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GSM Carriers in 2021

Compare the best cheap GSM phone carriers

Best prepaid plan
1GB 4G/5G data
$5* per month
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* 50% Off 1st Month
Best unlimited plan
Unltd 4G/5G data
$30* per month
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* Buy 3 Months - Get 3 Months Free
Best talk & text plan
0GB 4G/5G data
$10* per month
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* $5 extra per GB
Cheap cell phone plans starting at $10/mo - Compare Now
Find the cheapest phone plans in your area

GSM is one of two cellular technologies that help bridge the gap when there's no 4G signal. AT&T and T-Mobile are the two main networks, along with their MVNO's (Mobile Virtual Network Operators) that run on the GSM network.

MVNOs have started growing in popularity along with a wide range of options whatever your needs and budget. And because they're powered by the main networks you don't have to sacrifice quality coverage.

If your phone is on the CDMA network or unlocked, you can still save money on the best MVNO plans.

We've broken it down further for you below.

Tello SIM Card - Best prepaid GSM carrier - TelloTello SIM Card - Best prepaid GSM carrier - Tello
Minutes
Unlimited
Texts
Unlimited
Data
1 GB
Price
$5/mo** 50% Off 1st Month
Editors Take
5 / 5

Tello 1GB data includes unlimited mins, unlimited texts and 1GB data for only $5 per month. Tello prepaid phone plans offer wireless coverage on the T-Mobile 4G LTE and 5G network.

Plans
PlanMinutesTextsDataPrice

Tello Unlimited Talk & Text

Unlimited

Unlimited

0GB

$4*

* 50% Off 1st Month

Tello 1GB Data

Unlimited

Unlimited

1GB

$5*

* 50% Off 1st Month

Tello 2GB Data

Unlimited

Unlimited

2GB

$7*

* 50% Off 1st Month

Tello 4GB Data

Unlimited

Unlimited

4GB

$9.50*

* 50% Off 1st Month

Tello 6GB Data

Unlimited

Unlimited

6GB

$12*

* 50% Off 1st Month

Tello 8GB Data

Unlimited

Unlimited

8GB

$14.50*

* 50% Off 1st Month

Tello Unlimited Data

Unlimited

Unlimited

Unlimited

$19.50*

* 50% Off 1st Month
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** Buy 3 Months - Get 3 Months Free
Editors Take
4.5 / 5

Mint Mobile unlimited data includes unlimited mins, unlimited texts and unlimited data for only $30 per month. Mint Mobile prepaid phone plans offer wireless coverage on the T-Mobile 4G LTE and 5G network.

Plans
PlanMinutesTextsDataPrice

Mint Mobile 4GB Data

Unlimited

Unlimited

4GB

$15*

* Buy 3 Months - Get 3 Months Free

Mint Mobile 10GB Data

Unlimited

Unlimited

10GB

$20*

* Buy 3 Months - Get 3 Months Free

Mint Mobile 15GB Data

Unlimited

Unlimited

15GB

$25*

* Buy 3 Months - Get 3 Months Free

Mint Mobile Unlimited Data

Unlimited

Unlimited

Unlimited

$30*

* Buy 3 Months - Get 3 Months Free
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

Ting unlimited talk & text includes unlimited mins, unlimited texts and 0GB data for only $10 per month. Ting prepaid phone plans offer wireless coverage on the T-Mobile & Verizon 4G LTE and 5G networks.

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

Good2Go Mobile SIM Card - Best GSM carrier for seniors - Good2Go MobileGood2Go Mobile SIM Card - Best GSM carrier for seniors - Good2Go Mobile
Minutes
Unlimited
Texts
Unlimited
Data
1 GB
Price
$10/mo** 50% Off for 3 Months
Editors Take
4 / 5

Good2Go Mobile 1GB data includes unlimited mins, unlimited texts and 1GB data for only $10 per month. Good2Go Mobile prepaid phone plans offer wireless coverage on the AT&T & T-Mobile 4G LTE and 5G networks.

Plans
PlanMinutesTextsDataPrice

Good2Go Mobile 1GB Data

Unlimited

Unlimited

1GB

$10*

* 50% Off for 3 Months

Good2Go Mobile Unlimited Talk & Text

Unlimited

Unlimited

0GB

$10

Good2Go Mobile 3GB Data

Unlimited

Unlimited

3GB

$12.50*

* 50% Off for 3 Months

Good2Go Mobile 6GB Data

Unlimited

Unlimited

6GB

$17.50*

* 50% Off for 3 Months

Good2Go Mobile 10GB Data

Unlimited

Unlimited

10GB

$40

Good2Go Mobile 20GB Data

Unlimited

Unlimited

20GB

$50

Features
Benefits

Pros

  • 4G LTE coverage

  • No contract

  • No credit checks

Cons

  • No unlimited data options

  • No app interface

Benefits

  • Coverage on the nationwide AT&T & T-Mobile networks

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

  • Bring your own phone or buy a Good2Go Mobile phone

  • Mobile hotspot/tethering not supported

  • International calling to over 60 countries available as affordable plan add-on; calling to other countries via add-on calling card

  • Customer service available by phone 7am - 1am EST every day

Red Pocket SIM Card - Best GSM carrier for kids - Red PocketRed Pocket SIM Card - Best GSM carrier for kids - Red Pocket
Minutes
500
Texts
500
Data
0.5 GB
Price
$10/mo
Editors Take
4.5 / 5

Red Pocket 500mb data includes 500 mins, 500 texts and 0.5GB data for only $10 per month. Red Pocket prepaid phone plans offer wireless coverage on the AT&T, Verizon & T-Mobile 4G LTE and 5G networks.

Plans
PlanMinutesTextsDataPrice

Red Pocket 500MB Data

500

500

0.5GB

$10

Red Pocket 3GB Data - 12 Mths

Unlimited

Unlimited

3GB

$15*

* Buy 9 Mths - Get 3 Mths Free

Red Pocket 3GB Data

Unlimited

Unlimited

3GB

$20

Red Pocket 10GB Data - 12 Mths

Unlimited

Unlimited

10GB

$22*

* Buy 9 Mths - Get 3 Mths Free

Red Pocket 22GB Data - 12 Mths

Unlimited

Unlimited

22GB

$30*

* Buy 9 Mths - Get 3 Mths Free

Red Pocket 10GB Data

Unlimited

Unlimited

10GB

$30

Red Pocket 50GB Data - 12 Mths

Unlimited

Unlimited

50GB

$37*

* Buy 9 Mths - Get 3 Mths Free

Red Pocket 22GB Data

Unlimited

Unlimited

22GB

$40

Red Pocket 50GB Data

Unlimited

Unlimited

50GB

$50

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

US Mobile SIM Card - Best GSM carrier for tablet data - US MobileUS Mobile SIM Card - Best GSM carrier for tablet data - US Mobile
Minutes
0
Texts
0
Data
2 GB
Price
$10/moFree Starter Kit with code: MSPUSM
Editors Take
4.5 / 5

US Mobile 2GB data only includes 0 mins, 0 texts and 2GB data for only $10 per month. US Mobile prepaid phone plans offer wireless coverage on the Verizon & T-Mobile 4G LTE and 5G networks.

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

Best GSM network carriers in December

Check Carrier Coverage

GSM carrier benefits

  • Same great nationwide coverage: These cell phone carriers operate on the very same networks as the big four carriers.
  • Much lower prices: Save up to $600 per year on your cell phone plan. Why are MVNOs so much cheaper? They don't have the huge overhead and advertising costs the big guys do.
  • No contracts: Don't get trapped into a two-year agreement. Switch carriers when you decide to with a no contract phone plan.
  • Same cell phone service: Just because you're paying less, that doesn't mean you have to scrimp on features. Plans with unlimited everything are easy to find from these prepaid carriers. Usually, a low cost carrier plan comes with unlimited talk and text as standard, high speed data, and even mobile hotspot data features.
  • Keep your phone and number: You can bring your own phone and keep your phone number. No need to sign up for pricey device payments.
  • Customize your plan: You decide how much data you need. Choose to pay as you go, opt for unlimited or no data, minimal minutes, or unlimited talk text and data. Unlimited data plans come at a much better price with an alternative carrier. Pick the plan options that fit your budget - not the one your carrier thinks you need.
  • Great customer support: Smaller mobile providers are known for their attention to their customers. Stop feeling like an anonymous number getting lost in the crowd! Check out our carrier user reviews before switching.

Best T-Mobile GSM carrier

Mint Mobile 4GB data plan* Buy 3 Months - Get 3 Months Free

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/5G DataPriceAnnual Cost
T-MobileT-Mobile 4G & 5GUnltd*$70/mo$840/yr
Mint MobileT-Mobile 4G & 5G4GB$15/mo$180/yr
*Don't waste money on unlimited data - Avg. data usage is only 3-5GBSavings$55/mo$660/yr

Best AT&T GSM carrier

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

Unlimitedmins

Unlimitedtexts

3 GB

4G/5G data

$12.50/mo*

$25/mo

$8.33 per GB

Powered by: AT&T & T-Mobile

AT&T vs Good2Go Mobile Plan Comparison

Keep your AT&T phone, number & coverage: Save $637 per year

CarrierNetwork Coverage4G/5G DataPriceAnnual Cost
AT&TAT&T 4G & 5GUnltd*$75/mo$900/yr
Good2Go MobileAT&T 4G & 5G3GB$25/mo$263/yr
*Don't waste money on unlimited data - Avg. data usage is only 3-5GBSavings$50/mo$637/yr

GSM carrier features

  • 4G LTE data speeds: Since MVNOs operate on the big four cellular networks you'll pay less without sacrificing speed. More and more are adding 5G coverage all the time so you can expect high-speed data.
  • Unlimited talk and text messaging: Finding a new unlimited plan has never been easier. Virtually all small carriers include unlimited text and calls in their plan options. Compare cheap talk and text plans with or without data.
  • International calls to Canada and Mexico: International calling is a must for many people. Luckily MVNOs offer some of the best international phone plans, with free calling to certain countries like Canada and Mexico, and discounted rates on others.
  • Multiline discounts: Low-cost carriers also offer some of the cheapest family cell phone plans, with multi-line discounts.
  • Wi-Fi calling: This feature is handy when you're out of your service area, allowing you to make calls over the internet instead of on your cellular connection.
  • Tethering/hotspot data: Many low-cost carriers allow you to use your phone as a hotspot. Pick an MVNO with the best mobile hotspot plans so you can share your mobile hotspot data with other devices.
  • HD video streaming: Just like the big guys, some MVNOs offer HD video streaming and some don't. Read the fine print to find the option you want.

Compare GSM carrier plans

CarrierNetworkMinutesTextsDataPrice
TelloT-MobileUnltdUnltd1GB$5** 50% Off 1st Month
Mint MobileT-MobileUnltdUnltd4GB$15** Buy 3 Months - Get 3 Months Free
US MobileVerizon & T-MobileUnltdUnltd12GB$20Free Starter Kit with code: MSPUSM
TingT-Mobile & VerizonUnltdUnltdUnltd$25** $20 Off for 3 Months
Mint MobileT-MobileUnltdUnltdUnltd$30** Buy 3 Months - Get 3 Months Free

GSM carrier 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?

We've included a full list of GSM carriers below:

T-Mobile GSM network 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 network 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

What is the GSM network?

GSM - or Global System for Mobile Communications - is a mobile network that is used worldwide, unlike CDMA which is used mainly in the US. It is the most popular cell phone technology and it is much easier to swap between phones on GSM networks as your information is stored on a SIM card.

Since it started GSM has evolved much faster than CDMA and 4G LTE is a GSM standard which means that both Verizon and Sprint are now using GSM technology on their previous CDMA phones. GSM, along with CDMA, is the technology that fills the gap when your 4G signal drops.

What is a GSM SIM card?

A SIM (subscriber identity module) card is what is provided to you by your carrier when you sign up to one of their plans. It has a unique identification number and holds your phone information, like your contacts and personal data.

The GSM SIM card makes it easy to switch between phones as you can just take it out from one phone and pop it into your new phone. Some older devices may still be locked to your current provider, so you will need to make sure they are unlocked before changing over.

When it comes to the SIM cards there are three types of SIM - standard SIM, micro SIM and Nano SIM. The type of SIM card you will need depends on your phone but the most common is the Nano SIM.

Which is better CDMA or GSM?

This can still be a confusing topic for consumers and it's really more a personal preference when it comes to CDMA and GSM.

It's easier to swap phones with a GSM phone as the information is stored on a SIM card and GSM carriers do not have as much control over the phone used. With CDMA you need the permission of your carrier.

Whether you have a CDMA phone or a GSM phone you can find the best low-cost carriers for both networks.


Best GSM unlocked phones

PhoneStorageNetworkConditionPrice
Apple iPhone SE64GBAT&TNew$17/mo
Apple iPhone 1164GBAT&TNew$21/mo
Apple iPhone 12 mini64GBAT&TNew$26/mo
Apple iPhone 1264GBAT&TNew$30/mo
Apple iPhone 13 mini128GBAT&TNew$30/mo
Apple iPhone 13128GBAT&TNew$35/mo
Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max64GBAT&TNew$37/mo
Apple iPhone 12 Pro128GBAT&TNew$37/mo
Apple iPhone 13 Pro128GBAT&TNew$42/mo
Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max128GBAT&TNew$42/mo
Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max128GBAT&TNew$46/mo
Samsung Galaxy S20128GBAT&TNew$529
Samsung Galaxy S20+128GBAT&TNew$629

GSM unlocked phone benefits

  • Save 50% or more off retail: Get flagship smartphones in excellent condition for hundreds less than new.
  • It's great value for your dollar: New phone models usually only get minor upgrades from year to year so hold onto your money and still get all the best features.
  • Retain your freedom: Buying your phone outright means you can decide when to leave your carrier for a cheaper cell phone plan.

What does GSM unlocked mean?

Most carriers want to keep you as a customer, so often you'll find your device is locked to the carrier you originally signed up with so you can't just pop your SIM card into a phone with another network. If your device is locked, don't panic you still have options!

If your phone is locked you may be able to unlock it once it has been fully paid off or you can still save money with one of AT&T or T-Mobile's MVNOs.

Some carriers, however, do provide unlocked phones and if your phone is only a few years old then it is likely to be unlocked as most new phones use both the GSM and CDMA network.

With an unlocked phone, you can find the best cell phone plan for your budget and not worry about the fuss of switching carriers.


GSM carriers FAQs

Is AT&T GSM?

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

Is T-Mobile GSM?

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

Is Verizon GSM?

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


Recap

There's a wide variety of cell phone plans available on the GSM network with carriers like Mint Mobile, Pure Talk, and Red Pocket Mobile, to name just a few,that can save you money.

If you're looking to bring your own phone, as long as it's compatible you can easily switch between carriers.

If you've got a CDMA phone without a SIM card slot there are plenty of low cost options to upgrade your handset with most MVNOs offering 0% finance plans over two years.

If you want to check your phone is compatible you can use our IMEI code checker.

MoneySavingPro methodology

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  • 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 carrierTelloBest prepaid planUnlimitedUnlimited1GB$10/mo
Mint Mobile SIM Card - Best GSM carrier for unlimited dataMint MobileBest unlimited planUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited$30/mo
Ting SIM Card - Best GSM carrier for talk & textTingBest talk & text planUnlimitedUnlimited0GB$10/mo
Good2Go Mobile SIM Card - Best GSM carrier for seniorsGood2Go MobileBest senior planUnlimitedUnlimited1GB$20/mo
Red Pocket SIM Card - Best GSM carrier for kidsRed PocketBest kids plan5005000.5GB$10/mo
US Mobile SIM Card - Best GSM carrier for tablet dataUS MobileBest data plan002GB$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.