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GSM vs CDMA: Which is Best in 2021?

Compare the cheapest GSM & CDMA phone plans in October

GSM prepaid plan
1GB 4G/5G data
$10 per month
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GSM unlimited plan
Unltd 4G/5G data
$30* per month
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* $90 for 3 months Service
GSM talk & text plan
0GB 4G/5G data
$10* per month
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* $5 extra per GB
Cheap CDMA & GSM Plans Starting at $10/mo - Compare Now
Find the best phone plans in your area

You have probably heard a lot of talk about GSM and CDMA but maybe you're not exactly sure what that means for you and your cell phone? Let me help clear that up!

Verizon run on the CDMA network whereas AT&T and T-Mobile use GSM. There are also numerous low cost carriers which use these big major networks that can save you money whichever network you are covered by.

Read on and we'll show you how you could save up to $600 per year on your cell phone bill without sacrificing cell phone service coverage.

Tello SIM Card - Best prepaid GSM carrier - TelloTello SIM Card - Best prepaid GSM carrier - Tello
Minutes
Unlimited
Texts
Unlimited
Data
1 GB
Price
$10/mo
Editors Take
5 / 5
Plans
PlanMinutesTextsDataPrice

Tello Unlimited Talk & Text

Unlimited

Unlimited

0GB

$8

Tello 1GB Data

Unlimited

Unlimited

1GB

$10

Tello 2GB Data

Unlimited

Unlimited

2GB

$14

Tello 4GB Data

Unlimited

Unlimited

4GB

$19

Tello 6GB Data

Unlimited

Unlimited

6GB

$24

Tello 8GB Data

Unlimited

Unlimited

8GB

$29

Tello Unlimited Data

Unlimited

Unlimited

Unlimited

$39

Features
Benefits

Pros

  • 24/7 customer support

  • No contracts

  • Budget friendly family plans

Cons

  • No roaming

  • Coverage in rural areas

Benefits

  • Service on the nationwide T-Mobile network

  • Money-back guarantee on phones (no refunds on plans)

  • Prepaid - no contract, credit check, or activation fee

  • Bring your own phone or choose from a modest selection of new or refurbished devices

  • Keep your current phone number

  • Use of your plan data as a mobile hotspot through your phone is allowed

  • Use your minutes to call Canada, China, and Mexico

  • Minutes to other countries available as add-on

  • 24/7 customer service

Mint Mobile SIM Card - Best GSM carrier for unlimited data - Mint MobileMint Mobile SIM Card - Best GSM carrier for unlimited data - Mint Mobile
Minutes
Unlimited
Texts
Unlimited
Data
Unlimited
Price
$30/mo** $90 for 3 months Service
Editors Take
4.5 / 5
Plans
PlanMinutesTextsDataPrice

Mint Mobile 4GB Data

Unlimited

Unlimited

4GB

$15*

* $45 for 3 Months Service

Mint Mobile 10GB Data

Unlimited

Unlimited

10GB

$20*

* $60 for 3 Months Service

Mint Mobile 15GB Data

Unlimited

Unlimited

15GB

$25*

* $75 for 3 months Service

Mint Mobile Unlimited Data

Unlimited

Unlimited

Unlimited

$30*

* $90 for 3 months Service
Features
Benefits

Pros

  • Offers the latest phones with 0% finance

  • Prepay months in bulk for more savings

  • Reliable network coverage

  • Works with most GSM phones

Cons

  • No family plans

  • Minimum 3 months

Benefits

  • Operates on the nationwide T-Mobile network

  • 7-day money-back guarantee

  • Prepaid - no contract, credit check, or activation fee

  • Bring your phone or buy a Mint Mobile device

  • Keep your phone number

  • Using your phone as a mobile hotspot is permitted

  • Free calling to Canada & Mexico, affordable rates to 160+ other locations

  • Flat-rate international roaming available as an add-on feature

  • Customer service by phone on weekdays and weekends, 24/7 by virtual chat

Ting SIM Card - Best GSM carrier for talk & text - TingTing SIM Card - Best GSM carrier for talk & text - Ting
Minutes
Unlimited
Texts
Unlimited
Data
0 GB
Price
$10/mo** $5 extra per GB
Editors Take
4 / 5
Plans
PlanMinutesTextsDataPrice

Ting Unlimited Talk & Text

Unlimited

Unlimited

0GB

$10*

* $5 extra per GB

Ting 1GB Data

Unlimited

Unlimited

1GB

$15

Ting 5GB Data

Unlimited

Unlimited

5GB

$20*

* $5 Off for 6 Months

Ting Unlimited Data

Unlimited

Unlimited

Unlimited

$25*

* $20 Off for 3 Months

Ting 12GB Data

Unlimited

Unlimited

12GB

$30*

* $5 Off for 6 Months
Features
Benefits

Pros

  • Simple plans for light phone users

  • Customer service

  • Nationwide LTE and 5G coverage

  • Good selection of handsets

Cons

  • Not for the data hungry user

Benefits

  • Offers coverage on both Verizon and T-Mobile

  • Prepaid service - no contract, credit check, or start-up fees

  • Bring your GSM or CDMA phone - most devices are compatible - or buy one from Ting

  • Keep your current number

  • Tethering/mobile hotspot allowed, speeds limited to 3G for GSM tethering

  • Use your plan minutes to call 60+ international locations

  • International roaming capability (at surcharged rates)

  • Extensive customer service hours by phone, chat, or email

Ting SIM Card - Best prepaid CDMA carrier - TingTing SIM Card - Best prepaid CDMA carrier - Ting
Minutes
Unlimited
Texts
Unlimited
Data
5 GB
Price
$20/mo** $5 Off for 6 Months
Editors Take
4 / 5
Plans
PlanMinutesTextsDataPrice

Ting Unlimited Talk & Text

Unlimited

Unlimited

0GB

$10*

* $5 extra per GB

Ting 1GB Data

Unlimited

Unlimited

1GB

$15

Ting 5GB Data

Unlimited

Unlimited

5GB

$20*

* $5 Off for 6 Months

Ting Unlimited Data

Unlimited

Unlimited

Unlimited

$25*

* $20 Off for 3 Months

Ting 12GB Data

Unlimited

Unlimited

12GB

$30*

* $5 Off for 6 Months
Features
Benefits

Pros

  • Simple plans for light phone users

  • Customer service

  • Nationwide LTE and 5G coverage

  • Good selection of handsets

Cons

  • Not for the data hungry user

Benefits

  • Offers coverage on both Verizon and T-Mobile

  • Prepaid service - no contract, credit check, or start-up fees

  • Bring your GSM or CDMA phone - most devices are compatible - or buy one from Ting

  • Keep your current number

  • Tethering/mobile hotspot allowed, speeds limited to 3G for GSM tethering

  • Use your plan minutes to call 60+ international locations

  • International roaming capability (at surcharged rates)

  • Extensive customer service hours by phone, chat, or email

US Mobile SIM Card - Best CDMA carrier for unlimited data - US MobileUS Mobile SIM Card - Best CDMA carrier for unlimited data - US Mobile
Minutes
Unlimited
Texts
Unlimited
Data
Unlimited
Price
$45/moFree Starter Kit with code: MSPUSM
Editors Take
4.5 / 5
Plans
PlanMinutesTextsDataPrice

US Mobile Unlimited Talk & Text

Unlimited

Unlimited

0GB

$8

US Mobile 1GB Data

Unlimited

Unlimited

1GB

$12

US Mobile 5GB Data

Unlimited

Unlimited

5GB

$15

US Mobile 12GB Data

Unlimited

Unlimited

12GB

$20

US Mobile 18GB Data

Unlimited

Unlimited

18GB

$25

US Mobile 30GB Data

Unlimited

Unlimited

30GB

$30

US Mobile Unlimited Data

Unlimited

Unlimited

Unlimited

$45

Free Starter Kit with code: MSPUSM

Features
Benefits

Pros

  • Flexible, no contract plans

  • 24/7 customer service

  • 5G coverage available

Cons

  • No international calling

  • Phone selection

Benefits

  • Coverage on either the T-Mobile or Verizon network

  • Risk-free trial: Full refund within 14 days or before 1000 talk, text, or MB's is used

  • Prepaid - no contract, credit check, or activation fee

  • Bring your own GSM or CDMA phone or choose from a small selection of phones for sale

  • Keep your own phone number

  • Mobile hotspot use available as add-on option with unlimited data plans

  • International roaming plans available with eSIMs

  • Add-ons available for talk, text, and data, with rollover

  • 24/7 customer support

Red Pocket SIM Card - Best cheap CDMA carrier - Red PocketRed Pocket SIM Card - Best cheap CDMA carrier - Red Pocket
Minutes
500
Texts
500
Data
0.5 GB
Price
$10/mo
Editors Take
4.5 / 5
Plans
PlanMinutesTextsDataPrice

Red Pocket 10GB Data

Unlimited

Unlimited

10GB

$10*

* 50% Off First Month

Red Pocket 500MB Data

500

500

0.5GB

$10

Red Pocket 22GB Data

Unlimited

Unlimited

22GB

$15*

* 50% Off First Month

Red Pocket 50GB Data

Unlimited

Unlimited

50GB

$20*

* 50% Off First Month

Red Pocket 100GB Data

Unlimited

Unlimited

100GB

$25*

* 50% Off First Month
Features
Benefits

Pros

  • Nationwide coverage

  • No contracts

  • Latest selection of phones

Cons

  • Account dashboard needs work

  • No 0% financing options on latest phones

  • Customer service

Benefits

  • Operates on all four networks - AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, and Verizon

  • Prepaid cell phone plans - no contract, credit check, or activation fees

  • Bring your own GSM or CDMA device and keep your phone number

  • Mobile hotspot/tethering allowed with your plan data

  • Free international calling to 70+ countries

  • Customer service available in English, Chinese, Filipino, and Spanish via chat or phone

Is CDMA or GSM phone service better?

Check Carrier Coverage

Cheap CDMA & GSM carrier benefits

  • Save Money: MVNO's which work off of the four main carrier networks can offer you much lower rates, they offer the same great service but at nearly half the price!
  • Customized Plans: Most of the big guys' plans offer unlimited data. This sounds great, but the average smartphone user only uses about 3GB a month. This means you may be paying for data that you don't use. With MVNO's you can build your own plan to what you use.
  • No Contracts: All low-cost carriers offer prepaid plans. So you are free to leave anytime you want! You don't have to go through a credit check or get tied into a two-year contract.

GSM vs CDMA plans comparison

CarrierNetworkMinutesTextsDataPrice
TelloT-MobileUnltdUnltd1GB$10
Mint MobileT-MobileUnltdUnltd4GB$15** $45 for 3 Months Service
US MobileVerizon & T-MobileUnltdUnltd12GB$20Free Starter Kit with code: MSPUSM
TingT-Mobile & VerizonUnltdUnltdUnltd$25** $20 Off for 3 Months
Ultra MobileT-MobileUnltdUnltd2GB$11** Extra 20% Off with code: MSP20

Best T-Mobile GSM carrier

Mint Mobile 4GB data plan* $45 for 3 Months Service

Unlimitedmins

Unlimitedtexts

4 GB

4G/5G data

$15/mo*

$3.75 per GB

Powered by: T-Mobile

T-Mobile vs Mint Mobile Plan Comparison

Keep your T-Mobile phone, number & coverage: Save $660 per year

CarrierNetwork Coverage4G LTE DataPriceAnnual Cost
T-MobileT-Mobile 4G LTEUnltd*$70/mo$840/yr
Mint MobileT-Mobile 4G LTE4GB$15/mo$180/yr
*Don't waste money on unlimited data - Avg. data usage is only 3-5GBSavings$55/mo$660/yr

Best Verizon CDMA carrier

US Mobile 5GB data planFree Starter Kit with code: MSPUSM

Unlimitedmins

Unlimitedtexts

5 GB

4G/5G data

$15/mo

$3.00 per GB

Powered by: Verizon & T-Mobile

Verizon vs US Mobile Plan Comparison

Keep your Verizon phone, number & coverage: Save $780 per year

CarrierNetwork Coverage4G LTE DataPriceAnnual Cost
VerizonVerizon 4G LTEUnltd*$80/mo$960/yr
US MobileVerizon 4G LTE5GB$15/mo$180/yr
*Don't waste money on unlimited data - Avg. data usage is only 3-5GBSavings$65/mo$780/yr

Best AT&T GSM carrier

Good2Go Mobile 3GB data plan* 50% Off for 3 Months

Unlimitedmins

Unlimitedtexts

3 GB

4G/5G data

$10/mo*

$20/mo

$6.67 per GB

Powered by: AT&T & T-Mobile

AT&T vs Good2Go Mobile Plan Comparison

Keep your AT&T phone, number & coverage: Save $690 per year

CarrierNetwork Coverage4G LTE DataPriceAnnual Cost
AT&TAT&T 4G LTEUnltd*$75/mo$900/yr
Good2Go MobileAT&T 4G LTE3GB$20/mo$210/yr
*Don't waste money on unlimited data - Avg. data usage is only 3-5GBSavings$55/mo$690/yr

What is CDMA and GSM?

GSM (Global System for Mobiles) and CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) are two technologies used in cell phones. They are an older form of 3G technology which helps to fill in the gap when you are in an area without 4G signal.

Older cell phones will either be a GSM phone or a CDMA phone and be locked to the carrier network, which is why it is harder with older phones to move from a GSM carrier to a CDMA carrier or vice versa. However, phones made in the last few years normally have both technologies built into them making it easier to switch carriers.

The GSM network is more well known as the technology is used worldwide, whereas CDMA networks are only used in the US. This means if you travel a lot having a phone that uses a SIM card is the best way to check if it is compatible with the GSM network.


GSM vs CDMA coverage

Which prepaid carrier is best for you? That depends on which network has the best coverage in your area.

Whether you go with a GSM carrier (T-Mobile and AT&T) or a CDMA carrier (Verizon) you'll enjoy national coverage, just like with the major carriers.

Network performance ratings

NETWORKOVERALLRELIABILITYSPEEDDATACALL
Verizon Coverage9596949694
AT&T Coverage9494959692
T-Mobile Coverage8688828982

Source: Rootmetrics

Find Cheap Cell Phone Plans in Your Area

Which carriers are GSM?

T-Mobile GSM carrier list

CarrierNetwork(s)
Boost MobileT-Mobile
Boom! MobileVerizon & T-Mobile
Consumer CellularT-Mobile
FreeUP MobileT-Mobile
Metro by T-MobileT-Mobile
Mint MobileT-Mobile
Red PocketAT&T, T-Mobile & Verizon
Republic WirelessT-Mobile
Simple MobileT-Mobile
Straight TalkT-Mobile, AT&T & Verizon
TelloT-Mobile
TingT-Mobile & Verizon
TracfoneVerizon, AT&T & T-Mobile
Ultra MobileT-Mobile
Unreal MobileAT&T & T-Mobile
US MobileVerizon & T-Mobile
Gen MobileT-Mobile
WingAT&T, Verizon & T-Mobile
Good2Go MobileAT&T & T-Mobile
Hello MobileT-Mobile
GoSmart MobileT-Mobile
LycamobileT-Mobile
Walmart Family MobileT-Mobile
Speedtalk MobileT-Mobile

AT&T GSM carriers list

CarrierNetwork(s)
Cricket WirelessAT&T
FreedompopAT&T
h2o WirelessAT&T
Pure TalkAT&T
Red PocketAT&T, T-Mobile & Verizon
Straight TalkT-Mobile, AT&T & Verizon
TracfoneVerizon, AT&T & T-Mobile
Unreal MobileAT&T & T-Mobile
WingAT&T, Verizon & T-Mobile
Good2Go MobileAT&T & T-Mobile
Black WirelessAT&T
easyGO WirelessAT&T
Airvoice WirelessAT&T
Optimum MobileAT&T

Which carriers are CDMA?

Verizon CDMA carriers list

CarrierNetwork(s)
Boom! MobileVerizon & T-Mobile
CREDO MobileVerizon
GreatCallVerizon
Net10 WirelessVerizon
Page Plus CellularVerizon
Red PocketAT&T, T-Mobile & Verizon
Spectrum MobileVerizon
Straight TalkT-Mobile, AT&T & Verizon
TingT-Mobile & Verizon
Total WirelessVerizon
TracfoneVerizon, AT&T & T-Mobile
TwigbyVerizon & Sprint
US MobileVerizon & T-Mobile
VisibleVerizon
Xfinity MobileVerizon
WingAT&T, Verizon & T-Mobile
Affinity CellularVerizon
Reach MobileVerizon
Selectel WirelessVerizon

Is my phone GSM or CDMA?

Most modern iPhones and Samsung phones are compatible with both 3G networks but the very simplest way to be sure is that if you're currently with T-Mobile or AT&T, it's GSM compatible and if you're currently with Verizon, it will be CDMA compatible.

Phone compatibility checker

Phone compatibility checker
Dial *#06# on your phone to access IMEI

CDMA & GSM unlocked phone benefits

  • Freedom: Having an unlocked phone gives you the freedom to choose whichever carrier you want as you will be able to use it with any carrier or network.
  • International Service: If you have an unlocked phone you have more flexibility when traveling abroad. You can buy a SIM card for your destination Country to use on your phone to avoid expensive roaming charges.
  • Save Money: You can also save money by buying a refurbished unlocked phone and save over 50% off the cost of a brand new phone.

Compare unlocked phone prices

ModelConditionMemoryCompatibilityPrice
Apple iPhone 11New64GBAT&T$499
Apple iPhone 11 MaxNew64GBAT&T$899
Apple iPhone 11 ProNew64GBAT&T$799
Apple iPhone 12New64GBT-Mobile$729
Apple iPhone 12 miniNew64GBT-Mobile$629
Apple iPhone 12 ProNew128GBVerizon$999
Apple iPhone 12 Pro MaxNew128GBT-Mobile$999
Apple iPhone 13New128GBT-Mobile$829
Apple iPhone 13 miniNew128GBT-Mobile$729
Apple iPhone 13 ProNew128GBT-Mobile$999
Apple iPhone 13 Pro MaxNew128GBT-Mobile$1,099
Apple iPhone SENew64GBT-Mobile$399

How to switch to a CDMA or GSM carrier

It's never been easier to switch. Let's break it down.

  1. Customize your plan. Whether you're looking for a truly unlimited plan, or in the market for something more basic, choose a plan to suit your cell phone needs.
  2. Prepare to make the switch. Make sure your old bills are paid up and your phone is unlocked. If you're getting a new device, transferring data from one to another is simple. Even if you're going from an iPhone to Android, and vice versa.
  3. Set up your new plan. Keep your current carrier account open until your number has ported over. Once you're sure your new plan is up and running, cancel your old account. If you've got a new device with your Tello plan, it should be ready to use when it arrives. If you're bringing your own phone then you'll need to follow the instructions with the new SIM card kit that Tello will send to you in the post.

CDMA vs GSM FAQs

Is AT&T GSM or CDMA?

AT&T operates on the GSM network. AT&T unlocked phones should work with GSM carriers.

Is T-Mobile GSM or CDMA?

T-Mobile operates on the GSM network. T-Mobile unlocked phones should work with GSM carriers.

Is Verizon GSM or CDMA?

Verizon operates on the CDMA network. Verizon unlocked phones may only work with CDMA carriers.


Recap

Whether you choose a carrier on the CDMA or GSM network is down to preference and what your needs are. Bearing in mind that it is easier to change carriers with a GSM unlocked phone.

As technology is moving forward both CDMA and GSM are working alongside 4G, but still, play a part in giving you cellular coverage when you're in an area not covered by 4G.

When you're looking for a new plan, you don't have to just go for one of the main carriers. You can find a much cheaper deal by using one of their MVNO's (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) because they use the main carrier networks you get the same great service, but for half the price!

MoneySavingPro methodology

We're here to bring transparency to telecoms, putting power back in your hands. This guides everything we do.

  • We've got high standards. We use our industry expertise to find carriers that reach these standards. We all deserve the best value for money, choice and customer experience.
  • We care about accuracy. MoneySavingPro is run by cell phone geeks and money saving obsessives. Our content team researches everything thoroughly so that information you read here will give you the whole picture. Everything we do is backed up by the data.
  • We keep things simple. It's our job to break down what you need to know, so you can make informed choices.
CarrierBest for...MinsTextsDataPrice
Tello SIM Card - Best prepaid GSM carrierTelloGSM prepaid planUnlimitedUnlimited1GB$10/mo
Mint Mobile SIM Card - Best GSM carrier for unlimited dataMint MobileGSM unlimited planUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited$30/mo
Ting SIM Card - Best GSM carrier for talk & textTingGSM talk & text planUnlimitedUnlimited0GB$10/mo
Ting SIM Card - Best prepaid CDMA carrierTingCDMA prepaid planUnlimitedUnlimited5GB$25/mo
US Mobile SIM Card - Best CDMA carrier for unlimited dataUS MobileCDMA unlimited planUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited$45/mo
Red Pocket SIM Card - Best cheap CDMA carrierRed PocketCheap CDMA plan5005000.5GB$10/mo
Rob Webber
Rob Webber

Rob has 15+ years experience in the US and UK running price comparison sites for cell phone plans, smartphone deals, TV, and internet. He loves thinking outside of the box to build tools that empower consumers to make more informed decisions.

Samsung Galaxy Note10+ 5G
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