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Two basic technologies in mobile phones, CDMA and GSM, represent a gap you can't cross. They're the reason you can't use older AT&T phones on Verizon's network and vice versa. But what does CDMA vs. GSM really mean for you?

CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) and GSM (Global System for Mobiles) are shorthand for two older radio systems used in cell phones. In this story, I'll try to explain who uses which technology and what the real differences are.

We first ran this story in 2012 and have updated it almost every year since. In 2018, we're seeing some major changes coming that you need to know about—most notably, how Verizon is preparing to shut down its CDMA network at the end of 2019, and how 2G GSM is going extinct in the US.

Which Carriers Are CDMA? Which Are GSM?

In the US, Sprint, Verizon, and US Cellular use CDMA. AT&T and T-Mobile use GSM.

Most of the rest of the world uses GSM. The global spread of GSM came about because in 1987, Europe mandated the technology by law, and because GSM comes from an industry consortium. What we call CDMA, by and large, is owned by chipmaker Qualcomm. This made it less expensive for third parties to build GSM equipment.

 
GSM Carriers in the USA
  • Airfire Mobile

  • ASTAC

  • Asset/Vada Wireless (uses AT&T/ TMobile)

  • AT&T (Includes GoPhone Prepaid, Dobson Cellular, Edge Wireless and Centennial Wireless)

  • Broadpoint

 

  • Big Sky Mobile

  • Calhan Wireless

  • call4care

  • Cellular One of East Central Illinois

  • Cellular One of East Arizona

  • Cellular One Nation

  • Cellular One TXOK

  • Chariton Valley Wireless

  • Cincinnati Bell Wireless

  • Commnet Wireless (also uses CDMA)

  • Consumer Cellular (uses AT&T towers)

  • Cordova Wireless

  • Corr Wireless

  • Cross Communications

  • DTC Wireless

  • Earthtones

  • Epic PCS

  • Fuzion Mobile

  • GCI Wireless (also uses CDMA)

  • GTC Wireless (uses AT&T towers)

  • GoSmart Mobile

  • i wireless

  • Immix

  • Indigo Wireless

  • Jolt Wireless (uses AT&T towers)

  • KTC PACE

  • Locus Mobile (uses CDMA, Verizon & AT&T towers)

  • Long Lines Wireless

  • Mobal Freedom (uses AT&T towers)

  • Metro PCS (also uses CDMA)

  • NEP Wireless

  • Pine Cellular

  • Plateau Wireless

  • Pure Prepaid (uses AT&T towers)

  • Pure Talk USA (uses AT&T towers)

  • Simple Mobile (uses T-Mobile towers)

  • Shaka Mobile (also uses CDMA, Verizon & Sprint towers)

  • Telecom North America Mobile Inc

  • TerreStar

  • T-Mobile USA

  • TracFone Wireless (also uses CDMA, AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, US Cellular and T-Mobile towers)

•Includes NET10 Wireless, SafeLink Wireless, Straight Talk, SIMPLE Mobile and Telcel América

  • Tru (uses T-Mobile towers)

  • Union Wireless

  • Viaero Wireless

  • Wal-Mart Family Mobile (uses T-Mobile towers)

  • West Central Wireless

  • Westlink

  • XIT Communications

This list may not be accurate or out of date. There are new carriers and changes constantly, so to be sure ask your provider.

A full list of CDMA carriers in the USA

Appalachian Wireless

Bluegrass Cellular

Blue Wireless

Cellcom

Choice Wireless

C Spire Wireless

Chariton Valley Wireless

Chat Mobility

Clear Talk (Flat Wireless)

Commnet Wireless

Copper Valley Telecom

Custer Telephone Cooperative

Element Mobile

ETC (Enhanced Telecommunication Corporation)

Golden State Cellular

Illinois Valley Cellular

Inland Cellular

Mid-Rivers Communications

MTA Solutions

Mobi PCS

Nemont

Nex-Tech Wireless

NMobile

NorthwestCell

nTelos

NVC

Peoples Wireless

Pioneer Cellular

PTCI

Shentel

Silver Star Communications

Sprint Corporation

Sprocket Wireless/Cross Wireless

Standing Rock Telecom

STRATA Networks

Syringa Wireless

Thumb Cellular

United Wireless

U.S. Cellular

Verizon Wireless

Please check directly with the carrier to make sure is a CDMA carrier.

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