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Information Center: Unlocked GSM Phones

InTouch Smartcards - Copyright 2004

Note: If you haven't done so already, I suggest you read our Cell Phone Overview article first as this article builds on it.

What is GSM?

GSM is the technology wireless phones use throughout Europe, the middle East, Asia, Africa, and is recently becoming more popular in the US and Canada.  GSM stands for Global Systems for Mobile Communication.

There are three important things to look for when choosing a cell phone if you expect it to work in most places around the world:

  1. GSM phone... and particularly:
  2. A Triband (or Quad-band) GSM phone... and particularly:
  3. An Unlocked Triband GSM phone.

A GSM phone is a phone that works on the GSM wireless system mentioned above.  This is the most prevalent wireless system worldwide.  A few years ago, a GSM phone would not have worked in the USA since there was no GSM network to support it.  Now, there are a few US carriers supporting GSM systems.  

Even though GSM is supported today in the USA, the band used is different from that of Europe or the Middle East for example.  This means a strictly US GSM phone will still not work in Europe and a strictly European GSM phone will not work in the USA.  Below is a list of the bands used worldwide:


USA/Canada 1900 (primary)/850
Europe 900/1800
Middle East 900/1800
Africa 900/1800
Asia 900/1800
Australia/New Zealand 900/1800
Caribbean 850/900

Most USA carriers offering GSM will provide a 1900 MHz GSM phone.  As you can see, it is not compatible with most other places in the world and will not work.  There are many GSM phones that have Triband technology where it offers the most popular 1900 and 900/1800 MHz bands.  This will cover most places in the world.  We offer Triband GSM phones right here at InTouch Smartcards.

After you make sure that you have a Triband GSM phone, you need to know if the phone is locked.   If you buy a phone from your carrier or receive free because you signed up for a long term contract, chances are it is locked.  This means that you can only use your carrier's service (SIM card) in that phone.  This also applies to phones that you buy from people who got their phones from carriers where those phones were locked.

Having an unlocked phone gives you the flexibility to use another carrier's services, namely the carrier of whatever SIM card you put in your Unlocked GSM phone.  For example, using a local SIM card from France gives you the local wireless service in France which tends to save money and eliminate roaming and long distance charges.

If your phone is unlocked and has the necessary bands, it means that you can use it with any GSM network throughout the Middle East, Asia, Africa, Europe, and North America.  If you have a Triband GSM phone, you can access service in  over 150 countries by simply obtaining the proper SIM card.

All cell phones available at InTouch Smartcards are Unlocked GSM phones.  All phones offered on this website are unlocked and can be used by simply inserting a SIM card.

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