FCC approves Verizon purchase of Tracfone Group

The 2 primary stumbling blocks to Verizon's purchase or Tracfone seem to have been cleared.
California regulators approved the purchase a few days ago, based on concessions & promises Verizon made.
The FCC approved the purchase Monday, 11/22/21.

So, it seems to be a done deal, except for the inevitable finagling around failing to honor commitments that regulators thought have been made. (Not particularly bashing Verizon here, even though they have a history of failing to meet their promises & requirements. T-Mobile certainly did a lot of fudging around the edges with the Sprint deal, too. Merger lawyers are really good at constructing things so that they can claim later that they didn't actually say what you thought you heard.)

This thread on Howard Forums has some good links and relevant portions quoted.

Brands affected: Tracfone, Safelink, Total Wireless, Simple Mobile, Straight Talk, Walmart Family Mobile, Clear Wireless, and I'm probably missing some.
[EDIT to add: Page Plus, Net10 and GoSmart, mentioned by others below.]

There's lots of wiggle room, and lots of unknowns.

Page Plus :frowning:

The most critical concession that Verizon was forced to agree to is support for the Lifeline program. Verizon has previously almost completely, and pointedly, declined to participate in the Lifeline program for cellular phones. The general consensus is that they didn't think it was worth their time and effort. (They provide Lifeline service in only 4 states, and only in parts of those 4.)

Somehow, they managed to get California to 'force' Verizon to migrate Lifeline users on Safelink to the Verizon network in a relatively short timeframe, which seems to me to match what Verizon would have preferred to do anyway, and which is definitely not in the best interest of those who have a real reason to prefer T-Mobile or AT&T service. (Perhaps poor coverage at home, even though in a Verizon-network area.) I need to look more carefully at that section.

In your opinion, how will this affect customers?

net10 and gosmart

This condition could be pretty significant, as there have been many horror stories relating to unlocking Tracfone-issued phones:

  1. Verizon will switch all TracFone customers to it's 60 day unlocking policy for all devices sold under TracFone. Verizon will also wave any device that has a two year unlocking policy currently under TracFone and allow all customers effected by the merger the ability to manually unlock their devices per Verizon's guidelines, not TracFones.

Yes, I had wondered about what might happen with the unlocking policy. I think there's another section that addresses this a little differently, or I might be conflating the California agreement..
From the statement above, I don't believe Tracfone has ever had a two-year unlocking policy, so that might fit into the "we didn't say what you thought you heard" category.

The 'wiggle room' might also be whether Verizon only applies this to phones purchased after closing, activated after closing, whether prior usage before closing costs, etc. If it applies in the widest possible set of circumstances, it would give a wide off-ramp to those who don't want Verizon network service.

I haven't read through all the details, or all the analyses. Safelink has been pretty well protected by the regulators: Tracfone to a lesser extent. The other brands don't seem to be specifically protected by regulators, except as the agreement to protect price structure might apply, and where the agreement to supply network alternatives where Verizon service is not available. (Again, a lot of between-the-lines wiggle room here: Will you still be able to get AT&T or T-Mo service if you don't have coverage in your home or office, even if you're in a 'coverage area'?)

No guessing how fast Verizon might move on some of this: In general, my random thoughts, based on absolutely zero concrete information, and recognizing that my musings are at least as worthless as anyone else's who is not an industry insider..:

Verizon wants the Prepaid service, and they want the customer base. (Although they want the customer base to be using Verizon, of course.).
Verizon -should- want the retail channel setup that Tracfone brands have relied on for successful market penetration. Verizon -should- want the different brand tiers that target different primary niches. Verizon -should- want the Tracfone Groups customer service setup, and their reasonably usable self-service customer account management (dashboards), since this is core to the Tracfone Group's profitability.

The question is how they'll go about changing details, and winnowing the number of brands. The possible permutations get really complicated, because some of the brands target specific marketing channels (SImple Mobile does really well in independent phone service stores, Straight Talk and Family Mobile are tied in with Walmart, etc.)

I expect a significant amount of brand consolidation within the two main tiers of subrands (budget Pay As You Go, and middle-of-the-road MVNOs). I'd guess that on the Pay As You Go brands, Page Plus and Net10 PayGo might be consolidated under Tracfone. If Tracfone wants to shutter some brands, it might be easier to close them to new subscriptions & let the brand continue to service existing customers, instead of trying to migrate between brands-- or they'll have to develop some formula to transition from one brand's plans to another brand's plans.

Total, Straight Talk, Simple Mobile, Walmart Family Mobile, and Net10 monthly plans all have roughly similar target audiences, and plans. I expect these to be consolidated into 2-3 brands, maybe depending on pressure from Walmart (Straight Talk & Walmart Family Mobile.) My current guess is that Total and Straight Talk might be retained, and customers from Simple Mobile/Family Mobile rolled into the Straight Talk brand. (Straight Talk, being multi-carrier, would give Verizon a good chance to convert as many as possible to Verizon Service.) I think Verizon is comfortable with the price structure and profit from these brands, and they won't see major changes-- but some of the specific differences that might currently encourage a specific pick of one of those brands might be lost, or consolidated. (Some offer hotspot, some offer family plans, etc, some offer cheap data add-ons, etc.)

Some complications: The Walmart tie-in.
(What might save Net10 as a brand, at least for a while: I think Straight Talk is a Walmart Exclusive brand, which might complicate moving Simple Mobile customers there. Total Wireless is Verizon service only. If Verizon needs a different brand to transition Simple Mobile customers to, Net10 or Tracfone are the other options, and Tracfone's plan offerings don't translate that well to Simple Mobile plans. Or they might reposition Simple Mobile or Total as a multi-carrier provider, mimicking Straight Talk, to use it as the vehicle to transition customers from T-Mo to Verizon.)

The unlock policy change sounds great but I suspect it will come with an increase in prices.

I've never heard of a 2 year tracfone lock though

along with dabbling with ring+ tello and mint i am a ~loyal~ Verizon PREPAID customer for at the least 15 years. i used to use pay as you go cards, but many years ago have stuck my money into a "plan" that costs me $45 a month (fees added into this) unlimited call text 3GB with free international calls, free hotspot and roll over data with no cap/expire date. i come and go as i please with only needing an email and password to reach my account, i get no ad nauseam contact from verizon i get excellent service with no slow down or congestion times. i buy my handset when i want from where i want. my concerns are these 1) they will now lump my account with other accounts from net 10/ straight talk/tracfone creating the less than stellar service i read about 2) they are going to force me into changing my "plan" and as far as i can read that will lose me my free hot spot ( which i use more frequently than i thought i would) and my no cap roll over data. i had really been hoping that verizon mergers/buyouts would be stopped by various regulators. because i really want nothing to change with my phone nor my basic non relationship with verizon.

re: phone unlocking: I'm not sure that the quote bingyee shared about phone unlocking has any official source: it may be someone's attempt to rephrase the official language.

The FCC document says this:
"8. Unlocking Devices Commitment. Subject to certain conditions and limitations, Verizon
commits to extending its 60-day unlocking period to all 700 MHz C Block devices purchased from
TracFone after closing and activated on the Verizon network, subject to a two-year waiver of the
automatic unlocking requirement to allow manual unlocking for those TracFone devices that currently do
not have automatic unlocking capabilities. Verizon will provide notice to affected TracFone customers of
its unlocking policy."

The two-year mention is an exemption from Verizon's normal unlocking policy to provide 'automatic' unlocks. Tracfone's current phone stock (and possible future purchase commitments) may not be configured to do this, so manual unlocking, by request, would be the path for a while. My guess is this will be done via the existing Tracfone Unlocking Policy portal, which already serves all Tracfone brands.

The quote also seems to say that the 60-day unlocking is only applicable to phones purchased after closing of the buyout. (I tried googling for that, and the hits seem like that has occurred.) So, no shorter unlock period for phones already activated, or already sitting in a drawer. (Might be some wiggle room for phones already acquired but not activated, and maybe not-- save receipts.)

The full FCC document is available here:



New unlocking policy is active now. 60 days if activated after 23 Nov 2021 on the verizon network. Those HSN bundles are suddenly seeming a lot better value.


Wow... much better than I expected. I was expecting that Verizon would try to weasel out as much as they could on unlocking, but that's pretty much the best possible situation..