Will my 5G phone work on another carrier?

by Jeremy

Best answer: Most phones with 5G can be brought over to another carrier; however, access to the whole network, or even 5G, depends on whether the phone supports the right frequency bands. If you want to switch, consider buying an unlocked phone that works with all carriers.

 

Check your bands and IMEI

5G coverage is growing fast, and it’s likely not slowing down with carriers investing billions in future capacity. If you’re looking at buying a new phone right now, you’ve probably noticed that most of them, at least most of the best Android phones, come with 5G. If you’ve been thinking about switching carriers and wondered, “Will my 5G phone work on another carrier?” You’ll be happy to hear that most unlocked 5G phones can be used with another carrier — but there’s a chance it will be limited to LTE.

While most phones support all the necessary 5G bands to get covered by just about any carrier, it’s a bit more complicated when it comes to getting activated. First thing’s first, make sure your phone has the suitable bands to get connected. This information will be listed in your phone’s specifications. The higher bands like n261 won’t be of much consequence to many people since the coverage area of this mmWave spectrum is relatively low, but it will be nice to have if you can ever use it.

CarrierBands
Verizonn5 (DSS for sub-6)
n261 (28GHz)
T-Mobilen71 (600MHz)
n41 (2.5GHz) from Sprint
n260 (39GHz)
n261 (28GHz)
AT&Tn5 (850MHz)
n260 (39GHz)
U.S. Cellularn71 (600MHz)

Don’t forget that a phone will need to be fully paid off and unlocked before being taken to another carrier. Most phones like the Pixel 5, Samsung Galaxy S21 series, or even the older S20 series support most bands. The iPhone 12 series also supports most bands. This has allowed Samsung and Apple to ship fewer phone variants and given them tighter control of software. Still, one of the nice things about the Android ecosystem is the sheer variety of phones available, so it’s a shame to limit yourself to one carrier. Be sure to check your IMEI on any carrier’s site before committing if you want to be sure you’re covered. It’s also worth checking with customer care to be sure. For example, if you bought an unlocked 5G phone like the OnePlus 8 Pro 5G for the U.S. market, it will work on T-Mobile’s 5G but not on AT&T’s 5G network. The phone will still work on AT&T, and it will just be limited to LTE. This isn’t too big of a deal for many people since 5G still has yet to hit its stride in performance, but if you were expecting 5G, it could be a disappointment.

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