If you have a cell phone, then in order to enjoy all of its features, you need a cellular service provider. There are so many carriers, though, that it can be hard to choose between them. Once you have, hopefully, you’ll be content with the level of service you are getting from them, but there’s always the chance that you won’t be. At that point, it’s likely that you’ll want to switch carriers. In this article, we’ll talk about how and when you can do that, as well as how to make the transition from one to another as easy and painless as possible.
Switch Phone Carriers Because of Network Coverage
There are lots of reasons why you may potentially be dissatisfied with the service you’re getting from your cellular service provider. One of the most prominent ones is that your coverage area is not as extensive as you would like. There may be times when you don’t have service, or what service you have is spotty.
It seems as though many of the most well-known providers that are out there, including Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T, etc. run prominent ad campaigns on TV, online, and elsewhere. In those ads, they make all kinds of claims about having the best coverage network. In reality, though, only one can claim the crown of having the most extensive coverage.
In the US, there are four service providers that dominate the market, and they are sometimes referred to as The Big Four. They are Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile. Despite what some of the others might try and tell you, the one that has the most extensive 4G LTE coverage, hands down, is Verizon. It covers 70% of America. Second is T-Mobile, with 59%, and then AT&T, with 58%. Bringing up the rear is Sprint, with a paltry 27%.
That could very well be a factor in your deciding to switch phone carriers. If you have Sprint, for instance, then you might live in a part of the country that isn’t covered by them. Maybe you were attracted to sign up with them because of the offer of perks or a pricing structure that made sense to you. If you don’t get the service that you want, though, then those things don’t mean very much.
The time that you’re most likely to want to switch over to a different provider is if you live in a rural area. The Big Four are all most likely to function in and around major cities. In underserved communities, though, it’s Verizon that is most likely to provide dependable service. That is because of their LTE in Rural America program. None of the other three have anything like it.
Other Reasons for Switching Carriers
Another common reason for switching is that the perks one network is offering might sound better than what you are getting in your current situation. There are all kinds of rewards and benefits that the different providers offer, especially when you start looking at their higher-end unlimited data packages.
You could score a brand-new, top-of-the-line iPhone or Galaxy model if you switch providers in some cases. You can get Disney+, Amazon Prime, a Hulu membership, and much more, depending on which provider has caught your eye. There’s a T-Mobile Tuesdays program that lets you get restaurant discounts and cheap tickets to sporting events. The list goes on and on; switching carriers might just be a matter of which benefits package sounds most appealing to you.
Another possible reason for switching, of course, is the cost of available service plans. Generally speaking, plans offered by The Big Four cost more, particularly Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T. Sprint usually comes in a little cheaper. Then there are options like Metro by T-Mobile, Consumer Cellular, and others.
It often turns out that the lesser-known carriers will cost you a little bit less, and you’ll get fewer perks in return. If you feel that your bill has gotten too high with one phone carrier, then that could be ample reason for you to switch over to a different one.
When Is the Best Time to Switch Carriers?
If you’ve decided that you’re ready to switch carriers, then you may be wondering what the most opportune time is to do it. You can drop a carrier any time that you want. The only issue is that if you signed up for a long-term contract, and you don’t want to wait it out, then you’ll be hit with a penalty fee if you opt for an early exit. Those fees can be significant, up to a couple of hundred dollars in some cases. You should certainly be aware of that if you’re ever thinking about signing up for a one or two-year deal.
If you signed up for such a deal, then you’ll have to weigh the options of either waiting for the agreed-upon period to end, or else you can terminate it early. Probably the best move is to try and wait for the period to conclude. That way, you won’t be charged the early termination fee. At that time, you can switch seamlessly to a new provider. If something has happened that has truly soured you on your current provider, though, then you might feel that it’s worth it to pay that onerous early termination fee.
If you don’t have a long-term contract with your provider, and you are paying on a month-by-month basis, then it makes things much easier for you. You can wait a couple of weeks, or however long it is till your current month expires, and then you can inform your provider that you’re moving on. This freedom is part of what makes month-by-month payment with no long-term contracts so attractive.
Are There Fees Associated with Switching?
For the most part, there are no fees that go along with switching cellular service providers. The only one worth noting would be if you were locked into a contract with another company, and you needed to break that contract in order to switch.
What Else Do You Need to Know When Preparing to Switch?
For the most part, switching from one provider to another is easy and painless. However, there is one aspect of the process that is worth considering if you plan on doing it. If you were leasing your cell phone through your current provider, then you’ll have to give it up at the end of your contract. That means that when you go to a new provider, you’ll need to either lease a new phone from them, or else you can buy one.
Which way seems better is something that’s going to be different for each person. You can certainly buy yourself a phone on the open market and bring it to a provider to sign up for a service plan. You can purchase phones online from different entities, or you can buy them in brick-and-mortar stores. Once you have one, it gives you some degree of freedom, since you won’t then have to lease it from your carrier.
Of course, at the same time, phones can be expensive, especially if you get the latest ones. A new iPhone can cost you as much as $1,200 or $1,300 if you get all the bells and whistles, and you’re looking at about the same price for a brand-new Galaxy. You could also get an older model of phone or buy one used. That can save you hundreds of dollars, so if the cost of a brand-new one is prohibitive, think about getting one that is a few years old.
Two Incompatible Phone Technologies
Once you have that phone, you can see if the carrier to which you want to switch will allow you to use it with them. Certain phones do not work with all carriers, because of differences in how they were made.
Some devices were made to GSM standards, and others CDMA. These stand for the global system for mobile communication and code division multiple access, respectively. Every phone comes with either one or the other. Sprint, Verizon, and some of its subsidiary networks use CDMA-enabled technology. AT&T, T-Mobile, Cricket, and some others use GSM.
If you know that you want to switch from one network to another, and you’re dead-set on one particular choice, then you should figure out what kind of phones they accept before you purchase one. That way, you won’t be disappointed if you buy a phone and then learn that technology is not compatible with the carrier you like.
Some Final Thoughts
There is always going to be a lot of contention about which of the carriers out there are “the best.” The Big Four dominate the market, but there is still room for many of the smaller providers. That is because there isn’t any consensus on what makes a network better than its competitors.
You might think about 4G LTE coverage area alone, or you may be thinking about which carrier has the greatest reach with the new 5G network that is springing up across the nation. You might be fixated on one particular perk, or it might be exclusively monthly costs that are motivating you.
Remember that if you’re going to get locked into a one year or two-year contract, then it’s going to cost you a penalty fee to break away if you’re dissatisfied at some point during that period. That’s why it is often to your benefit to avoid contracts and pay month-by-month. It might cost you a little bit more, but that way, you know that you can always jump ship and go with a different provider with very little notice. That’s something that’s sure to appeal as you navigate the ever-competitive market of phone carriers scrambling for your business.