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Friday, March 21, 2008

Mobile Networks: GSM vs CDMA. What's the Diff and Why Should You Care?

In the U.S. there are two major types of cell phone networks, CDMA and GSM. Here are some quick breakdowns so you get the difference:

GSM (Global System for Mobile communications)

Providers: AT&T, T-Mobile

Characteristics: Phones require a SIM card (not to be confused with an SD card). GSM phones are notorious for causing nearby speakers to make that awful screeching noise.

Advantages:
1) The majority of the world uses GSM - which means that there is a wider variety of phones available.
2) Switching from one phone to another is as easy as swapping the SIM card.

Disadvantages:
1) Network is generally less reliable than CDMA.
2) Downloads and web browsing take longer than CDMA's data network.

Joe Says: Stick with GSM if you plan do a lot of international traveling.


CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access)
Providers: Verizon Wireless, Sprint, Alltel

Characteristics: Phones do not use a SIM card.

Advantages:
1) The CDMA network is generally more reliable than GSM.
2) CDMA also allows faster data transfer than GSM - which means quicker web browsing and attachment downloading on your phone!

Disadvantages:
1) CDMA is only used in North America and parts of Asia.
2) The customer is limited to the phones made available by their provider.
3) Because CDMA is not considered the global standard, cell phone manufacturers make GSM versions of their phones available first to reach the larger market. Ever wonder why the Blackberry Curve has been available on AT&T and T-Mobile for a year while Verizon and Sprint have gotten no love?

Joe Says: Stick with CDMA if you plan to do business in North America.*


*Note: Verizon and Sprint now offer global phones that have both GSM and CDMA capabilities, but pickins are slim.

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