What Carrier is Your Phone Compatible With?

The best part about prepaid phones and networks is undoubtedly the flexibility. Most MVNOs and even some of the main networks allow customers to activate their own devices, provided that the phone is paid for, unlocked and compatible with the network. But, how do you tell if a phone is going to be compatible with a network? Well, if you’re buying the phone from the company then you know it will be. Likewise, if it’s a phone you already own, then most MVNOs have compatibility checks on their websites. But, if that isn’t the case, then here are some steps to checking if a phone will work on a given network:

Step 1: Know your Network

In order to make sure that a phone is compatible with a network, you first have to know what network you’re working with. In the United States, there are two main networks: CDMA and GSM. Neither is necessarily better than the other, but it will make a difference. Generally, AT&T, T-Mobile and all of the MVNOs which use those networks use GSM. Check our list of AT&T MVNOs and T-Mobile MVNOs to see if your company qualifies. On the other hand: US Cellular, Sprint, Verizon and any MVNOs that use those networks are CDMA. Check our list of Sprint MVNOs and Verizon MVNOs to see if your particular company uses a CDMA network.

Step 2: Check Frequencies

Now that you know which network your chosen company uses, you’ll want to check the frequencies in the list below to make sure that the phone is able to access the right bands. If your phone does not list all of the frequencies/bands for the given carrier, then at best you won’t be able to use the network properly.

GSM Networks

Here are the frequencies (listed in MHz) that the main GSM carriers support:
  • AT&T
    • 3G Bands: 2, 5
    • 3G Frequencies: 1900, 850
    • 4G Bands: 2, 4, 17
    • 4G Frequencies: 1900, 1700 abcde, 700 bc
  • T-Mobile
    • 3G Bands: 2, 4
    • 3G Frequencies: 1900, 1700/2100
    • 4G Bands: 2, 4, 12
    • 4G Frequencies: 1900, 1700 def, 700 a

CDMA Networks

Here are the frequencies (listed in MHz) that CDMA carriers support:
  • Verizon
    • 3G Bands: 0, 1
    • 3G Frequencies: 850, 1900
    • 4G Bands: 2, 4, 13
    • 4G Frequencies: 1900, 1700 f, 700 c
  • Sprint
    • 3G Bands: 10, 1
    • 3G Frequencies: 800, 1900
    • 4G Bands: 25, 26, 41
    • 4G Frequencies: 1900 g, 850, 2500
  • US Cellular
    • 3G Bands: 0, 1
    • 3G Frequencies: 850, 1900
    • 4G Bands: 5, 12
    • 4G Frequencies: 850, 700 ab

Step 3: Contact Carrier

Now that you’ve checked the bands and frequencies and, I assume, also confirmed that the phone is clear and free as far as debt and theft goes, you’re ready to contact your chosen company to order a SIM card. Click here to learn more about SIM cards. As a side note, if the phone is more than two years old, you’ll also want to be sure to double-check with the company to make sure they’ll be able to activate it prior to ordering a SIM. Sometimes the Big Four are a little weird about activating old phones and it never hurts to double-check! When you get your SIM (or activation code) follow the instructions and load up your phone. You’re ready to go! See? That wasn’t so hard.]]>

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