What Is a Cell Phone Carrier?

By James Johnson

You may have heard the words "cell phone carrier," but not understood what it means. Let's examine what a cellular carrier is by looking at different types of available carrier services.

Basic Definition: Cell Phone Carriers

Cell phone carriers are cell phone companies that provide cellular service to cell phone users.

Different Types Of Cell Phone Carriers: GSM Carrier

The first type are GSM (Global System for Mobile communications) Carriers; these carriers use a SIM card in their phones, which can be swapped among GSM phones while retaining the customer's phone number. Examples of GSM carriers include AT&T and T-Mobile.

Different Types of Cell Phone Carriers: CDMA Carriers

CDMA (Code division multiple access) carriers attach a single phone to a user. If users choose to switch to a different CDMA phone, they must call their carrier and perform an ESN (Electronic Serial Number) Change. CDMA carriers include Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel.

Different Types Of Cell Phone Carriers: Pre-Paid Carriers

These carriers charge an upfront fee for services, and are either run by GSM or CDMA carriers themselves, or by third parties who "piggyback" off the major carrier networks.

Benefits Of GSM Carrier Use

GSM carriers are known as the "Worldwide Gold Standard" because users can easily swap out their GSM SIM cards with cards from around the world, allowing them to take advantage of regional calling rates.