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Bringing Your Own Phone to a Free Phone Network

Bringing Your Own Phone to a Free Phone Network

Since 1985, the government has offered discounted or free phone service for qualifying families, known as the Lifeline phone plan. Recently, the standards of that phone service have been modified to include the modernization of technology in the US. Currently, the Lifeline program is obligated to provide a 3G cell phone with hotspot functionality. While the program does provide new phones that meet this requirement for free or at a discounted price, some participants may be wondering if bringing their own phone to this service is a possibility.

Well, sometimes. Unfortunately, the answer is not as simple as you’d hope.

We’ll try to explain when and how you can bring your own phone over to a free network.

CDMA vs. GSM
First, it’s important to understand the difference between these two acronyms. CDMA and GSM are the two most popular ways for cell phones to communicate with each other. While it’s irrelevant to understand exactly how each of them works, it’s important to know which companies use which technology and how that makes them either compatible or incompatible with other networks and providers.

Verizon, Sprint, and US Cellular all use CDMA technology while AT&T, T-Mobile, and most of the rest of the world uses GSM. Unfortunately, if a phone is specifically made for GSM, it won’t work with CDMA and vice versa, which can determine if your phone can possibly work with the Lifeline Program.

What Kind of Phone do I have?
If you use one of the major cell phone companies mentioned above, your phone probably corresponds to the technology they use. There are, however some exceptions. Certain makes and models of phones work on both GSM and CDMA, such as the iPhone 6 and newer, Samsung Galaxy S7 and newer, Motorola E4 and G4 and newer, and Google Pixel. That means that all these phones are capable of functioning on all the networks except for Sprint which uses a unique kind of CDMA that only Sprint phones can use.

Will My Phone Work on the Lifeline Program?

Sometimes.

All the Lifeline cell phone providers use either CDMA or GSM so it should be possible to take a corresponding phone that uses that technology to your Lifeline service provider. GSM uses SIM cards which can be purchased or provided by your new Lifeline provider, such as FeelSafe Wireless, which uses GSM. Other providers use CDMA, and can help transfer service. Unfortunately, Sprint specific phones will only work on Sprint unless they are one of the phones listed above that can use both GSM and CDMA.

That being said, it’s much easier to switch over a GSM compatible device because it uses SIM cards than to switch over a CDMA device which frequently requires the networks permission to change carriers.

At FeelSafe Wireless, for example, we make it easy to bring in your own phone as long as it’s GSM compatible. It’s simply a matter of replacing the SIM card with a FeelSafe SIM card.

It Will Be Even Easier Soon with LTE Technology
While the Lifeline Phone Program only requires 3G service at this time, it’s safe to assume that along with all the major cell phone service providers, it will move towards 4G LTE which will be a compatible standard with SIM cards across all major carriers (except for Sprint). For example, Verizon plans on eliminating CDMA by 2019. It’s safe to assume that eventually the other companies will follow suit and changing from one service provider to another, including Lifeline cell phone companies, will be far easier.

In the End, If You Don’t Know, Ask
If you’re not sure what kind of phone you have (as even CDMA phones now have SIM cards for the LTE service), be sure to ask your service provider or contact your new Lifeline cell phone customer service to find out if it’s possible to switch over your phone.

At FeelSafe Wireless, we have a friendly US-based customer service eager and ready to help you with any obstacle in the way of receiving your Lifeline service. Please call us at 877-247-7799.


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