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Unlocked Phones Still A Dream In America

Users in Europe have long been able to buy a phone just about anywhere, slip in their SIM from any network and get voice, text and data access. In the US though, this is just a dream, and will likely continue that way for some time to come.

Ed Hansberry

November 16, 2010

2 Min Read

Users in Europe have long been able to buy a phone just about anywhere, slip in their SIM from any network and get voice, text and data access. In the US though, this is just a dream, and will likely continue that way for some time to come.LTE networks are coming in the US and it is often assumed that its arrival will allow users to swap phones around much like Europeans have been doing for years, but that probably won't be the case.

Andrew Seybold has written an article highlighting the key issues that will keep the American phone networks pretty much the way they are today, with little freedom for the users to move between networks or swap out phones at will.

Today of course the differences are easy to see. Sprint and Verizon use CDMA and don't have SIM cards, so the only way to get a phone on their network is with their help, AT&T and T-Mobile are a little bit better. They use GSM so the SIM cards are easily swapped, but the phones may still not work well in some areas, and not at all in others. This is because T-Mobile and AT&T use different frequencies in some areas. Their 3G technologies are also different, so even if you are online, I hope you enjoy your GPRS speeds.

LTE won't really change much for the US though. LTE devices have SIM cards so getting voice and text messages should be feasible, but data is another story. The device will have to support 2G and 3G to be useful, and that means it will need to be designed for a specific network.

To make matters worse, LTE isn't one frequency, but eleven. I am not sure how LTE will be deployed in Europe, but in the US, I think it is a safe bet to assume that the big four networks will do what they have to to keep you from swapping networks and phones at will.

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