Millions of people utilize smartphones that rely upon GSM technology. GSM stands for Global System for Mobiles. In simple terms, this is the radio technologies that are used by a phone to connect to a cellular network. Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) is the alternative to GSM, and these technologies are not compatible with each other. Most of the world takes advantage of GSM today. In the United States, two major wireless carriers use this standard, and two others have opted for CDMA instead. Check out the cell phone plans below to find the best plan for your GSM phone.
In 1987, Europe passed legislation that made GSM a standard for wireless carriers in its countries. This allowed GSM networks to expand rapidly, and they found their way into the United States, too. GSM technologies are cheaper to implement than CDMA for one major reason. GSM comes from a consortium within the industry. On the other hand, CDMA comes from Qualcomm, a semiconductor company. It helps that GSM is the more open platform and is more versatile for consumers and carriers alike.
What sets GSM apart from CDMA?
For GSM networks, customer information and access codes are imprinted onto a SIM card. This SIM card is what's used to access the network in a given device. The mobile device itself doesn't matter, assuming it contains the necessary technologies to access GSM networks. Consumers can swap a SIM card from one device to another without worrying about the device failing to function. In CDMA, the network authenticates the device, but GSM networks authenticate through the SIM card's imprinted information.
GSM networks allow for simultaneous voice and data services. An individual can place a phone call and use the same network to browse the Internet. Non-GSM networks rarely allow to a person to perform both tasks at once. Therefore, many consumers consider this one of GSM's biggest benefits. Users never run the risk of their Internet connection cutting out while talking on the phone. An extra layer of multitasking is available because of this particular situation.
Wait, what about LTE?
Long Term Evolution (LTE) is the future of mobile networks, and major networks in the United States have already adopted LTE. 4G is another name for LTE, at least in America, although they're slightly different terms. Either way, GSM carriers tend to offer 4G networks that take advantage of LTE technologies. Major carriers tend to supplement LTE coverage with 2G and 3G GSM networks. LTE isn't available everywhere, and phone calls still tend to travel through 3G GSM networks.
Despite the growing use of LTE, GSM networks are still vital for consumers. Americans that travel abroad can use their devices with a new SIM card to access international networks. A GSM smartphone or cell phone is far more versatile than a CDMA device outside of North America. For that reason, it's not surprising that millions of people pay a GSM network provider for monthly wireless service. A more versatile solution doesn't exist, and dozens of different wireless plans are available.
Choosing A GSM Cell Phone Plan
Before choosing a plan, consumers need to compare GSM cell phone plans. Dozens of options are available, and they're not all equal among each other. Coverage, prices, data allotments, and other factors vary from plan to plan. In most cases, major carriers and mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) offer multiple plans. Wading through all of this information and choosing the best option can become a complicated process. The wrong decision could lead consumers to headaches and wasted money.
Here's a quick guide on how to compare GSM cell phone plans:
Network Operators & MVNOs
AT&T and T-Mobile operate their own networks in the United States. A variety of MVNOs purchase network capacity from those companies to provide their own services. Sometimes, AT&T and T-Mobile prioritize their own traffic compared to traffic coming from MVNOs. MVNO users might encounter slower data speeds than their counterparts, but that's not always the case. Many MVNOs operate as prepaid carriers, while AT&T/T-Mobile offer both post-paid and prepaid services for customers.
Speaking of post-paid and prepaid plans, consumers should consider both options. Post-paid customers pay for services after a service month has completed. Prepaid customers pay in full for services before they are rendered. For consumers with bad credit, prepaid networks make the most sense. The same is true for consumers that don't use their mobile devices that often because cheaper, pay-as-you go options are available. Post-paid services come with device discounts and other benefits, though.
Cost Per Month
Every wireless customer can expect to pay for service on a monthly basis. Prices can range anywhere from $25 to $100 or more, depending upon the specific plan. For basic users, GSM cell phone plans include calling minutes and text messaging only. Most consumers need a data allotment for mobile Internet access, too. A higher data allotment comes with an increasing price. In that vein, a large amount of high-speed data can cost well over $100, regardless of carrier choice.
A given consumer should partially base their decision upon the price. It's important to pay for what one will use in a given month. Likely, any unused minutes or data will expire and be forfeited. Consumers should consider their monthly allowable costs for wireless service because it's vital to stay within one's means. Many consumers will find that price is the single most important factor for choosing a GSM cell phone plan. For a bigger picture, prices should be calculated on an annual basis beforehand.
When choosing a GSM cell phone plan, consumers should consider the network they're choosing. AT&T and T-Mobile operate independent networks that vary in size and quality. Without a strong network, consumers will experience plenty of dropped calls and slow data speeds. MVNOs sometimes don't utilize a major carrier's whole network, so differences can exist from carrier to carrier. Each consumer should choose a carrier and plan that features excellent coverage in their actual local area.
Calling Minutes and Text Messaging
By now, unlimited calls and text messages have become standard in the industry. Consumers can sometimes find low-cost plans that feature limited minutes and texts. These plans can be useful for saving money each month. For some individuals, unlimited calls and texting is more cost-effective and makes the most sense. Limited plans tend to feature hefty fees for extra minutes and texts after all. The average consumer will select an unlimited plan to avoid hassles here.
Unlimited data plans are hard to come by these days. They still exist, but they're often somewhat expensive and come with limitations. More commonly, consumers can expect to find GSM cell phone plans with set data allotments. A customer cannot exceed that limit without paying for extra data. GSM and 4G LTE plans range from 500MB to 10GB or more in allowable data each month. Heavy mobile Internet users will need more data to avoid overage charges, but infrequent users can get away with less data. Data allotments are typically the driving force behind the price of a particular GSM cell phone plan. For the best results, consumers should estimate their monthly data needs and choose an appropriate plan. Paying for too much data is completely unnecessary, and it's actually a waste of money to say the least. Overall plan prices can be decreased significantly by choosing a reasonable data allotment. At this point, countless mobile customers pay for data they never end up using.
Other Factors To Consider
In the end, consumers will have to look at GSM cell phone plans in-depth. Each network operator tends to offer extra features that set themselves apart from others. Free music streaming and other gimmicks have become popular. Similarly, free international calls and texts are sometimes featured in a given plan. Certain companies offer auto-pay and other discounts for customers. These factors can make one plan far more desirable for a person than another plan in today's world.
Never Settle For Anything But The Best
Without a doubt, each consumer's definition of the best GSM cell phone plan will vary. A given person needs to find a network and plan that suits their needs and preferences. Anything that doesn't match such criteria isn't worth considering. For the best experience, consumers need to find a plan with ample coverage and features to meet a user's demands throughout each day. Consumers then need to find a plan that fulfills these needs at a reasonable price.
Individuals that compare GSM cell phone plans will eventually find the perfect option for themselves. Those that choose a plan or network at random will see less fruitful results. By looking at all pertinent factors, it's possible to find an excellent plan that provides value rather than being a waste of money. Putting in this effort is vital in choosing the right plan, and the right plan is different for each individual.
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