Why We Don’t Recommend 2G GSM Phones in the US

Why We Don’t Recommend 2G GSM Phones in the US

If you’re shopping for a voice phone, an imported wireless device, or a kids‘ smartwatch, you need to look at the mobile networks these devices support. Especially down at the cheap end of the market, many of the phones and gadgets you’ll find on Amazon are 2G GSM, also known as quad-band GSM, GSM/EDGE, or GSM 850/1900—all of which you want to avoid.4g gsm desk phone

To repeat: do not buy any phones or devices in the US that support only GSM or EDGE networks any more, like the BLU Tank II shown above. CDMA, 3G, 4G—that’s all fine for now. Just not GSM/EDGE.

It’s frustrating, because the 2G GSM devices you find on Amazon fill gaps in the US market. They’re flip phones for older people or inexpensive safety devices for kids. But the 2G GSM network situation in the US on AT&T and T-Mobile has become bad enough that those devices can’t be relied upon anymore.

Now, if you’re bringing in a phone from overseas, or you’re not familiar with the US’s wacky network standards, you may wonder, „what about Verizon and Sprint?“ While both of those companies are running their 2G CDMA networks until at least the end of 2019, GSM devices do not work on their networks at all, and their CDMA networks will not accept devices that haven’t been pre-approved by the carriers.GSM equipment is very cheap, but compared to more modern standards, it’s very inefficient. Old GSM networks can support fewer users per tower than newer 3G and 4G networks, and they have much slower mobile data speeds.

Many other countries still support 2G because it’s cheap, gets a relatively long range from a tower, and their customers aren’t heavy data users. The range argument doesn’t work in the US because our longest-range frequencies (600MHz and 700MHz) are new enough that 2G equipment doesn’t support them. The way US carriers have implemented things, 4G can get better range than 2G because it’s on lower frequencies.

Each carrier only has limited spectrum, and AT&T and T-Mobile haven’t sold 2G-only devices for a few years now. So they had to decide whether to keep supporting an old network either for very old devices and devices they don’t sell directly, or to turn over the bandwidth to newer, more efficient standards.

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