What is Mobile Phone Unlocking?
What you need to know about your cell phone and network provider.
These days, most mobile phones come “locked” to a particular network (i.e. T-Mobile, Cingular, Orange, Vodafone, Rogers, etc). This means that you will only be able to use your cell phone on the network from which it was originally purchased. For example if you purchased a phone from T-Mobile and later wanted to change your service provider to Cingular, your new Cingular SIM card would not work in the mobile phone you bought from T-Mobile.
This can be frustrating for several reasons. It can get very expensive if you have to purchase a new cell phone every time you change network service providers. And for the frequent travelers your roaming charges would cost you a fortune. For the bargain shoppers or if you are the person who is looking for the next best deal on your cell phone service plan, a locked phone can make this very difficult and costly.
The only solution to solve the problems listed above is to unlock your mobile phone. It is completely legal and is a more cost effective way to get the greatest use out of your cell phone. The only reason that your network provider lock their mobile phones is to discourage you from changing your cell phone service to a different network provider, thereby keeping your business until you buy a new phone from a different network.
What does it mean to unlock your phone?
When a wireless network provider ‘lock’ their phones, it means that their phones have been programmed to only work with SIMs issued by their company. Unlocking reverses the programming put on your phone by the network so it can work with any SIM on any compatible GSM network around the world.
What are the Benefits of unlocking your phone?
The benefits of unlocking your cell phone are:
If you have purchased a mobile phone that you like and have learned how to use, and want to change from one GSM wireless company to another one, you do not have to buy a new phone.
If you are a frequent traveler or take your cell phone on vacations, holidays and/or business trips an unlocked phone can reduce or eliminate roaming charges and give you the freedom to talk as you please (You just have to buy a Pay-As-You-Go SIM card from your travel destination and replace it in your unlocked cell phone.
What is a GSM phone and a SIM Card?
Conventional cell phone service providers works as follows:
Each mobile phone has a unique serial number, for GSM Phones it is a "IMEI #," which is used by the cell phone network provider to to identify who you are. It is like a unique finger print for your cell phone. The wireless service provider ‘knows’ that a particular serial number belongs to your phone and therefore knows where to send your phone calls when someone dials your phone number.
A GSM phone and network service is different because it is not directly linked to your cell phone. It is linked to a chip called a subscriber information module (SIM) card that is placed in your cell phone. The SIM card behaves the same way as the serial number but it is not unique to one phone. Instead, the SIM has the unique serial number.
The important difference is that you can put your SIM Card into any compatible GSM phone and that phone will now act as your phone. This is because the wireless network provider sees your SIM Card not the phone that it is inside. A GSM network provider does not care that you have changed phones, all it cares is where to find your SIM Card.
The reverse is true for your GSM mobile phone. Not only can you put your SIM Card into any compatible GSM phone, but you can also put any compatible SIM Card into your GSM phone. What this means is that you can use the same cell phone with different SIM Cards from different networks around the world.
Any GSM phone can work with any SIM. Therefore, if you have already purchased an expensive phone that you like and have learned how to use it, if you change from one GSM wireless provider to another compatible GSM Company, you do not have to change phones. You can keep the phone you have grown to love, and all you need to do is replace the first network’s SIM with your new service provider’s SIM Card.
This is where unlocking is useful. Even though your GSM mobile phone was originally designed to work with any SIM card, the network provider locks the phones they sell to ensure that you can only use the phone on their network so that they can keep your business for themselves. This limits the use of your phone on their network only. Unlocking your mobile phone enables you to use the cell phone you love on any network, anywhere around the world.
How do I know if I have a GSM mobile phone or not?
There are typically two types of mobile phone service providers GSM and CDMA. GSM is the most commonly used digital mobile phone service around the world. CDMA services are most readily available on older North American networks in the US and Canada, but just about every other country around the world uses primarily, only GSM Networks.
As a cell phone user, you will notice no difference between using a phone on a CDMA network or a phone on a GSM network. Unfortunately, these two different networks are not compatible with each other. As well, CDMA phones can only purchased from and can not be unlocked for use with other GSM networks.
For a complete list of GSM network providers around the world, please click here.