GSM networks list in 2021
Just because not every phone works with all cell phone networks that doesn't mean you have to stay stuck with one of the four major carriers!
If you're looking to get a better deal on your cell phone plan and you've got a phone that was made in the last few years, the chances are your phone is compatible with GSM, as most of the latest phones run on both GSM and CDMA networks.
AT&T and T-Mobile are the two main carriers, along with their MVNO's (Mobile Virtual Network Operators) that run on the GSM network. This means if you brought your phone with either of these carriers then your phone will be compatible with GSM networks.
But don't worry! If you have a phone on the CDMA network you can still save money on the best MVNO plans or if your phone is unlocked you should be free to choose from any of the four main carriers and their MVNOs.
What is GSM?
What does GSM mean?
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.
GSM, along with CDMA, is the technology that fills the gap when your 4G signal drops.
It is also a better option if you travel abroad regularly as it is easier to swap between SIM cards and with its international roaming capability it allows you to access your mobile services at home and abroad.
GSM carrier comparison
|Pure Talk||AT&T||2GB||$15** 25% Off for 3 Months|
|Mint Mobile||T-Mobile||Unltd||$30** $90 for 3 months Service|
|Unreal Mobile||T-Mobile||2GB||$10** $5 Off for 1 Month|
Best AT&T GSM carrier
AT&T vs Pure Talk Plan Comparison
Keep your AT&T phone, number & coverage: Save $562 per year
|Carrier||Network Coverage||4G LTE Data||Price||Annual Cost|
|AT&T||AT&T 4G LTE||Unltd*||$75/mo||$900/yr|
|Pure Talk||AT&T 4G LTE||6GB||$30/mo||$338/yr|
|*Don't waste money on unlimited data - Avg. data usage is only 3-5GB||Savings||$45/mo||$562/yr|
Best T-Mobile GSM carrier
T-Mobile vs Mint Mobile Plan Comparison
Keep your T-Mobile phone, number & coverage: Save $660 per year
|Carrier||Network Coverage||4G LTE Data||Price||Annual Cost|
|T-Mobile||T-Mobile 4G LTE||Unltd*||$70/mo||$840/yr|
|Mint Mobile||T-Mobile 4G LTE||3GB||$15/mo||$180/yr|
|*Don't waste money on unlimited data - Avg. data usage is only 3-5GB||Savings||$55/mo||$660/yr|
Which carriers are GSM?
T-Mobile GSM Network Carriers
- Metro by T-Mobile
- Mint Mobile
- Net10 Wireless
- Pix Wireless
- Google Fi
- Pure Talk
- Red Pocket Mobile
- Republic Wireless
- Simple Mobile
- Speedtalk Mobile
- Straight Talk
- Tracfone Wireless
- Ultra Mobile
- Unreal Mobile
- US Mobile
AT&T GSM Network Carriers
- Walmart Family Mobile
- Airvoice Wireless
- Black Wireless
- Boom Mobile
- Consumer Cellular
- Cricket Wireless
- easyGO Wireless
- FreeUP Mobile
- GoSmart Mobile
- Good2Go Mobile
- h2o Wireless
- Hello Mobile
GSM Carrier Benefits
- Powered by the four major US networks: MVNO's provide wireless plans on the very same network as the big guys; Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, and AT&T.
- Save up to 50%: Get wireless rates up to half or more off the big guy's prices.
- Custom plans: You can choose from a range of plans designed to fit your needs and budget.
- No contracts: MVNOs let you keep your freedom and lets you switch carriers any time you want.
- Keep your phone: These smaller carriers are typically, bring your own phone (BYOP) so you can keep your device and your phone number.
GSM SIM Card
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
- Nano SIM
The type of SIM card you will need depends on your phone, the most common these days for the smartphones is the Nano-SIM.
Another plus when you have a SIM card - especially if you often travel overseas - with a GSM phone you can purchase a local SIM if you have an unlocked device which can help save you money on your bill.
GSM Unlocked Phones
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 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.
GSM vs CDMA
Which is better CDMA or GSM?
This can still be a confusing topic for consumers and its really more a personal preference when it comes to CDMA and GSM.
The main difference between a CDMA phone and a GSM phone is that CDMA phones do not use SIM cards. They store their information onto the device directly. The CDMA phones have a SIM card slot, but this is so the device can use LTE, which is a GSM technology. The two major carriers that use CDMA are Verizon and Sprint.
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.
As you can see there are a number of cell phone carriers that use GSM technology and SIM cards.
Having an unlocked phone gives you more options to find a cheap cell phone plan, but there are numerous ways you can save money on your mobile plan with MVNOs.
If you are looking for a better plan that is more budget-friendly you can check out our cheap GSM plans and if you are looking to bring your own phone then there is a wide variety of cheap cell phone plans to fit any budget. Mint Mobile, Pure Talk, and Red Pocket Mobile are just some of the MVNO's that can save you money.
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.
Is Sprint GSM?
Sprint operates on the CDMA network. Sprint unlocked phones may only work with CDMA carriers.