Pros and Cons of Using Straight Talk Wireless

The Straight Talk plan by Tracfone is distributed exclusively by Walmart in the USA and is intended for personal use by individual consumers. There are advantages and disadvantages to Straight Talk.

Tracfone is a MVNO or a Mobile Virtual Network Operator. This means that the MVNO does not own the wireless network infrastructure that is providing service to their customers. Because Tracfone contracts with major wireless carriers to provide coverage for customers their coverage area has the potential to be greater than that of a single major wireless carrier.

Advantages to Straight Talk include the customer’s options to change plans or carriers when the customer decides, instead of waiting for the completion of a contract. A contract plan has a specified cost for a specified period of time, typically two years, most likely with an early termination fee when the customer cancels before the completion of the contract.

Straight Talk does not have a contract. It is a prepaid plan that offers unlimited talk, text and web for $45 per month. It features a “BYOP” Bring Your Own Phone option. This means that if you have an unlocked mobile phone you can probably connect to Straight Talk. An unlocked mobile phone is a phone that is not configured to a specific carrier. Your phone is most likely unlocked if your phone displays the name of a manufacturer such as Samsung instead of a carrier such as Virgin Mobile. The Straight Talk monthly cost can be approximately half the cost of many contract plans.

GSM is the Global System for Mobile Communications. It allows roaming between networks and the ability to change carriers without switching phones. GSM carriers don’t have control of the phones used by customers. They must accept all GSM-compliant phones on the network. All GSM networks have simultaneous voice and data transmission. AT&T and T-Mobile use GSM.

CDMA is Code Division Multiple Access. It employs network-based white lists to verify customers. Customers can only switch phones with the permission of the carrier. U.S. carriers typically have not implemented simultaneous voice and data transmission with CDMA. Cricket, Metro PCS, Sprint, U.S. Cellular and Verizon use CDMA.

The Straight Talk plan doesn’t have fixed limits for when the deactivation of a phone number will occur or when throttling, the intentional reduction of transmission speed by the carrier, will occur. For example, many carriers will say if the customer uses over this many units of data transmission in this amount of time then the customer’s transmission speed will be slower. Straight Talk does not specify customer limits. In the ‘Terms and Use’ policies, it emphasizes adherence to the best industry practices as opposed to setting fair use limits as do the majority of carriers. This seems to cause confusion with customers.

Straight Talk strives to maximize the experience of each and every customer through constant monitoring of data usage by every customer. Straight Talk can then identify customers who violate their definition of fair use. Straight Talk adjusts threshold limits of individual customers according to standards not made available to the general public but seem to include relative data usage of a particular customer compared to other customers. Straight Talk adheres to best industry practices, also undefined for the general public. The standards seem to be the average use by all customers.

The constant monitoring of data usage by customers is also used to identify those customers who seem to be engaged in an unauthorized use. Unauthorized use, according to the Terms and Conditions, can include: tethering, providing an internet connection to another electronic device such as a tablet or laptop; streaming an uninterrupted, continuous live video feed such as generating live webcam content; continuous uninterrupted voice calls; automated messaging; automatic data feeds; and P2P file sharing. To be clear, Straight Talk has indicated that it does not frown on above-average users, customers downloading movies, live video or watching live TV on their network. They simply wants all customers to receive the same best experience possible on their network.

Straight Talk customers can access the Internet with any browser they choose. Well, any browser as long as the browser is compatible with and properly installed on the smartphone. Customers are not restricted to only using the Straight Talk Portal.

LTE and 4G are not supported with Straight Talk. WiFi personal hotspots are not allowed with the Straight Talk plan even if you have an iPhone with the Personal Hotspot feature. However, customers can choose between the T-Mobile or AT&T networks. But it seems that Straight Talk has recently decided not to issue new AT&T SIM cards indefinitely. Existing customers on the AT&T network will continue with uninterrupted service. Customers using the T-Mobile network are not affected. The Verizon BYOD network is now available with Straight Talk on Android devices.

A SIM card is a Subscriber Identification Module, an integrated circuit embedded into a plastic card that can be removed and replaced in mobile phones and computers. The SIM card contains the international mobile subscriber identity; the related key used to identify and authenticate subscribers with the particular carrier; information about the local network; information about services the subscriber can access; two passwords: PUK, a personal unblocking code and PIN, a personal identification code; and other carrier-specific information. The Straight Talk SIM card provides this information specifically for the Straight Talk Wireless plan on the specific network employed.

Now that you understand the advantages and disadvantages of the Straight Talk plan you can compare it to other plans and make an educated choice based on individual needs and finances.