Many wireless companies offer free cell phone minutes as participants in the FCC's Lifeline Assistance program. Of these providers, Safelink WIreless, Assurance Wireless and Budget Mobile are the largest. These three providers service 750,000 to 3.7 million customers each.
Life Wireless and ReachOut Wireless are the next most significant providers of free minutes. Rounding out the list are True Wireless, Tag Mobile and Terracom Wireless, regional providers with fewer than 250,000 customers each.
Each state has different requirements for receiving free minutes through Lifeline Assistance. Nationwide, the program focuses on low-income Americans. Individuals typically qualify for this program when enrolled in public assistance programs such as Social Security Income, Section 8, Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. As of 2015, only one member of each household can qualify for Lifeline Assistance.
A number of technology companies offer free smartphone calls through VoIP, or Internet telephone. These companies include Facebook and Google. To make free calls, a caller must download the appropriate mobile app and establish a Wi-Fi connection.
In accordance with Federal law, all cell phone providers must facilitate 911 emergency calls, even if the phone used is not in service. Therefore, all cell phone companies effectively provide unlimited free minutes for emergency calls of this type.