, as I understand it.

  13. 2 Moto E's from Best Buy's online Black Friday sale fail Tracfone's BYOP test. Never activated on Verizon. So does a LG Transpyre bought online from Walmart's Black Friday sale.

  14. I don't understand the article or the comments. Verizon subsidizes the cost of the phones. They have a right to recoup that expense.

    Verizon is only asking for one month of service. Most companies want 6 months use or more to unlock a phone to use on other carriers. ( I know unlocking is not involved here) Verizon is still losing money on the phones. One month doesn't pay for the subsidy.

    Just pay for one month of service and then move to the MVNO of your choice. You still Save money because thec subsidy is likely greater than $30. Verizon prepaid monthly plans are actually very competitive.

    1. Maybe Verizon should be like ATT/Cricket and raise the price of the phone by $100 and offer a $100 rebate that requires paying for 3 months of service.

  15. Purchased a Verizon lg g vista last November. It has to be registered before it can be activated. When I enter the imei number it asks me if my GSM phone is locked or unlocked. What ever answer I give it asks me if I want att or T-Mobile. This was before policy change on 1-17-16.

    1. Enter the IMEI number where, With T-Mobile, AT&T, or one of their MVNOs, or with a Verizon MVNO? If the latter, why would a CDMA MVNO ask you if you want AT&T or T-Mobile? Which MVNO/carrier were you trying to activate on?

    2. I think anonymous is talking about entering the IMEI on the TracFone BYOP page.
      As it's a Verizon CDMA/LTE phone he should try entering the MEID (14 or 18 digits) not the IMEI (15 digits). The IMEI is the traditional GSM serial number, now also used for LTE. MEID is the CDMA equivalent. When an IMEI is entered it may be confusing TracFone into thinking it's a GSM phone.

  16. dennis you're a dream boat. so definitively because i'm going right now, if i am post paid and i purchase AND activate the prepaid on a prepaid sim wit NO minutes, just simply buying and activating, that should prevent me from being hotlined when i sim swap? as i understand it the old method would be buy, do NOT activate the device do NOT activate the prepaid sim, then activate with post paid sim....but that is BAD now correct? i talked with someone form bby who must've been gone on the day they covered this. i was like so i can take the device put it on whatever network even if i put a post paid sim right she was like yes because it would recognize your phone number. awwww. anyway if anyone can confirm that this method is working or has worked recently would really help

  17. #1purchased HTC Desire 526 Prepaid VZW @ Best Buy
    #2Bought $45 top up card in same transaction
    #3Activated the device using stock SIM card.
    #4Added Top Up to balance via *611
    #5Tested SMS, data, & finally phone call- it was only after dialing out, that I received a "congrats your Device s activated," message in the form of an audio prerecording played just before my call was connected.
    #7 Then I powered down my device and took out prepaid SIM, inserted postpaid SIM and voila! Temporary phone has been working fine, no dropped calls,missed SMS (that I know of), no hotlined hostage taking, no hints that doing it the old SIM swap way could've caused problems but then again I didn't do it that way so why would there be. #8Went back home filed an FCC complaint,filed a complaint with best Buy also, and now I'm reporting a successful activation from vow prepaid-activate as such-then SIM swap to contracted post paid vzw same size SIM 4G 4FF.

  18. Late to the party, but I filed an FCC complaint this morning.

  19. Can someone confirm that I have this correct. If I want a replacement phone for a postpaid Verizon account - I can buy a prepaid Verizon phone, activate on the $30 prepaid plan - then I can immediately use on Verizon postpaid?

  20. Anyone try to activate at BB w/o money lately?

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