When you purchase a mobile phone, the cellphone provider usually “locks” the phone so that it can only be used on that provider’s network. However, you can unlock some phones, such as those with GSM technology, so they can be used on any network. GSM phones, which are beneficial to those who travel extensively, are not tied to one network, and unlocking the phone to make it compatible on all networks is easy and inexpensive.
GSM and CDMA:
Cellphones operate on either Global System Mobile (GSM) or Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) technology. GSM phones have a more complete coverage in regard to international calls and roaming, but the technology is actually older than the CDMA technology. It is also the most popular technology used by cellphone providers. CDMA is described as “spread spectrum.” It works by using codes to separate voice and data signals, and it is the preferred technology on 3G networks. While a GSM phone can be unlocked, allowing an user to switch the phone’s SIM card, CDMA phones cannot be unlocked. When a phone with GSM technology is unlocked, phone lists and information remain on the phone.
Software companies offer online software that can unlock mobile phones. These companies, including Global Unlock or UnlockMe, allow a user to download the software, which provides an unlock code. Occasionally a fee is involved with the software, but free options are available. Once the software has been downloaded, the user must e-mail the International Mobile Equipment Identity number, which is specific to each mobile phone. An unlock code will be generated to unlock the phone. Although many options are available for unlocking software, beware of fraudulent companies. Unlocking software might also not work with some newer phones.
The service provider often will provide the code to unlock a phone. Users must call the provider to speak to an operator, and request an unlock code for the mobile phone. Generally, the code is free, but sometimes a fee is involved. A provider might also require time before the unlock code is given. This is especially common in post-paid plans and could take as long as 12-months to resolve. Once the provider has given the unlock code, enter the code into the phone. The phone will unlock and will be ready for use on a different network.