Verizon gradually culls some TracFone prepaid brands

Verizon’s TracFone Wireless division is gradually culling some brands from its roster, but not quite as fast as some originally expected.

The National Wireless Independent Dealer Association (NWIDA) reported last month that the end was near for Page Plus, Net10 and GoSmart, with dealers being told that new customers couldn’t be added to those brands as of November 1. Thus, it appeared that they were headed to the graveyard the day after Halloween.

But a TracFone spokesperson told Fierce this week that’s not happening.

Instead, customers will be able to buy plans for Net10, Page Plus and GoSmart brands until November 2024, with California customers getting until November 2026 to purchase them.

“TracFone Wireless Inc. is streamlining the brands we proactively market to remain competitive and meet the needs of today’s value-conscious consumers,” the company said in a statement. “In compliance with the FCC order related to the Verizon acquisition, both existing and new customers can enroll in plans for the Net10, Page Plus and GoSmart brands until November 2024 (California customers will be able to take advantage of these plans until November 2026).”

The statement added that “TracFone is committed to full compliance of the FCC order to assure consumers are protected, while also benefitting from the Verizon acquisition including new offerings like the Total by Verizon brand.”

Verizon launched Total by Verizon in September, positioning it as a new prepaid wireless offer to replace the “Total Wireless” brand and to go up against the likes of Metro by T-Mobile and AT&T’s Cricket.

The TracFone representative told Fierce this week that both existing and new customers can enroll in plans for the Net10, Page Plus and GoSmart brands until November 2024. Again, California customers will be able to take advantage of these plans until November 2026.

Long expected culling

Ever since the purchase of TracFone by Verizon was announced in 2020, the question has been hanging in the air about how many of the TracFone brands would survive, said Jeff Moore, principal of Wave7 Research.

“Verizon cannot run around with a double- digit number of prepaid brands. It’s just too unwieldy,” Moore told Fierce, noting that he hasn’t seen a lot of activity around these three brands for some time.

Wave7 tracks everything from store displays to the ads that run across prepaid and postpaid brands in the U.S.     

He noted that there was a time, around 2015-2016, when Net10 was the subject of national TV ads and it was a significant brand.

“There are winners and losers, for sure,” he said. Besides Straight Talk, other surviving brands include SafeLink, Simple Mobile, Walmart Family Mobile, Total by Verizon, Visible and Verizon Prepaid.

Straight Talk is by far the most popular of the TracFone brands; it had over 9 million subscribers at the time Verizon closed the TracFone acquisition last year, and “in no part of my imagination can I envision Verizon getting rid of that brand,” Moore said.

Each of the brands has a slightly different bent. The Visible brand, for example, doesn’t involve the traditional retail channel and store leases but caters to a digital-first set of customers. Simple Mobile is the most widely distributed and popular brand in the multi-carrier dealer channel, according to Moore.

Interestingly, Verizon kept most of the TracFone management after the acquisition.  For the Total by Verizon launch, TracFone Wireless President and Verizon SVP Eduardo Diaz Corona was featured in a video at a Total by Verizon store in Passaic, N.J.

“Having acquired TracFone, I think Verizon is learning a lot about the prepaid market that they did not know before” and they’re letting TracFone do a lot of the management of the brands, which is a good thing, Moore said. “They purchased the asset, but they let TracFone do what they do.”