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Ting on CDMA or GSM: Which network is right for me?

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Last updated by Allan B

CDMA and GSM networks are two types of cellular phone networks and generally if you have a device made for one, it can't be used on the other.

In the US, Sprint®* and Verizon run on CDMA networks while AT&T and T-Mobile run on GSM networks. Ting runs on both.

 

What’s Different

Coverage

There are slight differences in coverage depending on which network you choose to use. Our CDMA network has a larger footprint in rural areas so if this is a factor for you CDMA may be the network for you. In larger cities both networks are pretty close to equal. The best way to know for sure, though, is to check our coverage maps. Click here and select GSM coverage map or CDMA coverage map to see what kind of service you can expect. You can also select Let your device decide if you've already got a device and want to know which network it's compatible with.

No matter which network you choose though, you'll have access to voice text, and data (including LTE where available) while using native coverage, but only voice and text when roaming.

Roaming

International roaming is available for GSM but not for CDMA devices. However if you have a CDMA device, there are still options.

Device Selection

Just about any unlocked GSM device can be used on our GSM network with varying levels of compatibility, but for a device to work optimally on our CDMA network, it's currently best that it's a Sprint-branded device, with a few exceptions, particularly certain iPhone models. If you have great coverage on both of our networks and want some help figuring out what kind of devices can come to Ting, click the links below:

CDMA Bring Your Own Device Information

GSM Bring Your Own Device Information

Of course you can also just head over to ting.com/shop and purchase a device directly from us. You're guaranteed that it will be completely compatible with at least one of our networks, if not both.

 

What's the Same

Your Ting Account

On Ting, CDMA and GSM devices coexist under a single account and share a single pool of minutes, messages and megabytes. At the end of the billing cycle, they appear on a single monthly bill.

Plus, wherever we have both native Ting CDMA and GSM network coverage (and phone numbers available), you can move your number from a CDMA device to a compatible GSM SIM/device or vice versa.

Your Rates

On all domestic services, Ting service costs the same whether you're using the CDMA or the GSM network. You pay the same $6 plus taxes for each active line/device on your account, regardless of whether it's a CDMA or a GSM line.

  

Pros of CDMA Network

Device compatibility is easier to figure out - With very few exceptions, as long as your CDMA device can make the leap to Ting, then you can expect it to have all of its functionality (voice, text, 2G, 3G, 4G and LTE data, tethering etc). GSM devices are a little trickier and you will need to be aware of what kind of data is supported for your device. A device may be compatible with Ting on the GSM network but not with full functionality. Our compatibility checker will let you know what kind of functionality to expect and you’ll need to decide if that works for you.

More coverage - Currently Ting on the CDMA network covers more area, especially in rural areas, so the chances are higher that you'll be able to get coverage on the CDMA network than on the GSM network.

The bottom line:  If you want easy compatibility and you don’t live near a major city, then CDMA is probably the way to go.

 

Pros of the GSM Network

Better resale value - The resale value of GSM devices is generally higher because more people will pay for a phone that they have more chance of being able to unlock and take to another carrier.  

Easier switching between carriers - Most GSM devices can be moved from one carrier to another, assuming they are unlocked and support the required bands. While that capability has been opened up for CDMA devices, it's more difficult to do.

Easier switching between devices - In many cases moving from one device to another simply means moving a SIM card from one device to another. If the two devices take different size SIM cards, you can use the adapter that comes with the Ting GSM X1 SIM, purchase an adapter elsewhere or simply order a new SIM card; we can then move your number to the new SIM card.

International roaming options - While we have always recommended using your unlocked device with a local SIM card when you travel, if international roaming is important to you, then GSM will be the better choice for you with Ting. International roaming is supported for GSM devices but not CDMA devices on Ting.

The bottom line:  Assuming there’s solid GSM network coverage in your area, if you want to switch phones often, or even use imported phones (though with limited compatibility), and you want more freedom to move between carriers, then Ting on the GSM network may be the choice for you.

 

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Comments

  • Avatar
    Peter Rudy

    Very well written Isabel. ANYONE who is contemplating going GSM on Ting should be required to read your post!!!    Those of us in the Ting army that are GSM beta testers can now vouch for your advice on compatibility issues with GSM phones.  Even if you have a phone issued by the wireless service that will be the GSM supplier for Ting, there may still be an issue with LTE band coverage in certain areas.  Although I am a big fan and excited about GSM on Ting, your point is well taken that modern devices are Sprint are dead easy to use, set up and enjoy all services without issues.    

  • Avatar
    Bruce Osborne

    Isabel,

    International roaming is much more convenient that buying a SIM card.

    If I am going to Canada for a week, buying a SIM card for just that short time is inconvenient and, likely, more costly than International roaming.

  • Avatar
    Bruce Osborne

    Isabel,

    You may have forgotten a point under "Devices".

    I believe Ting has said that LTE capable Verizon devices sold since 2012 can likely move to Ting GSM. If that is the case, some people could move from Verizon to Ting GSM without having to buy new phones.

  • Avatar
    Isabel M

    @Peter - thanks for the kudos!

    @Bruce - I'll add in the point about Verizon since that's not clear without reading other articles. Thanks for the reminder. With regard to the international roaming, agreed, it's definitely more convenient to just roam, but it may not always be cost effective.

  • Avatar
    Thuan Dang

    Two quick notes

    1) Switching sim cards may not be a given. There are three different sizes of sim cards. While there are adapters, fit can be extremely tight. As to having different sim cards handy, I don't how Ting is going to work it, but I know that on AT&T, once you deactivate a sim; it can't be used again.

    2) Verizon phones may or may not get LTE. It depends on what bands T-mobile is broadcasting locally.

  • Avatar
    Isabel M

    Hi Thuan,

    1. The Ting X1 SIM card has all three SIM sizes built into it to make it easy to swap between devices. You just want to hang on to the different insert sizes. I've done that here on some of our devices and it's worked fine. If you're just swapping the card between devices you don't need to deactivate it.

    2. For more information about compatibility check out this article.

     

  • Avatar
    Thomas Snyder

    I'm a newbie trying to leave  Verizon and go to Ting. Pls add a discussion of the steps I must follow to determine if my Verizon Galaxy will actually be able to work on the Ting network. Some do, some don't. I need to find out IF so I can go forward. Couldn't get through on the phone so I'm trying this way.

  • Avatar
    Bruce Osborne

    Thomas,

    The easiest way is the Ting compatibility checker at https://ting.com/byod

  • Avatar
    Robert Cherry

    I'll second not being able to get through on the phone. Sitting on hold and getting hung up on isn't nearly as much fun as calling right back, sitting on hold for 15 minutes and getting hung up on AGAIN. WTF

     

  • Avatar
    Bruce Osborne

    Lately, I have found chat to be the best way to contact Ting support. I know they are training hew staff to improve their service.

  • Avatar
    Randy Phillips
    Is it possible to switch from GSM to CDMA?
  • Avatar
    Bruce Osborne
    If you have a Sprint branded phone (with a SIM, if needed) that passes the check at https://ting.com/byod you can activate that phone and choose to transfer you existing Ting number. After the transfer, the Ting GSM SIM will be useless because the SIM cannot be reactivated.
  • Avatar
    Warren Perkins
    For GSM, should there a difference between T-Mobile's signal strength and Ting's? I had two iPhones side by side and TM had three bars while Ting had one or none.
  • Avatar
    Joseph Wilsey

    I want to point out that you lose a few features using the GSM network versus the CDMA. I wish I had understood that this would be the case before I decided to try a GSM phone.

    1. You lose "visual" voicemail. With Sprint and CDMA, you have a voicemail app that you can use to listen to your voicemail, or even pay to do transcription (if you don't use Google Voice) The GSM network has no way to do visual voicemail, you have to call in to check it.

    2. If you are interested in using email-to-text service with GSM, this service is spotty at best. I use this because I run a business where servers are emailing me if they are dying and I frequently miss these texts, especially if several are sent to me at once.

    3. I haven't confirmed this, but I think the OTA updates don't work well. I ported an AT&T phone (because they were selling the model I wanted) and their update module says, "Check AT&T server for updates". It doesn't give errors, but every time I read about Stage fright problems, I expect an update some month, but nothing for six months.

    Even though the coverage appears to be the same between the CDMA and GSM phones in my house, I feel the GSM phone performs worse in the areas I use my phone the most. My survey is sample size=1 for GSM versus sample=4 phones for CDMA, so it could just be the particular phone I got (AT&T Galaxy S5 Active because it has real buttons).

  • Avatar
    Bruce Osborne

    3. I had no issues updating when I had my Nexus 5 on GSM. I know some Verizon phones have issues on Ting GSM due to Verizon's firmware customizations.

    On most Android phones, the updates come from the branded carrier I would not expect a carrier like AT&T to do anything but the bare minimum to update phones that are not on their network.

  • Avatar
    David Brick

    A good and complete discussion!

    Under "What's the Same" the article says:

    "Plus, wherever we have both native Ting CDMA and GSM network coverage (and phone numbers available), you can your number from a CDMA device to a compatible GSM SIM/device or vice versa."

    There's a missing word between "...you can" and "your number..." I assume that missing word is "move" or "switch."

    Is that correct?

  • Avatar
    Jamie Duncan

    Hey David!

    You got it, that is correct.. thanks for pointing this out to us. We will fix it up :)

  • Avatar
    Michael parrish

    If I run into problems because of Verizon's firmware couldn't I just root my phone and install a modded ROM like Cyanogen or paranoid android to solve that?

  • Avatar
    Bruce Osborne

    Some of the firmware restrictions are likely in the "modem" or radio part of the software that is separate from the OS part of the ROM.
    Most custom ROMS that are not based off the stock ROM are missing the dialer commands, etc. need to activate a device.

  • Avatar
    Nachral Technology

    Will rooted devices be able to play, or are there stock-only requirements?

    (and ... would Odin be able to address/be on-call for the issues with modem firmware?)

  • Avatar
    Bruce Osborne

    Nachral,

    It appears you are confusing rooted devices & stock firmware. They are two different things. A phone with stock firmware can be rooted.

    A rooted phone is definitely OK. Sometimes stock firmware is needed because some of the dialer menu codes that may be needed for activation are not available in custom firmware.

    I believe many people have installed custom firmware after activating their Ting device,

  • Avatar
    Chris Martin

    Just curious, the "partner" mentioned in the GSM map: I'm not sure what that means...would that be considered roaming?

  • Avatar
    David Brick

    Ting's partner in GSM-land is T-Mobile. When you're connected on the T-Mobile network, you are not roaming.

    If you're (for instance) connected via AT&T because there's no T-Mobile connectivity in your location, then your phone is roaming. Ting charges the same for T-Mobile voice connectivity as it does for "roaming" domestic voice connectivity. However, data roaming is not available through Ting.

    I'm currently using Ting on the GSM network. Its local service for me is no better (or slightly poorer) than CDMA), but I travel internationally and my occasional phone use overseas is much more convenient via Ting's GSM international roaming, compared to repeatedly buying and setting up SIM cards.

  • Avatar
    ozkan aydemir

    I had a nexus 5 using CDMA network that died on me. I purchased a GSM phone (huawei 5x) now. Does anyone know if I can use the existing SIM card with the new phone?

  • Avatar
    David Brick

    Probably not. Try it and see if you can connect.

  • Avatar
    Ming So

    I just bought an used phone and somehow I thought it would be using a GSM sim card and so I ordered one from Ting. When the phone arrived, it turned out to be CDMA instead. Can I return the unused GSM sim card and get a CDMA card? Thanks

  • Avatar
    Bruce Osborne

    Ming,

    The CDMA phones use a Sprint SIM. Most CDMA phones only need the SIM for LTE data. Your phone may have already come with the needed SIM.

    The needed SIM varies with the model of phone. You can determine which SIM is required by going to https://ting.com/shop/sim#cdma

    You need to call or chat with Ting support for this account-specific issue. This public user forum can be of little help.

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