MetroPCS (now called Metro by T-Mobile) is one of the few prepaid carriers with amazing phone deals. It even has various freebies for when you join or add a line to your account. But now, is TracFone compatible with MetroPCS phones from these deals?
Well, I very much like the flexibility of TracFone on the service plans- has packages from as low as $6. From time to time, it also has free phones when you switch prepaid service on the yearly plan. However, Metro by T-Mobile has the best deals, as the freebies include high-end brands like iPhone, Samsung Galaxy, Google Pixel, et cetera.
In any case, the question we’re covering today is whether you can use one of these free Metro phones with TracFone. Or else, you want to use a TracFone phone with Metro, perhaps when looking for a quick replacement device.
Tracfone & MetroPCS as Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs)
TracFone as an MVNO of Verizon
TracFone is one of the over a hundred cell phone providers here in the US. However, the service provider doesn’t have its own cell towers. Instead, it resells the network of a Major Carrier, making it an MVNO (mobile virtual network operator).
In the Simple Mobile vs TracFone comparison review, we concluded TracFone and all its brands are now under the Verizon umbrella. All the old customers who were getting service through other networks (T-Mobile or AT&T) have until November 2024 to switch to Verizon–compatible SIMs. In fact, TracFone has already been pushing these old customers to the Verizon network through email and text messages.
What this means is that the TracFone users will need a phone compatible with the Verizon network to get service. A device won’t pass the current online compatibility checker without the necessary primary and secondary frequency bands.
|Primary Frequencies||Secondary Frequencies||Low-Band 5G Frequencies||High-Band 5G Frequencies|
|TracFone/ Verizon||5 & 13||2, 4, & 66||N2, N5, & N6||N77 (C-band), N260, & N261|
MetroPCS as an MVNO of T-Mobile
Metro by T-Mobile is also a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) here in the US. It’s actually one of the oldest MVNOs, with almost three decades in the cell phone service.
As an MVNO, Metro started by reselling the CDMA network of Sprint. In 2015, the company decommissioned the legacy CDMA network bands and moved the existing subscribers to LTE.
At all this time, the phone provider went by the name MetroPCS. In 2018, the company rebranded to Metro by T-Mobile, a name that affirms it as a brand of T-Mobile.
Currently, Metro uses T-Mobile towers only to offer cell phone service. This should explain why the existing phone deals include the T-Mobile branded REVVL models.
Also, this would mean the device you use with Metro service should have the necessary T-Mobile network bands. The frequency bands for the T-Mobile network on 5G and LTE are:
|Carrier Network||Primary Frequencies||Secondary Frequencies||Low-Band 5G Frequencies||High-Band 5G Frequencies|
|Metro/ T-Mobile||12 & 71||2, 4, 5, & 66||N71||N41 (C-Band), N258, N260, & N261|
Is TracFone Compatible with MetroPCS?
For starters, whether TracFone is compatible with MetroPCS is for those looking to use a phone from either provider on the other. That is, you want to use a Metro phone with TracFone service or vice versa.
Second, you’ll notice TracFone is not on the list of carriers compatible with MetroPCS. It’s easy to assume this is obvious, considering the MVNOs are different companies and with different parents. However, the issue here is with their different Carrier networks.
When determining compatibility between phone carriers, their underlying network decides everything. Different networks usually use varying frequencies for their 4G LTE/ 5G services (3G is no longer in use). As a subscriber, your cellular device (phone/ tablet/ hotspot) must have the necessary bands to tap into these frequencies.
Of all the phones I’ve gone through, iPhones are the only ones I can confirm come with the network bands of all US carriers. The other brands are usually a gamble, whereby they may support all networks or select ones.
MeproPCS and TracFone on Network Compatibility
The Carrier Network of MetroPCS is T-Mobile, whereas TracFone is now only with Verizon. Verizon and T-Mobile currently don’t share any of the primary frequency bands on LTE. The primary bands are the most crucial frequencies in a cellular network as they deliver extended-range coverage, where the signal travels far and through walls.
With Verizon and most of its MVNOs, like TracFone, your device won’t pass the compatibility check without primary bands, especially band 13. So, most of the phones from MetroPCS won’t be compatible network-wise. How so?
For one, Metro by T-Mobile has different primary network bands than TracFone. Secondly, the GSM prepaid carrier also has some gentle compatibility rules. Your device will pass the online compatibility checker even with only secondary network bands.
As a Metro customer, this is a pro as it means many TracFone devices will be compatible network-wise. All the network bands of TracFone on the Verizon network are on Metro by T-Mobile as either primary or secondary bands. (See the two charts above).
Nonetheless, a TracFone phone/ tablet/ hotspot being compatible with the MetroPCS network still doesn’t mean it will work. Besides network bands, a device must also be carrier-compatible to work with another service provider.
MetroPCS and TracFone on Carrier Compatibility
Carrier compatibility is where we define a device as carrier-locked or unlocked. In carrier-locked devices, the mobile providers usually have installed software that prevents them from working on other carriers.
Of course, some carriers can work on devices locked to another carrier. A perfect example is MVNOs on devices locked to their Carrier Network, such as MetroPCS with T-Mobile (locked) devices.
Also, network subsidiaries are often compatible with devices from their parent company- like Straight Talk on TracFone.
In our case, TracFone and MetroPCS are neither parent and sibling nor MVNO and its Carrier Network. So, devices locked to either will not work with the other service.
To use a device from TracFone with MetroPCS or vice versa, you must first unlock it. Each carrier has its specific device unlock policy, with TracFone eligibility after 60 days while Metro is 180 days.
After unlocking and the device has the necessary network bands of the other carrier, you can use it without any issues. For instance, an unlocked Metro by T-Mobile phone will be compatible with TracFone if it has at least band 13 and either of the other bands of LTE or 5G.
On the other hand, unlocked TracFone phones are compatible with Metro service if they have any of the LTE bands. However, I strongly recommend making sure the device has either of the extended-range bands to make the most of your service – get coverage even indoors.
TracFone is hardly compatible with MetroPCS on the network bands. If the idea was to interchange phones between the providers, it’s only a few options from Metro by T-Mobile would work on TracFone. The MVNO only considers a device compatible with its service if it has primary band 13, which is not common with other carriers.
On the other hand, MetroPCS not only uses primary band 71* (and band 12), which is pretty common on devices. The MVNO also accepts devices with only secondary bands, common with other carriers too.
So, many of the TracFone devices are compatible with Metro service. You’ll only have to make sure the device is fully unlocked, as the Metro SIM won’t read while it still has network restrictions.