TracFone 4G LTE BYOP Update and How-To Info

by pbushx2 on March 6, 2015

First, I’d like to thank those of you who took the time to get in touch and let me know that my site was down last week. As luck would have it, it went down on the day I was ready to leave for vacation, so I would not have noticed the issue if not for those that sent me messages about it.

After three separate online chats with tech support from my hosting company, I was finally able to get it back up. It was down fully for about 5 days, and only minimally functional for another week after that. I’ve stil got some links to fix, but hopefully the root problem is now corrected.

TracFone 4G LTE BYOP

Also while I was away, there have been some big developments in the news I reported a few weeks ago, about TracFone now accepting 4G LTE phones. At the time I first wrote about it, I was aware of only one person who had successfully activated a 4G phone. Since then, perhaps a dozen others have reported following in his footsteps, myself included.

I’m not sure it’s widespread enough yet to say that it is completely reliable and hassle-free, but it the evidence is mounting that it is likely to work for most people who try it out. Further, I have discovered several work-arounds that increase the likelihood for success. Here are a few key points to know about using a 4G LTE phone on TracFone:

TracFone LTE BYOP – swappable sims

Once you have an active LTE phone, it appears that it is possible to swap the SIM card into another compatible (4G LTE) device. That device would then connect to the Verizon network via your TracFone account.

This has some pretty cool implications. In short, SIM-swapping makes this the most flexible TracFone program ever. It could make it easier to upgrade phones in the future, or to swap between devices on an ongoing basis, if that is your preference. I don’t know yet whether it would be possible (or advisable) to swap the SIM into a compatible tablet, but in theory it should work. And you might even consider carrying a TracFone SIM card as a backup for some reason, such as if you use a GSM carrier for your primary service but want to have backup coverage on Verizon LTE.

Does it require 4G coverage?

This is somewhat unclear at this point. It seems that you must have a good 4G signal at the time of activation, but after that, compatible phones (including all Verizon LTE phones, for example) will fall back to 3G coverage in areas where 4G is unavailable.

How fast is it?

Thankfully some early adopters have run speed tests, despite the fact that doing so will use up a lot of their data bucket. At this point it seems that data speeds are throttled to around 5 mpbs download, and 2 mbps upload. This doesn’t take full advantage of LTE speeds, but is likely about 5 times faster than what you might get on 3G Verizon coverage (which includes all smart phones sold by TracFone to date). The latency, or lag time between your phone and the network, is also better than 3G, though not as markedly as the data transfer speeds. For me the latency is not quite twice as good on 4G.

Below is a screen shot of a speed test I ran using 4G. This compares to about 1 mbps down and .5 mpbs up on my TracFone 3G BYOP phone.

Data speeds on TracFone 4G LTE Bring Your Own Phone

The flip side of this, of course, is that it will now be possible to use up data faster. If you are watching your phone expense carefully, you might need to exercise a little greater self discipline to limit your data usage once you have faster speeds.

Which phones work on TracFone LTE BYOP?

The greatest benefit of this change, in my opinion, is not the faster data speeds, but the increased variety of eligible phones. The options are nearly limitless or, more accurately, are limited only by how much you are willing to spend on a new phone. I’ve seen reports of the very newest of phones active on TracFone, including the iPhone 6. No high-end phone is off the table at this point, from the upcoming Samsung Galaxy s6 to predecessor Galaxy S# and Note devices, to iPhone 6 and 6 plus, iPhone 5, 5c, or 5s, etc. Moto X, Moto G (including the newest 4G version), HTC One series, and LG G3 all will work as well.

What you need to be careful of is that the phone is made for Verizon. At this point, all evidence indicates that you MUST activate your service with a Verizon-compatible device. As I stated above, you can then swap the SIM card into other LTE devices, apparently including those branded for other carriers (T-Mobile, AT&T, etc). Be warned, though, that LTE devices designed for use on GSM networks (T-Mobile and AT&T) likely won’t fall back to Verizon 3G coverage if/when LTE is unavailable.

You will also want to make sure that the phone has a “clean ESN,” just as with the previous BYOP phones. But with TracFone 4G service, unlike TracFone’s 3G BYOP, it appears that brand new devices will work. Just about any phone Verizon 4G phone that is not reported stolen, and not currently under contract to Verizon, should work.

Where to buy a phone

Just as the options are much broader in terms of phones, you can also buy your phone just about anywhere. Keeping in mind the tips above about getting a phone that is not stolen or in contract, the only limit is the trust you have for the seller. Further, if you are especially cautious you might want to go with a known retailer that offers a reliable, no-hassle return policy. That way if you can’t get the phone activated, you can get your money back easily.

That said, the most common place that I’ve seen people buy their phone is eBay, and this is a great place to start. I would suggest starting with the model name you are seeking, followed by the word “Verizon.” eBay has had some great deals recently on the Moto X developer edition, as well as brand new Samsung Galaxy S3’s.

Best Buy also recently had the S3 on sale for $150, though that deal appears to be unavailable at the moment. Just make sure if you are buying from a big retailer, that you are not buying into a contract as well. You’ll often see phones advertised at reduced prices “with a 2-year contract.” That is obviously not what we want.

What you need to activate a 4G LTE phone on TracFone service

You’ll need a few specific items to make sure you are ready to activate. It is possible to get most of these items directly from TracFone. But after hearing reports from perhaps a many of the people who have activated or attempted to activate an LTE phone on TracFone, it seems to be easiest to get the start-up items from other sources.

1. First, of course, you’ll need an eligible phone, as I’ve discussed above.

2. Next, you’ll need a Network Activation Code (NAC). If you are planning to use a 4G LTE phone as an upgrade to a phone that is already on the BYOP program, you can skip this step. But if you are upgrading from a TracFone-issued device, you’ll need to get an NAC. I recommend buying one from saveontracfone.com. They have prompt customer service, deliver your NAC by email within minutes, and actually charge $3 less than TracFone itself. Use this link to get add the “TracFone CDMA Activation Kit:” http://www.saveontracfone.com/Bring-your-own-phone/.

3. You’ll also need a SIM card. Once again, you can get this from TracFone, but so far it seems easier to get it from TracFone’s sister company, Straight Talk. For some reason, currently the SIM cards seem to be interchangeable between the Straight Talk and TracFone. HOWEVER, the network activation code (NAC) from Straight Talk CANNOT be used to get started on TracFone service, as far as I know at this point. To get my SIM card, I used this link to buy the “CDMA LTE Activation Kit.” This kit costs just $1 and contains all possible SIM Card sizes, so you don’t need to worry about figuring out which size fits in your phone at the time of your order. Further, Straight Talk currently offers free shipping on these SIM kits. Mine was delivered the next business day.

4. Finally, if you are starting up a new line of service, you’ll need a TracFone airtime card of some sort. Shopcelldeals on eBay has some good deals on the 200-minute card – click here, or here for the card alone. If you are transferring service from another phone, you can skip this step.

Once you’ve assembled these items, you’ll be ready to go. This post is already quite long, and I don’t want to get into the nitty gritty here, but if you want to follow my step-by-step instructions, leave a comment and I’ll share them below.

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TracFone LTE Confirmed

by pbushx2 on February 19, 2015

This is a-follow up to my blog post from last week, where I told you that 4G LTE might be coming to TracFone. Now I can tell you that it has been confirmed – kind of. So far I know of exactly one person who has activated an LTE-capable phone on TracFone service. He posted about it here, on the TracFone message board at howardforums.com.

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