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    Default How exactly does it work in the U.S. ?

    Here in the U.K. I can prettty much buy any mobile phone I want (some I may have to pay a high price for or have imported) and stick a sim from any network in it to use. It could be a one month sim to a 24 month contract and various variations inbetween. I keep reading about people in the U.S. being limited to certain phones and certain networks...could someone in the U.S. give a quick explanation of how it works there and why?...I'm curious.

    Thanks,

    Harv.!
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    Default Re: How exactly does it work in the U.S. ?

    Quote Originally Posted by Harvinder Sunila View Post
    Here in the U.K. I can prettty much buy any mobile phone I want (some I may have to pay a high price for or have imported) and stick a sim from any network in it to use. It could be a one month sim to a 24 month contract and various variations inbetween. I keep reading about people in the U.S. being limited to certain phones and certain networks...could someone in the U.S. give a quick explanation of how it works there and why?...I'm curious.

    Thanks,

    Harv.!
    The organization of carriers in the U.S is somewhat of a mess. Not all carrier bands are compatible and are split between GSM and CDMA bands, so you can't just go willy to another carrier with the same SIM card. You are probably buying an unlocked phone to use with any carrier. You can do that too in the U.S, but you have to make sure the phone supports the same bands as the carrier you are using. Some carriers have stronger coverage in one place while having weak coverage in the other. Some smaller cellular companies borrow the network of larger groups, so the phones between those two are compatible. There are 5 major cellular service providers in the U.S:

    Verizon
    AT&T
    T-Mobile
    Sprint
    Metro PCS

    AT&T and T-Mobile have similar bands, so they are somewhat compatible, but they are not compatible with Sprint or Verizon. So you limited if you are on sprint or verizon, but less limited on AT&T or T-Mobile. This recently changed since newer phones come with processors that support both CDMA and GSM bands. In short, it is more complicated in the U.S that it should be. The main reason for all this separation is corporate greed.
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    Default Re: How exactly does it work in the U.S. ?

    Quote Originally Posted by Harvinder Sunila View Post
    Here in the U.K. I can prettty much buy any mobile phone I want (some I may have to pay a high price for or have imported) and stick a sim from any network in it to use. It could be a one month sim to a 24 month contract and various variations inbetween. I keep reading about people in the U.S. being limited to certain phones and certain networks...could someone in the U.S. give a quick explanation of how it works there and why?...I'm curious.

    Thanks,

    Harv.!
    Its exactly the opposite here.. you could buy any GSM phone and use it will about half of the carriers(ATT, T-Mobile etc) but for cdma you have to buy carrier specific phone(Verizon,Sprint, US Cellular etc)

    prepaid options are available but only T-Mobile and small carriers offer cheap price, rest are expensive.

    most go with 2 year contract but recently T-mobile started doing uncarrier plan which has proven to be very effective
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    Default Re: How exactly does it work in the U.S. ?

    Quote Originally Posted by Harvinder Sunila View Post
    Here in the U.K. I can prettty much buy any mobile phone I want (some I may have to pay a high price for or have imported) and stick a sim from any network in it to use. It could be a one month sim to a 24 month contract and various variations inbetween. I keep reading about people in the U.S. being limited to certain phones and certain networks...could someone in the U.S. give a quick explanation of how it works there and why?...I'm curious.

    Thanks,

    Harv.!
    From an outsider's point of view..it is stupid. And I agree. Good example would be say, Sony phones. The only carrier they are on is Tmo (I just checked, and couldn't find it on AT&T). Somewhere along the line somebody got paid an exorbitant amount of money to be only available on one carrier, thinking it would drive sales. That however, was the double edged sword. I think this whole thing was happening for quite some time, it just became more prevalent with the introduction of the iPhone. It was only on AT&T here, and some people went to them. But then, Apple probably realized they could make more money being on all carriers that they decided to do that.

    So mainly greed and stupidity drove these decisions.

    Something else that is a wrinkle in everything is Sprint and Verizon are both CDMA carriers. So not all phones are going to be compatible with them. And to make it even more interesting, a Sprint phone may not be compatible on a Verizon network, and vice versa.

    (Probably made you want to pull your hair out, huh?)

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    Default Re: How exactly does it work in the U.S. ?

    Quote Originally Posted by Harvinder Sunila View Post
    Here in the U.K. I can prettty much buy any mobile phone I want (some I may have to pay a high price for or have imported) and stick a sim from any network in it to use. It could be a one month sim to a 24 month contract and various variations inbetween. I keep reading about people in the U.S. being limited to certain phones and certain networks...could someone in the U.S. give a quick explanation of how it works there and why?...I'm curious.

    Thanks,

    Harv.!
    A quick breakdown -

    US has four major players: AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon.

    The current spectrum -

    AT&T -
    GSM/GPRS/EDGE: 850/1900
    UMTS/HSPA+: 850/1900
    LTE: 700 (block B)/1700/1900/2100

    Sprint -
    CDMA 1xRTT: 800/1900
    CDMA EVDO: 1900
    WiMax: 2500
    LTE: 800/1900/2500

    T-Mobile -
    GSM/GPRS/EDGE: 850/1900
    UMTS/HSPA+: 850/1700/1900 (in some areas)
    LTE: 1700

    Verizon -
    CDMA 1xRTT: 850/1900
    CDMA EVDO: 850/1900
    LTE: 700 (Block C)/1700/2100

    Sprint and Verizon have implemented CDMA in such a way that doesn't allow for interoperability between the networks. The phone's ESN/MEID needs to be in their database for them to activate it. Not using SIMs isn't a CDMA thing, it's an implementation thing.

    Phones like iPhone didn't support the same bands on all carriers- T-Mobile didn't have 3G in 1900. T-Mobile phones couldn't fully take advantage of 3G service on AT&T and vice-versa. Up until most devices were penta-band, there were sacrifices one would make using the same phone on AT&T and T-Mobile.

    BUT even still. It is possible. No one is blocked from buying a phone (unlocked, or getting it unlocked) and swapping around on GSM-based carriers. After paying $0.00 to $200.00 for a phone with a two-year agreement, the US seems to have the mindset that $650 is not what a smartphone costs.

    But then you get a phone like the Nexus 5 and iPhone 5S.

    The same Nexus 5 works on AT&T, Sprint, AND T-Mobile. And the same iPhone 5S (A1533) works on AT&T, T-Mobile, AND Verizon.
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    Default Re: How exactly does it work in the U.S. ?

    Thank you all for the detailed responses, I was aware it was somewhat more complex than here in the UK, but I didn't realize how mixed up it was.
    One of the good things in the U.K. is that I can keep my mobile number and change to any network I want from one month to the next, if I'm contract free...it just involves getting another sim card from a company, calling them with my details, imei number etc and a few hours later I'm up and running on another network. If I buy a month's usage there's nothing stopping me from leaving after two days and joining another network, although I would have lost the money I paid for the month.
    And with sim free phones like the Moto G being so cheap most people I know don't tend to sign 12 or 24 month contracts...although some people are too lazy or too stupid to work out it would save them a fortune, and it wouldn't affect the way they use their mobiles in any way.
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    Default Re: How exactly does it work in the U.S. ?

    Quote Originally Posted by Harvinder Sunila View Post
    Thank you all for the detailed responses, I was aware it was somewhat more complex than here in the UK, but I didn't realize how mixed up it was.
    One of the good things in the U.K. is that I can keep my mobile number and change to any network I want from one month to the next, if I'm contract free...it just involves getting another sim card from a company, calling them with my details, imei number etc and a few hours later I'm up and running on another network. If I buy a month's usage there's nothing stopping me from leaving after two days and joining another network, although I would have lost the money I paid for the month.
    And with sim free phones like the Moto G being so cheap most people I know don't tend to sign 12 or 24 month contracts...although some people are too lazy or too stupid to work out it would save them a fortune, and it wouldn't affect the way they use their mobiles in any way.
    People could do that here as well by going through the number porting process but are so used to signing contracts
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    Default Re: How exactly does it work in the U.S. ?

    In the US there are two type of cellular network, GSM (which is more of a universal standard) and CDMA. We have four major carriers, AT&T and T-Mobile which are GSM. Sprint and Verizon which are CDMA.

    They aren't interchangeable, so you cannot use a GSM phone on a CDMA network. (Some carriers support both CDMA and GSM, but they generally are prepay carriers that lease cell towers from bigger network.) Also new Verizon phones have the hardware to support both GSM and CDMA, however, Verizon network itself only use CDMA.

    When you get a cellphone plan in the US, 'generally' you sign a post-paid (pay at the end of the month) two year contract, by signing the contract you get to buy the sim/network-locked phone from the carrier for subsidized (or discount) price, so a flagship phone can be as low as $199 instead of $600. You don't actually own that phone until the end of the 2 years period. If you stop paying or switch to another carrier (ie. port over your number), you will be forced to pay an ETF (early termination fee), the carrier may also blacklist your phone IMEI number so it can't be activate (I'm not sure under what the specific condition they do that since it never happened to me). They may also require a credit check before opening a plan for you.

    We can also buy subsidized phones from third party retailers that provide further discount (2 years contract required), such as Amazon or RatShack. Amazon and RatShack have their own ETF fee ontop of the carrier's ETF (to cover the cost of the phone), so you'll have to pay double if you terminate contract, but you have a time period for refund.

    After the 2 years contract period you get to own the subsidized phone, then you can renew the contract for another 2 year and get another subsidized phone. Under special conditions the carrier may allow you to upgrade subsidized phones sooner than the 2 year mark.

    T-Mobile is one carrier that do not do the 2 years contract anymore. You can sign up for their post paid plan, but you can leave anytime without paying ETF fee. You don't get subsidized price, but you make an initial deposit for a phone that you choose, then pay monthly for it on top of your regular plan until you pay off the full cost of the phone. So for example, if you pay $50/month for the plan, you pay another $15 per month for the phone. Once you pay off the cost of the phone, your total monthly bill will be $50 only and you own that phone. This is in contrast to the subsidized plan, where your monthly bill will never decrease. But T-Mobile charge a little more money for their phones, so its better to just buy an unlocked phone elsewhere, then create a plan with T-Mobile.

    Other than this, there are lots of prepay option as well, where you buy your own phone and not tied to any contract. Generally post paid plans have more benefits because you get more support and features, such as '411' and roaming, which may not be available for prepay options.
    Last edited by someguy01234; 01-07-2014 at 03:24 PM.
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