What Phones are Compatible on my Free Phone Network?

Many customers ask if they can use a different cell phone to replace the free government cell phone. many individuals simply don't like the phone that they have received from the lifeline assistance program. These people want to know if they can switch to a different phone. There are several factors that go into this and the standard answer you're going to get is it might be possible.

Not every phone is going to be compatible with all networks. You'll have to talk to your service provider and their customer service to figure out if the phone you want to use is going to be compatible with the network. Here is some information you need to understand about cell phone networks and whether or not your phone is going to work on them.

The First Step: CDMA vs GSM

There are two various cell phone technologies which we call GSM and CDMA. not every cell phone is going to be compatible with each Network. For example, a GSM phone isn't going to work with the CDMA network. if you have a GSM phone it's only going to work with that Network and vice versa. GSM stands for global system for mobiles and CDMA stands for code division multiple access.

There are five major cell phone networks in the United States and here is how they break down with the various cell phone technologies:

  • CDMA - This Is on US Cellular, Verizon, and Sprint.
  • GSM - This is on T-Mobile and AT&T

Which Networks Are the Free Government Cell Phone Companies Using?

The lifeline assistance free government cell phone program has gone through some major changes including consolidation, Acquisitions, and mergers. This reduces the number of companies that you can pick as your provider. Here are the leading companies from 2016:

The 2016 List of Leaders: Who's who in the free government cell phone business?

Look at this list and find your free government cell phone provider. This list will let you know what technologies they are currently using.

  • Assurance Wireless – Sprint CDMA
  • Safelink Wireless – AT&T GSM,  Sprint CDMA, Verizon T-Mobile GSM, CDMA, U.S. Cellular CDMA. Depends on the area you're in.
  • Access Wireless – Sprint CDMA
  • Life Wireless – AT&T GSM
  • Budget Mobile – Sprint CDMA, Verizon CDMA
  • Q Link Wireless – Sprint CDMA
  • Assist Wireless – Sprint CDMA, Verizon CDMA
  • Blue Jay Wireless – Sprint CDMA, Verizon CDMA
  • TruConnect Mobile – Sprint CDMA
  • True Wireless – Sprint CDMA, Verizon CDMA
  • Tag Mobile – Sprint CDMA, Verizon CDMA, T-Mobile GSM
  • Total Call Mobile – Sprint CDMA
  • Terracom Wireless – Sprint CDMA, Verizon CDMA
  • StandUp Wireless – Sprint CDMA
  • YourTel – Sprint CDMA, Verizon CDMA

What Does this Difference Mean to Me?

If you don't understand what all of these differences mean to you we will make it easy for you. It's easier to switch phones on your free government cell phone plan if the company uses a GSM network. Here is how this is explained by PCMag a leading computer magazine.

"You can swap phones much easier on the GSM network. These carriers use a removable SIM card to hold the customer information. you can take this card out of your phone and put it in a different one and then this phone now has your cell phone number. To be considered as a part of the GSM  network the carrier has to accept phones that are GSM compliant. The carrier doesn't have complete control over the phone that you're using.

With CDMA the carrier is going to use and network-based whitelist which they use to verify subscribers. You're only able to switch your phone if you get the permission from the carrier. The carrier doesn't have to accept every phone onto its Network.

Quite a few of Verizon and Sprint phones are using SIM cards these cards are needed for the 4GLTE networks as the LTE standard requires SIM cards. Phones also have SIM slots which can support GSM around the world and are known as World phones. The carrier may still use CDMA as a way to authenticate phones on networks in their home country."

hat do I need to Know about LTE?

You should understand the differences GSM and CDMA by now. These differences are going to disappear in the future. Cell phone companies are moving to new technology which we call 4G LTE. this is now a wireless standard that is accepted globally.

While this is an accepted global standard, cell phone carriers will use different frequency bands and they also 3G backup systems. Not every cell phone is going to work with all LTE bands. PC Mag explains this for you:

"While a growing number of phones support most standards, it can be hard to tell which of them support which standard. The newer iPhones, as well as the Google Nexus 10, tend to be the most flexible. The iPhone 6, as well as the iPhone 6 Plus from T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T, can be used on the three carriers. Despite this, they lack the Sprint's LTE bands. the iPhones from Sprint have these bands but there are strict unlocking policies. The Nexus 6 phones will work on all four carriers, but Sprint will only allow phones purchased from Sprint or Google onto its Network.

Galaxy S5 and the HTC One phones from Verizon 10 to work somewhat on the T-Mobile network and the AT&T network but tend to have limited coverage. Say hi GSM, LTE, and CDMA but they don't have all of the frequency bands that T-Mobile and AT&T use. Variants of those models which are sold by T-Mobile and AT&T don't work on the Verizon network. this is because they lack the CDMA radio which is needed for Verizon. As you can see, this is all a little bit complicated."


It's important that you check with your carrier to determine what phone you can actually use on their network because things can be different network to network. since the world is moving more LTE many of the older networks are no longer going to apply and most phones are going to work on the new Networks. To ensure that your phone does work on that network talk to the provider, so you have a clear indication of whether your phone is going to work or not on their individual cell phone network.