The mobile operator Tracfone isn’t exactly a household name, but it does have about 21 million customers in the US. Soon, those customers will fall under the Verizon umbrella, as Verizon just announced it is purchasing Tracfone from its owner America Movil.
Tracfone has long worked in the US as a prepaid wireless MVNO, leasing wireless spectrum from some of the country's largest mobile carriers including Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile. It also operates under a variety of brands, including Straight Talk and Walmart Family Phones, and has a broad distribution presence of more than 90,000 locations at stores such as CVS, Target, and Best Buy.
That being said, it's not clear how Tracfone will work once the contract with Verizon is done. But there's plenty of time to find out, as Verizon claims it won't wait until the second half of 2021 for the deal to finalize.
This isn't the only MVNO to change hands this year — T-Mobile had to get rid of Sprint's Boost Mobile brand as a result of the T-Mobile / Sprint merger. In early July Dish picked it up for $1.4 billion. By contrast, for Tracfone, Verizon pays $3,125 billion in cash and the same sum in Verizon's stock.
Several mergers in recent years have led to an increasingly concentrated wireless industry in the U.S., with the bulk of control.
Tracfone's top brands include:
- Net 10 Wireless
- Total Wireless
- Walmart Family Mobile
- Straight Talk
- Simple Mobile