GSM Carriers in 2023

What carriers are GSM?

Cheapest T-Mobile plan
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T-Mobile 5G plan
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10GB 4G/5G data
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By Rob Webber - Last updated on

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.

Best GSM network carriers

GSM Carriers
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Best cheap GSM carrier

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Tello SIM Card - Tello 1GB planTello SIM Card - Tello 1GB plan
Minutes
Unlimited
Texts
Unlimited
Data
1GB
Price
$10/mo
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Tello 1GB plan includes unlimited mins, unlimited texts and 1GB data for only $10 per month. Tello plans offer wireless coverage on the T-Mobile 5G and 4G LTE network.

Plans
PlanDataPrice

Tello Unlimited Talk & Text

0GB

$8

Tello 1GB

1GB

$10

Tello 2GB

2GB

$14

Tello 5GB

5GB

$19

Tello 10GB

10GB

$24

Tello Unlimited Data

Unlimited

$29

Review
5

Pros

  • No contract. No bulk buying.

  • 24/7 friendly customer support

  • 4G LTE/5G nationwide coverage

  • Free Hotspot & Wi-Fi Calling

  • Free international calls to 60+ countries

Cons

  • No roaming

  • Coverage in rural areas

Read Tello review

Best prepaid GSM carrier

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Mint Mobile SIM Card - Mint Mobile 4GB planMint Mobile SIM Card - Mint Mobile 4GB plan
Minutes
Unlimited
Texts
Unlimited
Data
4GB
Price
$15/mo
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Mint Mobile 4GB plan includes unlimited mins, unlimited texts and 4GB data for only $15 per month. Mint Mobile plans offer wireless coverage on the T-Mobile 5G and 4G LTE network.

Plans
PlanDataPrice

Mint Mobile 4GB

4GB

$15

Mint Mobile 10GB

10GB

$20

Mint Mobile 15GB

15GB

$25

Mint Mobile Unlimited Data

Unlimited

$30

Review
4.5

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

Read Mint Mobile review

Best GSM carrier for families

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US Mobile SIM Card - US Mobile 15GB planUS Mobile SIM Card - US Mobile 15GB plan
Minutes
Unlimited
Texts
Unlimited
Data
15GB
Price
$20/mo* FREE 10-Day Trial
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US Mobile 15GB plan includes unlimited mins, unlimited texts and 15GB data for only $20 per month. US Mobile plans offer wireless coverage on the Verizon & T-Mobile 5G and 4G LTE networks.

Plans
PlanDataPrice

US Mobile 500MB

500MB

$5

US Mobile Unlimited Talk & Text

0GB

$8

US Mobile 2GB

2GB

$12

US Mobile 5GB

5GB

$15

US Mobile 15GB

15GB

$20

US Mobile 25GB

25GB

$25

US Mobile Unlimited Data Basic

Unlimited

$35

US Mobile Unlimited Data Premium

Unlimited

$45

* FREE 10-Day Trial

Review
4.5

Pros

  • Flexible, no contract plans

  • 24/7 customer service

  • 5G coverage available

Cons

  • No international calling

  • Phone selection

Read US Mobile review

Best GSM carrier for unlimited data

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Tello SIM Card - Tello Unlimited planTello SIM Card - Tello Unlimited plan
Minutes
Unlimited
Texts
Unlimited
Data
Unlimited
Price
$29/mo
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Tello Unlimited plan includes unlimited mins, unlimited texts and unlimited data for only $29 per month. Tello plans offer wireless coverage on the T-Mobile 5G and 4G LTE network.

Plans
PlanDataPrice

Tello Unlimited Talk & Text

0GB

$8

Tello 1GB

1GB

$10

Tello 2GB

2GB

$14

Tello 5GB

5GB

$19

Tello 10GB

10GB

$24

Tello Unlimited Data

Unlimited

$29

Review
5

Pros

  • No contract. No bulk buying.

  • 24/7 friendly customer support

  • 4G LTE/5G nationwide coverage

  • Free Hotspot & Wi-Fi Calling

  • Free international calls to 60+ countries

Cons

  • No roaming

  • Coverage in rural areas

Read Tello review

Best GSM carrier for one person

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Boost Mobile SIM Card - Boost Mobile 5GB planBoost Mobile SIM Card - Boost Mobile 5GB plan
Minutes
Unlimited
Texts
Unlimited
Data
5GB
Price
$5/mo** 66% Off for 3 Months
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Boost Mobile 5GB plan includes unlimited mins, unlimited texts and 5GB data for only $5 per month. Boost Mobile plans offer wireless coverage on the AT&T & T-Mobile 5G and 4G LTE networks.

Plans
PlanDataPrice

Boost Mobile 5GB

5GB

$5*

* 66% Off for 3 Months

Boost Mobile 1GB - 12 Mths

1GB

$8*

* $100 for 1 year service

Boost Mobile 15GB

15GB

$20*

* $240 for 1 year service

Boost Mobile Unlimited Data

Unlimited

$25

Review
4.5

Pros

  • Nationwide coverage on AT&T & T-Mobile

  • 5G & 4G LTE data speeds

  • Buy online and no credit checks

  • Bring your own phone

  • Cheapest unlimited data plan

Cons

  • No data only plans

Read Boost Mobile review

GSM carrier benefits

  • Same great nationwide coverage: These cell phone carriers operate on the very same networks as the big three 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 GSM carrier on T-Mobile

Unlimitedmins

Unlimitedtexts

10GB

4G/5G data

$20/mo

Powered by: T-Mobile

T-Mobile vs Mint Mobile comparison

Keep your T-Mobile phone, number & coverage: Save $600 per year

CarrierNetwork Coverage4G/5G DataPriceAnnual Cost
T-MobileT-Mobile 4G & 5GUnltd*$70/mo$840/yr
Mint MobileT-Mobile 4G & 5G10GB$20/mo$240/yr
*Don't waste money on unlimited data - Avg. data usage is only 3-5GBSavings$50/mo$600/yr

Best GSM carrier on AT&T

Boost Mobile 5GB plan* 66% Off for 3 Months

Unlimitedmins

Unlimitedtexts

5GB

4G/5G data

$5/mo*

$15/mo

Powered by: AT&T & T-Mobile

AT&T vs Boost Mobile comparison

Keep your AT&T phone, number & coverage: Save $750 per year

CarrierNetwork Coverage4G/5G DataPriceAnnual Cost
AT&TAT&T 4G & 5GUnltd*$75/mo$900/yr
Boost MobileAT&T 4G & 5G5GB$15/mo$150/yr
*Don't waste money on unlimited data - Avg. data usage is only 3-5GBSavings$60/mo$750/yr

GSM carrier features

  • 4G LTE & 5G data speeds: Since MVNOs operate on the big three 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.

Best GSM carrier plans

CarrierDataNetworkPrice
Tello 1GB plan1GBT-Mobile$10/mo
US Mobile 5GB plan5GBVerizon & T-Mobile$15/mo* FREE 10-Day Trial
Mint Mobile 10GB plan10GBT-Mobile$20/mo
US Mobile 25GB plan25GBVerizon & T-Mobile$25/mo* FREE 10-Day Trial
Mint Mobile Unlimited planUnltdT-Mobile$30/mo

GSM network 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

GSM network carriers on T-Mobile

CarrierNetwork(s)
Boost MobileAT&T & T-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
Reach MobileT-Mobile
LycamobileT-Mobile
Walmart Family MobileT-Mobile
Speedtalk MobileT-Mobile

GSM network carriers on AT&T

CarrierNetwork(s)
Boost MobileAT&T & T-Mobile
Cricket WirelessAT&T
FreedompopAT&T
H2O WirelessAT&T
PureTalkAT&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.


GSM unlocked phones


  • 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, PureTalk, 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

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 cheap GSM carrierTelloCheapest GSM carrierUnlimitedUnlimited1GB$10/mo
Mint Mobile SIM Card - Best prepaid GSM carrierMint MobilePrepaid GSM carrierUnlimitedUnlimited4GB$15/mo
US Mobile SIM Card - Best GSM carrier for familiesUS MobileFamily GSM carrierUnlimitedUnlimited15GB$20/mo
Tello SIM Card - Best GSM carrier for unlimited dataTelloUnlimited GSM carrierUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited$29/mo
Boost Mobile SIM Card - Best GSM carrier for one personBoost MobileIndividual GSM carrierUnlimitedUnlimited5GB$15/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.

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mins
texts
/mo
Same coverage - massive savings!YOU SAVE:
T-Mobile
Magenta - $70/mo
$840/yr
AT&T
Unlimited Extra - $75/mo
$900/yr
Verizon
Play More Unlimited - $80/mo
$960/yr
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