Tired of your current carrier and thinking of giving T-Mobile a try?
Before you make a change, we've looked at some of the things you need to know if you're considering moving to a T-Mobile plan - including whether you can take your phone with you.
Can I bring my own phone?
That depends on where your phone came from, and what sort of device you actually own. If you bought your phone through another provider, it might not function on T-Mobile's network. Carriers within the US rely on different cellular technologies, so a device designed to work on one network isn’t necessarily going to be compatible with another.
- Generally, a mobile device sold by Sprint will not work on T-Mobile, but newer LTE-capable Verizon phones may be able to access T-Mobile LTE..
- If you’re coming from AT&T, chances are you’ll have better luck.
If you purchased your phone outright from a third-party dealer with no attached plan, then you have an improved chance of bringing it with you to a new carrier. Phones sold in this way are often unlocked, meaning they are open to work on any compatible network.
We recommend you check out our carrier-switching guide for a more in-depth look at taking phones between carriers. If not, the three main tips we can give you are:
1) Make sure it is a GSM-based (or compatible) phone
There are two major network technologies in the US: GSM (AT&T, T-Mobile) and CDMA (Verizon, Sprint). These are not compatible, although there are now devices available that are designed to work with both: look for 'dual SIM' or 'global' phones from CDMA carriers.
2) Make sure it is unlocked
Sometimes a phone will be locked to a specific network. This is usually when a phone is purchased through a carrier, or as part of a carrier plan. If this is the case, the device will not work on another network, even if its technology is fully compatible.
If your phone is locked to a carrier network, you will need to contact that carrier to request an unlock.
3) Get the frequencies right
If you’re buying a GSM phone within the US, it's likely to support T-Mobile's network frequencies. But if you’re ordering it from overseas, there are no guarantees. Check the phone’s specifications to make sure it conforms to T-Mobile's network:
- 2G: 1900MHz frequency (Band 2)
- 3G: 1700MHz and 2100MHz frequencies (Band 4)
- 4G (LTE): 700Mhz frequency (Band 12), 1700 MHz and 2100MHz frequencies (Band 4), 1900MHz frequency (Band 2)
What about LTE compatibility?
All LTE smartphones sold by Verizon now come network unlocked, but older devices may not be compatible with the spectrum of LTE that T-Mobile uses.
Technically, some Sprint devices should be compatible with T-Mobile’s LTE network, and both 2G and 3G service, but T-Mobile currently states that the only Sprint phones eligible for BYOD plans are newer model iPhones.
So to sum it up: if your phone is an unlocked GSM device, or an unlocked GSM/CDMA device that can run on a compatible LTE band (so for Verizon phones, Band 4), you should be able to use it with T-Mobile plans.
Before you switch...
Whether or not you're bringing your own phone, there are still a few more things you should tick off your list before making the jump to a T-Mobile cell plan.
Check your coverage
T-Mobile tends to divide critics when it comes to LTE coverage. If you live in a metro area you’re probably fine, but for anyone outside cities or for frequent travellers, reviews are mixed.
Fortunately T-Mobile gives new customers a 30-day coverage guarantee. If you sign up to a T-Mobile plan and phone but you're unhappy with the network, you can return your device within 30 days for a full refund (including service costs).
Your next move is figuring out what it will cost you to make the leap to T-Mobile. If you’re not on a contract, or your two-year service plan is up, congratulations – you don’t need to worry about early termination fees. Otherwise, you may be charged a fee by your current carrier for canceling your service before your contract is over.
Currently, T-Mobile will cover up to $350 in fees for each line you bring over from Sprint, Verizon or AT&T (provided you buy a new device and port your number), but you’ll need to provide T-Mobile with copies of your final statement from your previous carrier. T-Mobile will repay the total of eligible charges in the form of a prepaid MasterCard.
T-Mobile will also reimburse any remaining device payments from your previous carrier – up to $300 per device, per line – provided you purchase a new handset when switching networks, and trade-in your old phone. So if you meet the above criteria, you can claim up to $650 for each line you switch (although, realistically, most customers won't be eligible for the full $650).
Check for discounts
Another thing that customers often forget is checking to see if they are eligible for any discounts with their new carrier. Depending on where you work or study, or if you’ve served in the armed forces, you may be able to receive lower-than-advertised pricing for your monthly plan.
Porting your number
You can also check that your phone number has the OK to be ported to a T-Mobile plan via the carrier’s web portal. Running a check won’t affect your current service at all, so you don’t need to wait until you switch to find out if you can take your number with you.
To port your number, your new carrier needs to offer service in the same location where that number originated – so unless you're moved since then, this won’t be a problem.
The most important thing to remember is not to cancel your old service until your new T-Mobile plan is set up, otherwise you won't be able to port your number.
If you want to use your current phone with a new T-Mobile plan, you'll also want to back up your data and contacts (if possible) before moving your service.
Benefits of T-Mobile
If you're new to T-Mobile and want to go postpaid, your options start from $70 per month for the T-Mobile One unlimited talk, text and 4G LTE data plan. You'll also get unlimited music streaming, unlimited talk, text and data throughout Canada and Mexico, mobile hotspot use, and much more. The premium One Plus and One Plus International options are priced at $75 and $95 per month respectively, each for a single line.
Customers can buy a device at full price upfront, or pay it off under T-Mobile’s Equipment Installment Plan over the course of 24 months. You can also choose to upgrade early through the carrier’s JUMP! program, instead of waiting the usual two-year period; however, this option comes with a monthly fee of between $9 and $12 (depending on your device).
Original woman with phone image via Shutterstock
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T-Mobile is one of the "Big Four" cell phone carriers in the United States, a key player in the wireless market. Founded in 1994, T-Mobile USA is helmed by outspoken CEO John Legere.
- Network: T-Mobile's 4G LTE network runs on LTE bands 4 and 12. These bands use the frequencies 1900, 1700 def and 700a. For phones using 2G or 3G network technology, the T-Mobile network will primarily use the 1900 MHz frequency.
- Coverage: At last check, T-Mobile ranked #3 in overall coverage in the U.S. That may change, though, as the company quickly buys up spectrum in previously-uncovered areas.
- Where to Buy: T-Mobile products can be purchased online or at one of the company's over 3,500 U.S. stores.
- Bring Your Own Phone to T-Mobile: Customers can bring along their unlocked, GSM-compatible phones for service on T-Mobile. Just make sure that the device supports T-Mobile's LTE bands and 3G frequencies; you can check here.
- Tethering: T-Mobile's unlimited ONE plan includes unlimited hotspot data at up to 3G speeds. Customers can add ONE Plus to get unlimited Smartphone Mobile HotSpot data at up to 4G LTE speeds.
- Taxes & Fees: One of the biggest perks of T-Mobile is that all taxes and fees are included in the price of their plans.
Fact: T-Mobile's unlimited plans have been incredibly popular, and arguably moved the entire wireless industry in the direction of all-you-can-use talk, text and data plans. Learn more about T-Mobile via our carrier review.