How to Change Providers & Keep the Same Cell Phone

By Amy McClain

Perhaps you've been wronged by your current wireless service provider, or a recent move has left you in an area with no reception. Regardless of the reason, shopping around for a new carrier can be a disheartening event if you don't want to give up your cell phone. Fortunately, if you're not in the market for a new device, you may be able to utilize your current phone on another service provider's network. The key is to determine what type of network your phone works with. Some phones may need to be unlocked or reprogrammed in order to switch carriers.

Things You'll Need

  • Cell phone

Step 1

Determine which type of network your device operates on. GSM phones use a small plastic card called a SIM (subscriber identity module). CDMA devices do not. GSM phones are much easier to reactivate as they do not need to be reprogrammed.

Step 2

Choose a new carrier accordingly. If your phone is designed to work with GSM networks, you will need to choose a GSM-based carrier. AT&T and T-Mobile are the largest GSM providers in the United States. The major CDMA providers are Sprint and Verizon.

Step 3

Utilize a phone unlocking service, which can easily be found online. Perform a search for "phone unlock" on any search engine. These sites charge a nominal fee but can either provide you with the unlock code for your GSM phone or reprogram or flash your CDMA phone to your new carrier's specifications.

Step 4

Activate your new wireless service plan. Inform the service representative who is assisting you that you have your own phone. You will be provided with a SIM card for GSM models or a programming code and phone number for CDMA models.