Need a new cell provider..
June 6, 2011 9:40 AM   Subscribe

What GSM cell provider should I port my number to?

I'm a longtime Verizon Wireless customer, and their service has treated me fairly well, but it's time for us to part. I am no longer under contract, and am looking to change providers.

A friend has kindly given me his old Nokia N95, which is an unlocked quad-band GSM phone. The phone also supports Wi-Fi and can be used with VoIP protocols, including native support for SIP. I am hoping to take advantage of these functions as much as possible, and am therefore looking for a minimal, contract-free cell service. I live in Massachusetts, but I also have plans to travel to Costa Rica, and plan to use the phone there, whether it be with a 'global' provider, or with a SIM I buy locally.

I have accounts with Google Voice, old Gizmo account, Skype, fring, etc. I am interested in the possibility of data options and text-message plans, though that is flexible. Some services I have considered include: Truphone (with the Tru SIM), Virgin Mobile, T-Mobile, or other MVNO, mostly for cheap/contract free options.


• What are the best options for domestic, contract-free, cheap GSM services?
• What are the best options for Wi-Fi & VoIP based calling?
• What is the best solution for a combination of the above for international traveling, particularly in Costa Rica? Does anyone have experience with Truphone or another travel-oriented service?

Any and all thoughts are appreciated.
posted by mistikle to Technology (11 answers total)
Just out of curiosity, why is it time for you to part with Verizon? I'm not trying to get you to reconsider, but some of the reasons you are leaving Verizon might have relevance in recommending a new provider.
posted by pdb at 9:57 AM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Pretty sure Virgin Mobile is non-GSM, and they don't let you use non-VM phones. I'm a happy VM customer, though, and I highly recommend them if you're not wedded to the Nokia N95.
posted by mskyle at 10:02 AM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: @pdb The main reasons I'm looking to leave Verizon are to hopefully decrease my monthly bill, and also because I plan to travel, and it therefore seems to make sense to go GSM. Not to mention I've been given a decent GSM phone. If I were planning on staying in the same area, I'd likely consider sticking with Verizon and getting an Android of some sort, but basically I'm trying to be practical and save money.

@mskyle Hadn't realized that about Virgin Mobile. Thanks for the heads up. Also good to hear you've had a good experience with them; I've heard mixed reviews.
posted by mistikle at 10:12 AM on June 6, 2011

mskyle's right about Virgin Mobile.

I'm also pretty sure that T-Mobile's odd 3G frequencies are incompatible with the N95, which means you're stuck with EDGE for mobile data. If that's not a problem, given your intentions, then you might find the T-Mob prepaid non-contract options a good fit for your US service, and a local SIM when you're abroad.
posted by holgate at 10:14 AM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

AT&T, t-mobile and are all GSM and all have pay as you go options. I'm using t-mobile right now, and am pretty happy, I get 1500 minutes and or texts plus 30 mb of data per month for $30, no contracts, no activation, no other fees. I use an iphone and am pretty happy with using wi-fi for my intense browsing, then using the 30mb data plan for occasional e-mail or checking something on yelp, or looking up something on a map. Of course, t-mobile may have only a few months to live, but I've heard similarly good things
posted by skewed at 10:16 AM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh, and yeah, t-mobile's 3g frequency might not be compatible with your phone (it isn't with my iphone either), but if you're looking to mostly use wi-fi for data, going down to edge speeds isn't a big deal for the kind of very limited data you'd be using. I played around with it a bit and found I could still stream audio stories from npr over edge, but couldn't manage to get any youtube clips to work.
posted by skewed at 10:19 AM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

I use a T-Mobile sim card and prepaid account with my iPhone, and I pay about $10/month on average (maybe a little more). No idea if it will work with your phone, though.
posted by amtho at 10:25 AM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

You could always go with whatever provider gives you the best deal, whether or not they're GSM, and take the phone with you when you travel and pop a local SIM into it.
posted by zug at 11:39 AM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

I use Simple Mobile and get unlimited talk, text, and data for $60 (though by "unlimited" data, they mean definitely limited, rumor has it the limit is 1GB). No contracts. It's the cheapest GSM plan I've found.

I believe they're a T-mobile MVNO, so devices with bands that match will likely work best, particularly for data access.
posted by weston at 12:04 PM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you all for your extremely helpful input! I'm tempted to 'best' every answer.

It's looking like T-Mobile or an MVNO thereof might be the way to go, and a local SIM when abroad. I'm not too concerned about being limited to EDGE on T-Mobile networks, as I don't even use data now, and I'll try to limit that to Wi-Fi as much as possible, anyways. That said, T-Mobile's $30/mo. 1500 min/text/30 MB data is sounding kind of nice, to have the option.

I notice the N95 doesn't show on T-Mobile or SimpleMobile's supported devices pages - don't suppose that really matters?

@amtho $10/mo. sounds pretty nice. Are those 'Pay as you go' minutes? What's your average usage in terms of minutes, texts, data?
posted by mistikle at 4:27 PM on June 6, 2011

Hi there -- I don't get any data with that plan, unfortunately, but I'm mostly in places with WiFi so it's fine. I make maybe 14 ? calls per month? I'm not sure. With this plan, the calls are not recorded in a way I can retrieve, either. It is pay-as-you-go-minutes - you can see the scheme on the T-Mobile site. It's not a monthly fee; I get a recording preceding my outgoing calls (annoying) when my minutes are low (but it's better than just running out, which happened with Virgin Mobile some).
posted by amtho at 6:15 PM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

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