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BasicsEdit

The US does a lot of things differently: voltage, plugs and the mobile (often called: cellular) phone system too. This leads to a lot of errors and confusion when you come from a different part of the world. Here is a short guide to avoid disappointments.

CDMA- vs. GSM-based networksEdit

In the US two different mobile network systems operate which are not compatible (at least until LTE has arrived). The CDMA technology is used in very few countries of the world. But in the US it is employed by major operators like Verizon and Sprint. You can easily identify it by the non-detachable SIM card. The device is “married” with the provider and you can’t change that. You can still buy a Verizon phone or modem but you can use it only on their network and nowhere else.
The big advantage of GSM-based technologies: the SIM card of (unlocked) devices can be taken out and changed to one of another operator and country. This what this WIKI is all about. As only GSM technology enables you to perform the procedures described here, only GSM-based providers are shown in the list below. This leaves you with a rather limited choice in the US as only two (physical) cellular networks support GSM and its advancements: AT&T and T-Mobile US (and their respective MVNOs).

AT&T vs. T-Mobile US networkEdit

This is a very tricky one. You can count yourself lucky that you still have the choice as some years ago T-Mobile US was to be sold to AT&T but this was rejected by anti-trust authorities.
Superficially, it’s an easy call. AT&T has more as three times as many customers and undoubtedly the better nationwide coverage on 2G, 3G and 4G. But T-Mobile has focused on the big cities and gives better speed there combined with a very aggressive pricing well below the rates of AT&T.

Compatibility and frequenciesEdit

To really work out the difference you have to compare the frequencies of your device with the frequencies offered by AT&T and T-Mobile as there are a lot of incompatibilities. For major phone models it is shown HERE. Have in mind that some models or modems are sold in different versions in the US and Europe/Asia.

2G/GSM (GPRS, EDGE)Edit

For 2G you have to have a phone that supports 850 and 1900 MHz bands. From Europe or Asia a tri- or even better a quad-band phone does this. AT&T is better on 850 MHz, T-Mobile on 1900 MHz if you have a tri-band. On 2G you can only get EDGE with slow data speeds up to 200 kbps. AT&T plans to shut down its 2G network in 2017 altogether.

3G/UMTS (HSPA+, DC-HSPA+)Edit

Now it’s getting complicated. AT&T has a good (though sometimes slow) coverage on 850 MHz up to HSPA+ (21 Mbps) speed. This is supplemented with spectrum on 1900 MHz in the cities. When checking frequencies on your device, be aware that 1900 MHz on 2G does not automatically mean, that it is on the same frequency on 3G.
T-Mobile used to operate 3G on the 1700 MHz (= AWS) band only. This is (almost) the only operator in the world on this frequency, so hardly any non-T-Mobile US phone can cope with it. AWS is sometimes referred as “1700/2100” MHz suggesting a 2100 MHz phone would work. This is misleading as AWS is using the 1700 spectrum for uploading and 2100 for downloading and can’t be handled by a 2100 MHz-only device.
Luckily, T-Mobile changed the game when it acquired new frequencies in 2012. They were now shifting (or “refarming”) the most of their 3G spectrum from 1700 AWS to 1900 MHz (= PCS). This gives much better compatibility with lot of devices like the iPhone. In 2014 the refarming has been completed and 1900 MHz DC-HSPA (up to 42 Mbps) coverage is guaranteed in these major areas aka “markets” (unfortunately T-Mobile doesn’t release a 1900 MHz-only map):

Ann Arbor, MI Atlanta, GA Austin, TX Baltimore, MD Boston, MA
Cambridge,  MA Chicago, IL Dallas, TX Denver, CO Detroit, MI
Ft. Lauderdale, FL Fort Worth, TX Fresno, CA Houston, TX Kansas City, KS/MO
Las Vegas, NV Los Angeles, CA Miami, FL Minn.-St.Paul, MN Modesto, CA
Napa, CA New York ,NY Newark, NJ Oakland, CA Orlando, FL
Philadelphia, PA Phoenix, AZ Providence, RI Reno, NV Richmond, VA
Sacramento, CA Salinas, CA San Antonio, TX San Diego, CA San Francisco, CA
San Jose, CA Santa Ana, CA Santa Cruz, CA Santa Rosa, CA Seattle, WA
Springfield, MA St. Cloud, MN Stockton, CA Tampa, FL Tucson, AZ
Vallejo, CA Virginia Beach, VA Warren, MI Washington D.C.

T-Mobile started to shut down 1700 AWS in these markets in 2015 and keeps on shifting more markets from 1700 MHz AWS to 1900 MHz PCS on 3G. To add to the confusion T-Mobile used to call its enhanced UMTS a “4G” network as it uses DC-HSPA which gives up to 42 Mbps theoretically on UMTS-based technology while 4G is synonymous with LTE technology in the most parts of the world.

4G/LTEEdit

AT&T started its 4G/LTE in 2011 on 700 and 1700 MHz depending on region added by 1900 MHz later in some city centers. It covers 280 Mio. people in 2014 in THESE areas. T-Mobile started with real 4G/LTE in 2013 on the refarmed AWS frequency of 1700 MHz and aquired licences on 700 and 1900 MHz in some areas only to reach 250 Mio. people already in 2014 in THESE areas.
Unfortunately all mentioned LTE frequencies are hardly used for LTE anywhere else in the world and a phone from outside the US is unlikely to handle US LTE. Nevertheless, Qualcomm produces a multiband chipset which can cope with more than 30 different LTE bands which are in use worldwide nowadays. At least LTE is able to bridge the gap to CDMA (see above) as both systems agreed on the same technology for 4G/LTE.

GSM AT&T T-Mobile
2G (GPRS, EDGE) 850, (1900) MHz

to be closed down in 2017

(850,) 1900 MHz
3G (UMTS, HSPA+) 850, 1900 MHz

1700, 1900 MHz

4G (LTE) 700, 850, 1700, (1900) MHz 1700, 1900, (700) MHz
MAP Coverage

Coverage

For Apple (iOS) users: Note that access to 4G/LTE from many MVNOs requires iOS 8 or higher.

If you need further infomation, check out this brilliant updated survey: http://www.prepaidphonenews.com/2011/03/us-prepaid-gsm-voice-text-and-data.html

AT&TEdit

ATT-logo
AT&T is the biggest GSM-based provider in the US rivalling only with Verizon. It has the best coverage nationwide and gives the most compatibility.
2G is on 850 and 1900 MHz up to EDGE but scheduled to be shut down in 2017, 3G is on 850 and 1900 MHz up to HSPA+ and 4G/LTE on 700, 1700 and 1900 MHz (see Basics chapter for details).

Availiability and start-upEdit

Their prepaid lines are all called GoPhone. A starter pack is called “GoPhone SIM card kit”. The SIM card only is referred as “Bring your own” (device). The SIM card is available for free from AT&T stores (locator) or for $9.99 online to be sent to an US postal address or at other stores such as Target (also for $9.99). Take care that some mall kiosks like to charge you more for the SIM card. Alternatively, you can buy at online dealers e.g. on Ebay to be shipped overseas for a very small surcharge. Mini-, micro- and nano-SIMs are available.
There are two kinds of plan on offer: with voice, texts and data for phones and with data-only for tablets. The data-only plans work in phones and modems too, but are intended for tablet use and your phone will not send/receive calls or text messages with this kind of data SIM (even though it has a phone number). To avoid confusion in shops state that you want to use it in a tablet even if you plan to put the data only SIM into a phone. There is no need to conceal anymore that you bring an iPhone from overseas. This caused problems until 2 years ago, but AT&T now welcomes foreign iPhones too.

The SIM cards sold in stores like Target work with both the data-only and phone plans, you decide when activating the SIM which kind of plan to use (it's unclear if you can change from one type to another later). The instructions with the SIM explain how to activate it (which is done differently for the two kinds of plan).

If you buy the SIM in an AT&T store then keep your receipt, it shows the phone number of the SIM card. SIM cards bought in their stores may not have any instructions or other information and you get only the SIM card itself.

ActivationEdit

Activation can be done in three ways:

  • from your GoPhone (phones only): place card in phone, turn it on, select rate plan, type activation code, select ZIP code, send, turn it off and turn it on after 10 minutes to be activated.
  • from any phone: call 877 426 0525 and follow instructions

When you are not in the US and want to activate your phone before (e.g. to know your number ahead) follow this procedure: Use the online link (see above), as IMEI enter 15 times 1 (“111111111111111”), you can add a non US-based credit card, but choose USA as country and use any US address you can think of. As ZIP code take any US ZIP code and the 4 digits of SSN enter “1234”. Then you can recharge but can’t choose your plan though, because the verification SMS won’t be forwarded roaming abroad. For that you have to call customer service at +1-800-331-0500 to add your data plan manually. Have in mind that the plan starts from this moment on.

Recharges and validityEdit

At least some non-US-issued credit cards can be added to the account (see above). If you don’t succeed in adding yours, just buy vouchers called refill cards in the US. They are available at AT&T stores, many supermarkets, gas stations, Walgreen’s and CVM drugstores, 7-Eleven and many other outlets. Minimum value is $15. A refill of $15 is valid for 30 days, up to $50 for 90 days and from $100 for 365 days. Take care: If not used up and extended in time, your credit will be lost, the account closed and the SIM card terminated. The account closure time differs between phone and data-only plans (as of March 2015 the phone plans close 60 days after last expiry and data plans 365 days after last expiry).

Voice plans with dataEdit

The following monthly packages are offered for smartphones:

Rate Domestic voice Data
$ 30 unlimited not included, $2/MB or 100 MB for $5
$ 45 unlimited 1.5 GB @ 4G included, upsize $10 for 500 MB
$ 60 unltd. + Mexico

4 GB @ 4G included; upsize $10 for 1 GB

All plans include unlimited domestic SMS and MMS and international SMS to most countries. Upsizes can be made up to three times per month and may roll over to the next month. When data volume is used up, speed will be reduced to 128 kbps. Data default rate outside the mentioned packages is 1c per 5 KB. A profile for a mobile hotspot necessary for tethering on an iPhone is supplied only for the 60 $ package. Unused data on the $45 and $60 plans will roll over to the next month, when the plan renews, but then plan data will be used before rollover data and the data rolled over will finally expire after the 2nd month.

Daily plans Edit

$2 per day for unlimited domestic voice and text, charged only on the days used. $8.33 is the minimum monthly cost. A $0.25-2.50/month "911" fee is deducted from your prepaid balance in some states.

Default data rate on this plan is 1c/5 KB or $2/MB. A new $1/day 100 MB Data Day Pass is now available to users on the $2 Day Plan.

The new Data Day Pass for Daily plan users is interesting, especially if description on the AT&T site is accurate and using data doesn't trigger the $2 daily fee, which is only supposed to be charged if a call is made of received or a text. $1 per day for data-only use is a pretty good deal for sort term international visitors or anyone who needs data only occasionally.

Data-only plansEdit

These monthly packages are for tablets, but work on phones and modems too:

Rate Data Volume Upsize
$ 25 2 GB 500 MB for $ 10
$ 50 5 GB 1 GB for $ 10
$ 75 8 GB 2 GB for $ 10

Unused data will not roll over to the next month. Plans expire in 30 days and can be renewed prior to expiration as long as the account is active. They don’t renew automatically. No voice or text on this line. Accounts can be managed online or by calling 866 707 5550. Accounts for data only plans are cancelled 365 days after the last plan expires (ie if you have a plan for January 2015 and it expires on 1st Feb 2015 then you can still renew the plan anytime until 1st Feb 2016. After that time the account is closed and you must get a new SIM card). This expiry time is longer than for phone plans (which expire 60 days after the last plan expires). 

Note that AT&T uses the device IMEI No. given during account setup to determine the type of device being connected to the network. If your device can't be ascertained by AT&T's system IMEI, the system defaults the account to a phone, not a data-only account If you later try to go into AT&T's online account management system and change your plan from one of the above listed plans to another (say $25 to $50 data plan) you can only change to phone plans. In order to change the data plan, you must call AT&T and have it changed manually by a customer service representative.  

If your device connects proper to the AT&T network, but can't get data connection (only a few AT&T sites), check the appropriate APN (see below). If you then get a message that you don't have any data credit available even if you have topped up before, your account may have been switched to phone by default (see above). So call 1-800-331-0500 and talk to a technical support representative to activate your plan as data, not as phone.

Settings and infoEdit

  • APN for smartphones: phone
  • APN for modem, routers and tablets: broadband
  • Customer Support for GoPhone: 800-901-9879
  • Website: www.att.com

T-Mobile USEdit

Tmobile-logo
T-Mobile US is the rising star amongst the “Big 4”. Though having the smallest network of them, it gained the most customers by low and variable price rates.
2G is on 850 and 1900 MHz up to EDGE speed, 3G on 1700 and 1900 MHz up to DC-HSPA and 4G/LTE mostly on 1700 MHz. See Basics chapter for specifics and compatibility.

Availability and start-upEdit

Their starter packs are called “activation kits” and consist of a SIM card and an explanation leaflet in English and Spanish. It's available online to be sent to an US postal address for free, at T-Mobile stores (locator) and other stores without ID. Note: activation kits sold in T-Mobile stores have to be activated at time of purchase, you can not buy just the SIM card. Micro-, mini- and nano-SIMs are available or may be cut to size.
The official price in stores has been raised at the end of 2014 to $15 (plus tax) containing about $3 credit. Some shops want to charge even higher prices or hefty fees for cutting. So it's a good idea to buy the SIM in advance by independent merchants on Ebay (search for “T-Mobile Activation Kit”) which are also shipped overseas for a small fee to avoid being overcharged. They have often bought the activation kits at one of T-Mobile's many promotions for $1. But you can't rely on getting one for this start-up price on location.

ActivationEdit

The activation kit comes only with an activation code and no number assigned to it. Activation is done by calling 877-778-2107 from any phone, *611 from T-Mobile phone or online HERE. This is where you can choose your number and plan too. Signing up can be done while you are in the US or before at home. You will get a text message for verification. This SMS used not to be forwarded abroad when roaming on a network other than T-Mobile US. Recently, first users succeeded in activating it through non-US roaming networks. So you might give it a try before leaving for the US.

Recharges and validityEdit

Top ups can be done online, but you seem to need an US-issued credit card. Foreigners should use vouchers instead called refill cards available at T-Mobile stores, many supermarkets, gas stations, Walgreen’s and CVM drugstores, 7/11 and many other places. Minimum value is $10. The SIM is valid for 90 days after the last refill. Beyond that, it will be terminated and the remaining credit is lost. Since August of 2014 T-Mobile has a $3 monthly minimum charge.

Voice plans with dataEdit

Note that the "pay by day" daily rates have been discontinued in January 2015 and can't be booked anymore.

Default rate: "Pay as you go:" Edit

Their default rate for voice and data costs a $3 monthly fee. This includes 30 minutes voice (incoming or outgoing, domestic only) OR 30 text messages (domestic only). These two data packs can be added:

  • $ 5, 500 MB, 1 day (based on one calendar day on Pacific Time)
  • $ 10, 1 GB, 1 week

Monthly rates: "Pay by the month – Unlimited":

Rate Domestic calls Mobile Data Roaming Data
$ 30 *  100 min 5 GB * not included
$ 40 unlimited 1 GB not included
$ 50 unlimited 3 GB not included
$ 50 unlimited 1 GB # 10 MB
$ 60 unlimited 5 GB not included
$ 60 unlimited 3 GB # 50 MB
$ 70 unlimited 5 GB # 100 MB
$ 80 unlimited unlimited 50 MB

# = unused data of these packages can roll over to next month ("Data Stash"). These plans only qualify for 'Mobile Without Borders': all voice, texts and data used on roaming in Canada and Mexico will be charged at the domestic US rate.

* = the $30 plan is only available when activated online using an activation kit, but not when activated in T-Mobile stores. When you purchase an activation kit in a T-Mob store, it must be loaded with a plan of some kind - and because the $30 plan is not available in shops, this means you must somehow buy an unactivated kit online e.g. on ebay or in a Walmart store. When the non-$30 plan is loaded, you can never change it back to the $30 plan; once you've moved away from it. It's gone forever - you'll need to buy a new unactivated kit. The $30 plan only allows 100 MB of hotspot data.

Effective June 2015 T-Mobile opens the unrestricted use of all plans through a hotspot. Only the $30 plan is limited to 100 MB hotspot data.

Data-only plansEdit

T-Mobile sells data-only packages too. They are called “Pay in Advance Mobile Internet” and don’t have voice or text. They don’t even have a number. You can activate any starter pack to it: Note however these may be for non-telephoney devices only - the T-Mobile site is silent in this matter, but a store representative indicates these plans are only for tablets and the like - not for phones.

  • On demand rates
Rate Data Volume Period
$ 5 500 MB 1 day
$ 10 1 GB 7 days
$ 30 3 GB 30 days

These packs can be booked online on demand through your account and don’t renew themselves. One day is 0.00-23.59h on Pacific Time.

  • Monthly packs

Furthermore there are monthly packages (for 30 days) which renew automatically:

  • $ 20:   1 GB
  • $ 30:   3 GB
  • $ 40: 5 GB
  • $ 50:   7 GB
  • $ 60:   9 GB
  • $ 70: 11 GB
  • $ 80: 13 GB

Settings and infoEdit

  • APN: epc.t-mobile.com
  • APN for LTE devices: fast.t-mobile.com
  • Customer Support Line: 877-453-1304

AirVoice Wireless (on AT&T)Edit

Airvoice
AirVoice Wireless is a MVNO on the AT&T network in 2G and 3G (frequencies see AT&T).

Start upEdit

Their SIM Cards are available only online as mini-, micro- or nano-SIMs for $4.99 to be sent to an US postal address. International customers can use vendors on Ebay who do overseas shipping for a surcharge. Refills can be done offline at Western Union outlets (list). Available are top-ups of 10, 20 or 30 $ which keep the card active for 90 days each. Online you can use www.callingmart.com without surcharge via PayPal or credit card. Activation is done online here or by calling 888 944 2355 from another phone.

Data packagesEdit

Following monthly packages are available and include domestic and many international calls, domestic and international texts and these data allowances:

  • $ 30: 500 MB
  • $ 40: 1 GB
  • $ 50: 2 GB
  • $ 60: 3 GB

For whatever reason you have to call customer support that they release the second half of your data package. Default data rate is $0.066 per MB.

Settings and infoEdit

  • APN: att.mvno
  • Proxy: 66.209.11.33
  • Customer support: 888 944 2355

Cricket Wireless (on AT&T) Edit

Cricket

Cricket Wireless belongs to AT&T but is not sold at their stores. It uses AT&T in 2G, 3G and 4G where available.

Start up Edit

The SIM is sold online or offline at various independent shops and Walmart (locator) but not AT&T stores for $9.99, where refills can be found too.

Data packages Edit

They have these monthly packages on offer. All packs include unlimited domestic calls and texts.

  • $ 40: 2.5 GB
  • $ 50: 5 GB
  • $ 60: 10 GB or 20 GB on LTE-enabled phones only

There is a further reduction on all plans of $5, when you enable "autopay". By this your prepaid turns to a contract, billed on a credit card. You have to have a MasterCard, VISA or Discover and at least in the US a good credit rating. Be aware, that you need to cancel "autopay" online if you leave the country, or they will keep on charging your credit card.

Max. speed is 8 Mbps on LTE and 4 Mbps on 3G. For data beyond the quota, speed will be throttled to 128 kbps. All packages will renew automatically if there is credit. If not, service will be suspended.

Settings and info Edit

  • APN: nd
  • Customer support:  1-800-CRICKET (274-2538)

GoSmart mobile (on T-Mobile)Edit

Gosmart
GoSmart is a subsidiary of T-Mobile in their USA network in 2G and 3G (check frequencies in Basics and T-Mobile section).

Start upEdit

The SIM is sold as a Mobile SIM Kit online or offline at various independent shops  (locator) but not T-Mobile stores for $8 , where refills can be found too.

Data packagesEdit

They have these monthly packages on offer. All packs include unlimited domestic calls, SMS and MMS.

  • $ 25: unlimited Facebook only
  • $ 30: 1 GB, plus unlimitd. Facebook
  • $ 35: 2.5 GB, then throttled to 128 kbps
  • $ 40: 5 GB, then throttled to 128 kbps
  • $ 45: 10 GB, then throttled to 128 kbps

All packages will renew automatically if there is credit. If not, service will be suspended.

Settings and infoEdit

  • APN: multibrand
  • Customer support:  877-582-7788

H2O Wireless (on AT&T)Edit

H2o
H2O Wireless is a MVNO on the AT&T network in 2G, 3G and newly on 4G/LTE (frequencies see AT&T).

Start upEdit

H2O sells SIMs for $9.99 for regular and micro SIMs and $14.99 for nano SIMs with free shipping in a lot of retailers like Target, 7/11, Best Buy or Family Dollar (locator) where refills can be too or online at www.callingmart.com without surcharge via PayPal or credit card. It's also possible to buy SIMs on eBay for less than $1, including shipping.

Top ups are available for 10, 20 and 30$ keeping the account active for 90 days and for 100 $ active for 1 year. Activation is done online or by calling 800 643 4926 from another phone.

Data packagesEdit

Following monthly packages are available and include unlimited domestic calls and domestic and international texts, some international voice and these data allowances:

  • $ 30: 500 MB, $ 10 intern. call credit
  • $ 40: 1 GB, $ 20 intern. call credit
  • $ 50: 2 GB, reduced to 128 kbps from 1 GB, $ 20 intern. call credit
  • $ 60: 3 GB, reduced to 128 kbps from 2 GB, $ 20 intern. call credit

Default data rate is $0.10 per MB. Additional data is available at 5¢/MB by adding a $10 "Feature Card". Unused Feature Card balances expire at the end of the plan month.

Settings and infoEdit

  • APN: att.mvno
  • APN for 4G/LTE: PRODATA
  • Customer support: 800 843 4926

NET10 and Straight TalkEdit

These are two MVNOs of América Móvil by Mexican Tycoon Carlos Slim with similar rates and setup. Both brands can be used on AT&T and T-Mobile network in 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE (frequencies see above). But you must choose one net when buying a SIM card and there is no switching or roaming between AT&T and T-Mobile.

Straight TalkEdit

St
The SIM card only with “bring your own phone” is sold exclusively at Walmart’s (Store finder), including the only available monthly plan: Unlimited domestic calls and texts and 5 GB data in 3G or 4G for $45. When data is used up, speed will be reduced to 64 kbps. There have been reports of data throttling when using more than 100 MB daily on AT&T and problems sending international SMS.
Activation is done online or by calling 877-430-2355 from any phone except the one you are trying to activate. Top-up cards can be bought at some convenience stores and at Walmart’s only.
Customer support can be reached on 877 430 2355 or online at www.straightalk.com

Net10Edit

Net10
The SIM card only can be bought for $6.99 at certain retailers like Radio Shack, BestBuy and Walgreens and more NET10 store locator where refill cards can be purchased as well. They have monthly packs with unlimited domestic calls and texts and a data allowance in 3G and 4G:
Price $ 35 $ 40 $ 50
Data 500 MB 1.5 GB 5 GB

When all data is used, speed will be reduced to 64 kbps. Activation can be done here. Customer support is 877 836 2368 or online www.net10.com

Settings Edit

For both Straight Talk and Net10:

  • On AT&T net: APN:  tfdata  /or/  att.mnvo     Port: 80
  • On T-Mobile net: APN: wap.tracfone   Port: 8080

TracFone (on AT&T) Edit

Tracfone

Tracfone is another MVNO of the América Móvil family (see above) on Verizon and AT&T networks. Starting in summer 2015 Tracfone allows "BYOP" (= Bring your own phone) GSM devices for their AT&T based SIM cards. AT&T's 4G/LTE is supported too.

Start up Edit

You can buy the SIM card in stores or the activation kit online for $6.99. Shops include major retailers like Target, Best Buy, Walmart and Costco. GSM phones should activate automatically when the phone is turned on with a Tracfone SIM in it. Tracfone requires to buy an airtime card for at least $19.99 as a base plan. This is valid for 90 days and contains 180 (interntl.) minutes, 180 domestic texts and 180 MB of data good for 90 days. So the minimum outlay for a SIM is $26.98.

Reload cards or codes are available at convenience stores, supermarkets, chain drugstores and big box retailers like Target or online by credit card.

Data feature packages Edit

To the airtime card of at least $19.99 (for 3 months), you can add these monthly plans for data:

  • 300 MB: $ 10
  • 750 MB: $ 20 (discounted at $15 at Walmart's)
  • 2 GB: $ 30
  • 4 GB: $ 50

All unused data roll over to the next month and never expire as long as the account stays active.

Settings and info Edit

Tracfone users can make calls to 60 countries including Canada, Mexico, China and most Western European countries (list) for the same price as a domestic call. To make an international call you first dial 1-800-706-3839. You will then prompted to select your language (1 for English) and then to dial 011 plus the country code and number. It's not possible to call other countries besides the 60 supported ones and Tracfone doesn't support sending international text messages either.

P-Tel Mobile (on T-Mobile)Edit

Ptel
P-Tel Mobile (formerly Platinumtel) is MVNO which has moved from Sprint to the T-Mobile network (for frequencies see Basics and T-Mobile) in 2G and 3G and limited 4G/LTE allowances.

Start upEdit

SIMs are available from P-tel online to be sent to an US postal address and brick and mortar P-Tel dealers Store locator for $4.99. Activation can be done online or by calling 866-225-5631 from another phone and a monthly package (see below) must be added.

Recharges and validityEdit

Recharge cards or codes are available from local P-Tel dealers, some convenience stores, supermarkets, chain drugstores or from callingmart.com without surcharges. Refills are available in $10, $20, $30, $45 and $100 denominations. Unused pay as you go funds rollover provided you top up on time, but will expire a year after they were added. The SIM card requires a top up of $10 every 60 days, $30 every 120 days, $50 every 180 days or $100 every 365 days to stay alive.

Data packagesEdit

Their default rate for data on the “real paygo” standard plan is $0.10 per MB.

Their monthly rates all include unlimited domestic calls, domestic and international texts, domestic MMS and an international call credit. They have these different packages:

  • $ 20: 250 MB data in "4G" which is only HSPA+, then throttled, $1 credit
  • $ 25: unlimited data @ at throttled speed from the start, $2.50 credit
  • $ 30: 1 GB @ 4G/LTE, then throttled to 3G, $5 credit
  • $ 40: 2 GB @ 4G/LTE, then throttled to 3G, $5 credit
  • $ 50: 3 GB @ 4G/LTE , then throttled to 3G, $5 credit
  • $ 60: 10 GB @ 4G/LTE, then throttled to 3G, $10 credit

Throttled speed is around 128 kbps. Monthly plans renew every 30 days. If you do not have sufficient funds in your account to renew your service will be suspended. You can manage your packages and data online on your account or by calling 233.

Settings and infoEdit

  • APN: wholesale
  • Customer Support: 866-225-5631

Red Pocket Mobile (on AT&T)Edit

Red pocket
Red Pocket Mobile is a MVNO on AT&T only while T-Mobile has been dropped in June 2015.

Start up Edit

The SIM cards are available for $9.99 online to be sent to an US postal address or offline at Red Pocket outlets. Unfortunately they don’t have a retail outlet list, but on Ebay vendors sell them as low as 99c plus postage with international shipping. Reload cards can be found in many supermarkets and chain drugstores or at callingmart.com without surcharges. Available top-ups are: $10 for 30 days, $25 for 90 days, $50 for 180 days, $100 for 365 days. If not topped up, account will be terminated and credit is lost. The SIMs can be activated online or by calling 888-993-3888 from another phone.

Voice, Text and Data PlansEdit

All plans Include unlimited voice and SMS. The $29.99 plan is hard capped. Data is 3G. Only the $69.99 plan includes LTE.

Value $ 29.99 $ 39.99 $ 49.99 $ 59.99 $ 69.99
Data 500 MB (2G) 500 MB 1 GB 3 GB 4 GB (LTE)
Time 1 month 1 month 1 month 1 month 1 month

Settings and infoEdit

  • APN: att.mvno
  • Proxy: proxy.mvno.rpmobileweb.com

Lycamobile (on T-Mobile)Edit

Lycamobile
Lycamobile USA started 2013 as MVNO on the T-Mobile Network in 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE (see Basics and T-Mobile section).

Start up Edit

Lycamobile SIM cards can be found in stores (locator) or on Lycamobile with shipping to the United States only at $7 (free shipping if bought in combination with a plan).

In the US you can activate a new SIM by by calling 845-301-1612 from another phone, but abroad you can successfully activate on their website instead.

Recharges and validityEdit

You can buy refills on lycamobile.us (even with a non-US credit card). Refill cards are available from local Lycmobile dealers. Some local and online dealers including callingmart.com offer instant PIN-less refills direct to your phone.

Top-ups expire in 90 days. That means that you need to top up a minimum of $10 every 90 days to keep the service alive.

Data packagesEdit

Lycamobile offers the following data plans. The default data rate outside packages is the pay-as-you-go rate of $0.06 per MB. All monthly packages include unlimitied domestic voice, domestic and international text, free incoming text, a data quota up to 4G/LTE speed and an international call credit for international calls.

Value Data (in up to 4G/LTE) Internatl. Call Credit
$ 19 100 MB
$ 23 100 MB $ 1.50
$ 29 500 MB $ 2.50
$ 35 2 GB
$ 45 4 GB
$ 49 1 GB $ 12.50
$ 55 10 GB

All packages include "unlimited" data, domestic texts and voice and "unlimited" free calls among Lycamobile worldwide.

"Unlimited" means that data volume is soft-capped meaning throttled to 120 kbps when exhausted. All packages will renew automatically if there is credit. If you do not have sufficient funds in your account to renew your service will be suspended. Unused call credits rollover provided you top up on time before the account is deactivated for inactivity.

Settings and infoEdit

  • a T-Mobile US locked phone does work on Lycamobile US using the newer 4G SIMs 2014
  • there are reports that certain VoIP programs like Google Voice don't work
  • APN: data.lycamobile.us
  • Username: lmus (that's not capital I, but lowercase L)
  • Password: plus
  • Customer Support: 866-277-3221 (toll-free)
  • Website: www.lycamobile.us

Ready SIM (on T-Mobile)Edit

Readysim
Ready SIM is a MVNO on the T-Mobile network in 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE (see Basics and T-Mobile section). It is aimed at short-time visitors. The SIM card can be bought a shops (locator) or online. As a special service, they also ship overseas in 7-20 business days. The SIM card is supposed to be self-activating. They have a very rigid top up scheme: To be eligible for a top up, your Ready SIM must either have an active plan, or your plan expired within the last 72 hours.

Data packagesEdit

  • Data only
Data Volume 500 MB 1 GB 2 GB
Validity 14 days 14 days 30 days
Value $ 15 $ 25 $ 40
  • Voice, text and data
Data volume 500 MB 1 GB 1.5 GB 2 GB
Validity 7 days 14 days 21 days 30 days
Value $ 25 $ 35 $ 45 $ 55

These packs include unlimited domestic calls, domestic and international text and a time-based data quota.

Settings and infoEdit

  • Tethering is allowed
  • Mini-, micro- and nano-SIMs available
  • APN: roam
  • Customer Support: 611 from Ready SIM phone
  • Website: www.readysim.com

Ultra Mobile (on T-Mobile) Edit

Ultra

Ultra Mobile is another MVNO that started in 2012 using the T-Mobile network in 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE (see T-Mobile section and Basics for details).

Start up Edit

SIM cards cost $9.99 with free shipping within the US on their website or their dealers (locator). Regular and micro SIMs are available. SIMs are also available from Amazon and eBay for as little as 1¢ with free shipping in the US or for a surcharge abroad. Activate online or by calling 888-777-0446. Activation is free.

Top-ups can be made by credit card online or over the phone or by vouchers with PIN codes sold at their outlets or online with a discount. Ultra adds a "cost recovery fee" to all recharges made at retail locations. The fee is 50¢ on loads of $10 or less and $1 on loads of $10.01 or more.

Data plans Edit

These monthly plans are offered:

  • $ 19: 100 MB, unltd. voice to US and 11 countries, unltd. interntl. text, $1.25 call credit
  • $ 29: 1 GB, unltd. voice to US and 40 countries, unltd. interntl. text, $2.50 call credit
  • $ 34: 2 GB, 1000 mins voice to US and 11 countries, unltd. interntl. text
  • $ 44: 4 GB, 1000 mins voice to US and 11 countries, unltd. interntl. text

After the plan limits are reached data speeds are reduced to 128 Kbps or less for the rest on the month on the 2 larger plans and shut off on the 2 smaller plans.

Additional 'UpData' high-speed data packages priced at 500 MB for $5, 1 GB for $10 or 2 GB for $20 can be added to any plan. To activate, text 'BUYDATA' to 6700. Added data expires at the end of the current plan month.

Plans renew every 30 days. If you do not have sufficient funds in your account to renew, your service will be suspended. If you do not renew within 30 days after your account is suspended you may lose your phone number. To check balance and validity, text 'BALANCE' to 6700; to check data consumption, 'DATA' to 6700.

Settings and info Edit

  • Tethering is prohibited in their Terms of Service
  • APN: wholesale
  • Customer Support: Call 611 from an Ultra Mobile phone or 888-777-0446 from another phone
  • Website: http://ultra.me/

Roam Mobility (roaming on T-Mobile) Edit

Roam mobility

Roam Mobility is a Canada-based MVNO which offers SIM cards for the US (and Mexico) in Canada. So this is only a possibility, if you live in Canada or travel from Canada to the US. They use the network of T-Mobile US for roaming in 2G, 3G and 4G. For frequencies and coverage see T-Mobile above. Note that the SIM doesn't work in Canada.

Start up Edit

Their roaming SIM card can be bought in Canada only at their authorized dealers: http://www.roammobility.com/where-to-buy or online for CAD 9.95. You can activate and top-up the SIM as well as choose a plan on their website using AmEx, Visa or Mastercard.

Data packs Edit

These US data-only packs are available and can be booked via their website:

  • 300 MB, 3 days, CAD 7.95
  • 500 MB, 7 days, CAD 14.95
  • 1 GB, 7 days, CAD 19.95
  • 2 GB, 30 days, CAD 29.95
  • 5 GB, 30 days, CAD 59.95

To these data packs more data can be added by data bolt-ons: 300 MB for CAD 5.95, 500 MB for CAD 9.95 and 1 GB for CAD 14.95, vaild each for the rest of the running time of the existing data pack.

Settings and info Edit

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