LTE, GSM and CDMA Differences Explained

LTE Network

As you probably know by now, US Mobile runs on a GSM network. But what is really differentiating GSM from CDMA and LTE and why should you care? Well for one, you should understand what your options are when it comes to your phone plan and switching carrier.

LTE is short for Long Term Evolution and is a 4G wireless broadband technology developed to achieve high-speed data. 4G is the fourth generation of technology, following 2G and 3G. In order be classified as 4G connectivity, a phone’s connection speed needs to peak at 100 MB/s, and a mobile hotspot needs to reach at least 1 GB/s. LTE is a technology developed to enable 4G to reach those speeds and be noticeably faster than 3G.

GSM means Global System for Mobile communications, which is a network that supports both cellular and data. Both T-Mobile and AT&T operate on a GSM network.

CDMA is another network meaning Code Division Multiple Access, used by for instance Verizon and Sprint. Like GSM, CDMA supports cellular and data.

LTE Phone Compatibility

Historically, the way of knowing if a phone was compatible with GSM or CDMA was to check if the phone had a SIM card slot. If it had, it meant that it was a GSM phone.

GSM networks use a SIM card to store a subscriber’s identity and info, while CDMA devices have electronic serial numbers embedded in the device and require reprogramming to change networks. Consequently, it’s easy to go from AT&T to T-Mobile just by swapping SIM card in your device. Moving between GSM and CDMA has been inherently harder.

However, as LTE entered the market things have gotten a bit easier. The reason being that in order to access LTE and fast data speed, you need a SIM card no matter if you’re using CDMA or GSM. All LTE networks in the US are using GSM technology, as CDMA Technology is too old to handle LTE speeds. Due to this, newer Verizon and Sprint phones all use a SIM card and will, therefore, work on GSM networks. As a rule of thumb, if you have an iPhone 5, or a later/equivalent model, you can BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) to different carriers with just the swap of a SIM Card.

To find out if your phone is LTE enabled, check out this list or click on the brand below.

Apple   –   Samsung   –   Huawei   –   LG   –   Alcatel   –   HTC   –   Sony

End of an Era for CDMA?

Seeing as all new phones aren’t using CDMA, it raises the question if CDMA will disappear once old CDMA phones aren’t active anymore? With an average cycle of replacing devices, pretty much all CDMA devices will be gone by 2020. Currently, just a fraction of Verizon and Sprint’s customers are utilizing the CDMA, as they’re mainly on LTE. Time will tell if and when Verizon and Sprint will get rid of CDMA altogether.

Image Source: Experiencesure