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probably seems like a stupid question to someone

Alright, someone who reads this site either knows the answer to this question, or knows someone who knows the answer:

Why are there no prepaid cell phone SIMs/cards that do not have an expiration date? Or, at least, a yearly expiration date, rather than the longest I ever found, which was 90 days?

Or, to put it another way, how does the lease between these prepaid mobile virtual network operators and their host infrastructure providers work? Is there some yearly maintenance fee for each number, or each SIM card, or both?

Yes, I am going somewhere with all this, though definitely not in the near future… lots of details to work out.

8 comments to probably seems like a stupid question to someone

  • Matt in FL

    I suspect that what you’re looking for is going to be rare. The cards have expiration dates because there’s a finite number available, and the numbers are eventually recycled. If they shipped a case of prepaid SIMs to some retailer that then went out of business or abandoned (or fell off the truck or fell in a lake or burned in an accident), with no expiration that’s several hundred numbers (or more) that would be lost to use forever. It’s just simpler to put a short-ish expiration on them. Then you don’t have to worry about their disposition, no matter what that disposition may be. You just mark them all canceled and move on. Someone probably did the research and found that, say, 75% of them were used within 60 days, and of the remaining 25%, half were used by day 90 and half were never used at all. So for the sake of simplicity, 90 days became their limit.

  • I agree with Matt, a lot of prepaid phones are used for a very short period. My MN phone hasnt been used in 16 months so is probably expired. It is much, much, much cheaper to by a $10 cell when you get to the US, use it for the length of your vacation and forget about it than pay the crazy international ld and roaming fees. So just the number or numbers they would need otherwise would be crazy.

  • byates

    Try Tracphone, they did have a yearly plan at one time. AT&T has a daily plan where you pay $2 a day when you use the phone, might work.

  • Stan

    I don’t believe numbers are tied to the sim cards until activation. If you are referring to the expiration date of service from prepaid cell phone cards that is probably just to keep people buying cards regularly even if they havnt used up all their minutes to keep a steady cash flow coming in.

  • Douglas2

    I don’t know about physical SIMs or physical airtime cards, but I’ve been regularly buying the $80 “expires 365 days after activation” airtime for the PagePlus MvnO on-line from various third-party vendors. It requires a CDMA phone, so no SIM is involved.

  • @ Matt in FL: Yeah, my understanding is that SIM cards are not designated with cell numbers until such time as they are actually activated… after that, I would buy the “if it gets lost it eventually gets recycled” idea, but before then… they would just be lost.

    @ dave w: This is less a vacation thing and more another thing… 🙂

    @ byates: Still too expensive. Some folks have minimal-minutes cards for $5 every 90 days, but even that is too expensive for what I have in mind.

    @ Stan: I am thinking that is the primary reason – money. Not that I necessarily blame the cell companies, given that they are in the business of making money, but it is somewhat annoying.

    @ Douglas2: Hm, CDMA is suboptimal. I apparently need to do some more digging :).

  • Matt in FL

    I was more referring to the SIMs being serialized, not the actual phone numbers themselves. There may be more SIM serials available than phone numbers, but it’s still a list that someone has to keep track of, and it’s only cost effective to do that for so long before it’s no longer worth the effort.

  • Ah, yeah, I have no idea how those numbers are generated, or what kind of logging goes with them… The numbers I had to punch in for my Straight Talk SIM indicates somewhere in the order of billions to trillions of options, but, again, no idea how they are generated, how they are blocked out to individual companies, and so forth.