SmartSIM Speculation

According to new research, the best provider of wireless service in the US might soon be TracFone, a US subsidiary of Mexican telecommunications giant America Movil.

Wait what?

That’s the opening of a recent post by Mike Dano of Light Reading. Dano is referencing a service called SmartSIM that TracFone recently teased. TracFone hasn’t shared many details yet, but it looks like SmartSIM will allow subscribers’ phones to automatically switch between multiple networks based on the signal strength of each available network.

Dano references a simulation conducted by the network analysis firm Tutela. The simulation suggested TracFone’s SmartSIM service might outperform each of the major U.S. networks. Not many details are shared about the methodology behind the simulation. To Dano’s credit, he acknowledges the simulation shouldn’t be taken too seriously:

Again, SmartSIM today remains only a possibility rather than a concrete offering, and so drawing any firm conclusions about the service at this point is more of an exercise in mental gymnastics than actual forecasting. But, considering many of the pieces are falling into place for a service like SmartSIM from TracFone or someone else, it’s worth giving the topic some thought.

I’m guessing Tutela made several assumptions in its simulation:

  • SmartSIM can access all four major U.S. networks
  • SmartSIM subscribers are not subject to any severe, adverse throttling or prioritization on any network
  • The technology can reliably determine the quality of each available network
  • Network switching will be determined on the basis of service quality alone (irrespective of TracFone’s financial incentives)

Some of these assumptions are probably inaccurate. In particular, I don’t think TracFone will have an easy time working with all four of the major network operators. While TracFone currently offers service over each network, new legal arrangements and technical capabilities will need to be sorted out with network operators before SmartSIM-style network switching is possible. I don’t think Verizon or AT&T will agree to arrangements that allow TracFone to offer better service than their own networks can provide.

Despite my skepticism, I’m still excited about the potential of dynamic network switching, eSIM technology, and SmartSIM-like services.

SIM Cards

TracFone Teases SmartSIM

TracFone, the company behind several large MVNOs, appears to be working on a new product called SmartSIM. Apparently, some TracFone customers recently received a marketing email that mentioned SmartSIM.1 I was briefly able to access, a website that shared some basic information about SmartSIM. Oddly, the website now automatically redirects to (Total Wireless is a brand owned by TracFone).

While was accessible, it offered a short video explaining SmartSIM. Apparently, the technology will allow subscribers to switch rapidly between multiple networks based on which network offers the best signal. There’s been some speculation about how up-and-coming eSim technology may enable more people to take advantage of dynamic network switching of this sort. However, the video I gave me the impression that SmartSIM would involve a conventional, removable SIM card rather than an eSIM. At the moment, I’m unsure if TracFone is licensing switching technology Google Fi built, introducing new technology, or something else. allowed visitors to enter their zip codes to see if SmartSIM was available where they lived. I tried several zip codes, and all were ineligible. It seems that other people had the same experience. I’m not sure whether any zip codes were really eligible for the service.

So far, I haven’t heard of TracFone responding to any requests for more information about SmartSIM. I’m curious about the lack of communication along with the decision to redirect to the main Total Wireless site. It’s enough to make me wonder whether a mistake was made that led SmartSIM to become public knowledge before TracFone intended.

I’ll be keeping close tabs on how the story develops. Dynamic network switching has the potential to improve wireless service and change how it’s priced. With switching technology, it may be possible to charge different rates to different subscribers based on factors like a subscriber’s location, the extent of network congestion, or the quality of service a subscriber receives. Dynamic pricing could potentially lead to far more efficient network usage than conventional pricing—which might ultimately lead to a decrease in how much consumers pay for wireless service.