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Growing GSM or dwindling CDMA?

MyrmidonMyrmidon Baron von PuttenhamCalifornia Icrontian
edited Jun 2013 in Science & Tech
Gentlemen and antigentlemen, I require your advice.

I'm currently hunting for a new cell carrier. I'm also insistent that that carrier be budget-as-fuck. To make things more helpful, I have narrowed down the type of phone I'd like - looking at the Samsung Galaxy S3 (S4 would be nice, but can't hack the price).

With the recent T-Mobile and MetroPCS merger, now seems like a pretty good time to get in with MetroPCS - especially since they're awfully cheap. Metro currently has a quite-small CDMA network, and T-Mobile will be phasing out that network come 2015 in favor of their GSM network. Over the course of the next two years, Metro GSM customers will see increasing network sizes... at least, that's how I understand it. The CDMA customers will notice no difference until two years (though the reps assure me there is nothing to worry about).

As a plus, Metro currently has a 'bring your own phone' deal, where any GSM-capable (UNLOCKED) phone can be slapped with a SIM card and added to their network. Caveat: it's currently only available in four cities. I don't live in one of the four... though the gentleman on the phone assures me that I can still do it in LA.

However:

I am an idiot. I can build a computer, crunch numbers, and acquire a fiance, but my knowledge of cell networks could fill a very, very small container.

Half full.

This is where you come in, ladies and nonladies of Icrontic. As I see it, I have a few options:

1. Buy the MetroPCS CDMA version of the S3 (SCH-R530).
PROS: Guaranteed to work with the Metro network. Company may offer incentives to buy GSM phones in the future as CDMA is phased out. Supports 4GLTE.
CONS: Will not work in Europe (and yes, I'm planning to go in the semi-near future). Metro's CDMA network is very limited. Network will not grow.

2. Buy a secondhand T-Mobile version of the S3 (SGH-T999), get it unlocked, hand it over to Metro.
PROS: GSM capable. Can use phone with european SIM (I THINK). Network will grow.
CONS: Network barely available (?) right now. The SGH-T999 doesn't support 4GLTE, has shittier network speed than other S3s. Not sure how to unlock.

3. Buy a secondhand ATT version of the S3 (SGH-I747), get it unlocked, hand it over to Metro.
PROS: Same as 2, plus this phone does support 4GLTE.
CONS: Network barely available (?) right now. Not sure how to unlock.

4. Buy the international version of the S3 (GT-I9305), hand it over to Metro.
PROS: awesome fucking phone. Network will grow.
CONS: May not work in the US (is there a band mismatch? I don't know these things). Network barely available (?) right now. Also,


Now, I don't even know if these pros and cons lists are RIGHT. I could be COMPLETELY wrong - maybe the ATT version of the phone straight up won't work. Maybe the international version screams out here, and everything is awesome. Maybe the T999 doesn't actually suck.

Professional opinions, chaps: WAT DO? CDMA or GSM? Go for scary unlock-oh-god-will-this-even-work or safe CDMA and gamble on later company incentives?

HALP


tl;dr Should I go with a guaranteed-to-work CDMA phone on a moderately sized network, or risk trying to unlock a GSM phone to a small-ass network that should grow to be huge in the span of two years? Also, if the latter, which version and how I do?
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Comments

  • ThraxThrax Professional Shill, Watch Slut, Mumble Hivemind Drone Austin, TX Icrontian
    edited Jun 2013
    MetroPCS does not have a GSM network. It only has an LTE and a CDMA network. You will need a phone with 1700, 1900 or 2100MHz LTE support. Either phone will lock you into Metro's network, because CDMA is always proprietary, and nobody shares LTE bands with another carrier.

    This is literally the worst possible choice you could make if you care about coverage or compatibility with other carriers.
  • MyrmidonMyrmidon Baron von Puttenham California Icrontian
    edited Jun 2013
    THRAX Y U SKIP TO TL;DR STAHP

    Thanks for the input, but I don't think that's quite right.

    MetroPCS merged with T-Mobile about two weeks ago. They WILL support GSM phones in the future, and currently are rolling out support for it now in select cities (I realize this press release doesn't say LA, but the three techs I spoke to over the phone insist it's doable in LA. I'd wager "soon.") http://www.engadget.com/2013/06/12/metropcs-launches-gsm-based-bring-your-own-phone-service/

    So CDMA is starting to fall off the face of the earth, is that what I'm hearing? Or wait, you're telling me to not choose the carrier, not to choose CDMA, or not to choose a GSM phone with this carrier? I am become confuse. :(
  • ardichokeardichoke Icrontian
    You might also look into http://ting.com

    They run off Sprint's network, but the customer service is top-notch and the pricing is excellent. Plus, what other company refunds you for unused service? Answer: NONE OF THE BASTARDS!
  • ThraxThrax Professional Shill, Watch Slut, Mumble Hivemind Drone Austin, TX Icrontian
    Buy a T-Mobile phone and go with straighttalk or simple talk. Inexpensive without playing a specious game of poker with post-merger plans.
  • PirateNinjaPirateNinja I don't know how to not Icrontian
    What if you did option #3 and switched to Virgin Mobile? I think it is as cheap if not cheaper than Metro PCS.
    My one real recommendation is that when you go to Europe, turn every service on your mobile off except voice and enjoy the disconnect (if possible). You can always use hotel wireless if you really want data.
  • mertesnmertesn I am Bobby Miller Yukon, OK Icrontian
    Thrax said:

    Buy a T-Mobile phone and go with straighttalk or simple talk. Inexpensive without playing a specious game of poker with post-merger plans.

    Best option ^

    Alternatively, if you really want the Galaxy S4, T-Mobile does offer zero percent payment plans. Based on some quick looking, you'll pay $20/mo for 24 months plus an up front payment of whatever that $480 doesn't cover (looks like around $99). If you decide to leave T-Mo before that 24 months is up, you'd have to pay the remainder of that $480 when you leave.

    Stay away from CDMA.
  • TushonTushon I'm scared, Coach Alexandria, VA Icrontian
    Buy Nexus 4 and T-mobile's 35/month unlimited data up to 5GB (can be throttled after that), 100 minutes (you will use a VOIP app for calls via your regular number and google voice magic) and unlimited texts. Done?
  • MyrmidonMyrmidon Baron von Puttenham California Icrontian
    edited Jun 2013
    These are all good ideas, and I appreciate them. Just because I like to think out loud, here...

    @PirateNinja - Virgin uses CDMA. The only reason I'd really consider Metro is because they're getting off CDMA eventually... but god, to virgin's prices look good.

    @Tushon This is worth looking into for sure...

    @Thrax @mertesn I do like T-Mobile, but no matter which way I go, this is handing 70-90 bucks a month over to them. I'm actually making less money as an IT guy now than I did as a fake teacher... it's only an extra 30 bucks either way, but I can pinch that penny.


    The whole crux of this is, though, is "what if I DID want to gamble on Metro?" Mostly because if I gamble and lose, I can always switch to one of these ideas anyway. There's very little risk when you have no contract.
  • MyrmidonMyrmidon Baron von Puttenham California Icrontian
    Looked into the VOIP idea. It's pretty fucking awesome... but has anyone given it a shot?

    To my infinite sadness, I don't see T-Mobile's $35 unlimited text and web deal. :(
  • MyrmidonMyrmidon Baron von Puttenham California Icrontian
    Classic plans are available for existing Classic/Legacy customers who need a rate plan change. Customers can also Add-A-Line (AAL) to a Classic/Legacy family plan. However, Classic is no longer available to new customers/numbers in T-Mobile Retail and Branded stores (except in Washington, D.C.).
    shit. That encompassed the 100 minutes, unlimited data plan.
  • TushonTushon I'm scared, Coach Alexandria, VA Icrontian
    edited Jun 2013
    I don't either ... I know it was a pre-paid option. I just spent 25 mins trying while doing EVE shit. Maybe just call them and ask for the $35 unlimited data and 100 minute prepaid plan and how to do it.
  • fatcatfatcat Mizzou Icrontian
    edited Jun 2013
    the $35/month unlimited data 100 minutes talk plan was a wal-mart/tmo promo that has expired

    http://prepaid-phones.t-mobile.com/prepaid-plans

    EDIT> found searching wal-mart $30/m plan
    http://www.walmart.com/ip/Tmobile-30-Wireless-Airtime-Card/15443357
  • RyanFodderRyanFodder Detroit, MI Icrontian
    What.

    "The $30 Unlimited Web & Text with 100 min talk plan works only with T-Mobile Phones purchased from a Walmart store or from Walmart.com."
  • fatcatfatcat Mizzou Icrontian
    edited Jun 2013

    What.

    "The $30 Unlimited Web & Text with 100 min talk plan works only with T-Mobile Phones purchased from a Walmart store or from Walmart.com."

    -This is an excellent plan for high speed data. Please note that to get on this plan you DO NOT need to purchase a new cell phone from Walmart as few others have pointed out in the reviews. Here's my setup (using my Nexus One).
    Purchased a T-Mobile activation kit (basically the SIM card). Popped the SIM into my phone and activated it using the instruction on the activation kit pack. Once activated, bought this pack from Walmart. Walmart sent an email with topup code and phone number to activate this.Called that number to apply this topup. Done! Using this plan with my old phone.
    Also, if you exhaust 100 mins. provided with this plan you CAN add more minutes anytime. For those extra minutes you pay by the minute. Topup again on the next refill date to get 100 free minutes

    -In order for you to get this plan you need a new activation from Tmobile. That means you have to buy an Activation Kit, get it from Amazon.com for $3. After you receive this kit, you must activate new phone number on tmobile.com. DO NOT Call them or you will not be able to pick this plan. After putting all the info from activation kit and IMEI # from ANY tmobile phone, it will prompt you to pick the plan that you want, pick this plan. Then it will provide you with the new phone number. If you get some kind of message from tmobile saying that they are processing you request and blah blah blah, DO NOT call them, Try again or pick a different area code for your new number. It took me 3 times before I got my new number. After you get this plan you can either pay be credit card there or buy this card from walmart.com and get it in the email. Also for unlimited calls in the US you can get skype calling for $3 a month voice over ip. Works great, I love my new and cheap PLAN.
    The reviews say otherwise about having to have a wal-mart phone
  • AnnesAnnes Tripped Up by Libidos and Hubris Alexandria, VA Icrontian
    Eli and I both bought Nexus 4 and the micro SIM cards online. Just called and activated the $30 plan. It's the fucking tits.
  • MyrmidonMyrmidon Baron von Puttenham California Icrontian
    Fucking awesome.

    I'm glad I looked into this - I straight up called T-Mobile and they do in fact still have this exact $30 plan that you're talking about. They sent me a sim card for my current ATT phone (which I must now unlock) and a sim card for a future S4 that I'd like to buy... totalling two bucks (apparently they had a sale?).

    Now all I have to do is port my number to my google voice account for 20 bucks and I'm set!

    Thanks for the input, you guys!
  • TushonTushon I'm scared, Coach Alexandria, VA Icrontian
    You're welcome. Thanks for finding that @fatcat. :D I'll need it in a few months
  • RyanFodderRyanFodder Detroit, MI Icrontian
    I
    Tushon said:

    You're welcome. Thanks for finding that @fatcat. :D I'll need it in a few months

    Whenever iWireless gets their 4g, hopefully this still applies.
  • ThraxThrax Professional Shill, Watch Slut, Mumble Hivemind Drone Austin, TX Icrontian
    edited Jun 2013
    Your AT&T phone will never get 3G on T-Mobile's network, just FYI. You will be stuck on 2G service.
  • MyrmidonMyrmidon Baron von Puttenham California Icrontian
    edited Jun 2013
    Thrax said:

    Your AT&T phone will never get 3G on T-Mobile's network, just FYI. You will be stuck on 2G service.

    (Edit for clarification, sorry):

    How come? I notice that my ATT phone does support UTMS and HSDPA at 1900 MHz, and T-mobile's 3G network is this frequency and both these protocols.
  • ThraxThrax Professional Shill, Watch Slut, Mumble Hivemind Drone Austin, TX Icrontian
    T-Mobile's 3G network is 1700 and 2100MHz. 1900MHz belongs to AT&T nationwide.
  • TushonTushon I'm scared, Coach Alexandria, VA Icrontian
    That's why I said Nexus 4, but I failed to explain :/
  • MyrmidonMyrmidon Baron von Puttenham California Icrontian
    edited Jun 2013
    I only continue asking because you'd know better than I would, not out of impertinence:

    http://support.t-mobile.com/docs/DOC-5736 (this is actually more recent than their official 3G overview, which DOES state it only uses 1700/2100).

    According to this, T-Mobile DOES have HSPA on 1900 MHz. Now, my phone definitely handles HSDPA (though no word on HSUPA). Reckon I can still use the D part of HSPA?

    Meanwhile, Wiki seems to think they do UMTS at 1900MHz. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T-Mobile_US#Radio_frequency_spectrum_chart . Is this just completely wrong? I don't see any mention of UMTS in the Network Evolution document.


    HAVING SAID ALL THAT, The samsung focus will also do UMTS and HSDPA at 2100 MHz... which is where T-mobile sits anyway. Any reason beyond that that I wouldn't be good?
  • ThraxThrax Professional Shill, Watch Slut, Mumble Hivemind Drone Austin, TX Icrontian
    1) T-Mobile has 1900MHz GSM support in San Francisco, Cupertino and sections of NYC. Why? Because T-Mobile wanted to lure iPhone users at Apple's flagship stores, around Apple's HQ, and where they unveil new iPhones.

    2) The 2100MHz on your AT&T phone is for Europe, which is not the same as the 2100MHz used for T-Mobile. They are not compatible.

    3) Both 1700MHz and 2100MHz are required for T-Mobile, because they handle downloads on one band and uploads on the other. The phone will not function on the network without both.

    4) HSPA, HSDPA and HSPA+ are generational improvements in 3G GSM download technologies, ordered from slowest to fastest. HSUPA is the upload component of all three technologies.

    5) To reiterate: you need a new phone, or to be content with 2G.
  • MyrmidonMyrmidon Baron von Puttenham California Icrontian
    Where can I find this information? This is good shit.
  • ThraxThrax Professional Shill, Watch Slut, Mumble Hivemind Drone Austin, TX Icrontian
    I read ~200 articles a week on the mobile industry. All in my noodle.
  • MyrmidonMyrmidon Baron von Puttenham California Icrontian
    As an update, I'm just grabbing the nexus 4. The next sentence was going to give reasons for my decision, but I'm pretty sure everyone on IC is already on the nexus 4 bandwagon, so I'll just sit quietly over here.

    @Thrax - is there a good review article on cell network infrastructure for someone like me - like, the way academia does review papers every now and then to bring new researchers up to speed? Most of the shit I find on google regarding cell networks seems heavily watered down and pandering, leaves me with more questions than answers.
  • ThraxThrax Professional Shill, Watch Slut, Mumble Hivemind Drone Austin, TX Icrontian
    I don't know of any one-size-fits-all explanation of who owns what spectrum. I agree that the situation is quite cloudy for someone who doesn't obsess over it like I do.
  • MyrmidonMyrmidon Baron von Puttenham California Icrontian
    You should write that review paper.
    RyanFodder
  • RyanFodderRyanFodder Detroit, MI Icrontian
    I would read it.
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