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Wireless local number portability: GSM vs. CDMA

I would like to change my wireless carrier from AT&T to Verizon and keep the same number. Am I required to purchase a new phone at this time? I just purchased a phone three months ago.

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One of the remarkable benefits of Local Number Portability (LNP) is that subscribers can pack up their old cell phone numbers and move them to a new wireless carrier. This is a significant asset to businesses that want to move to a new carrier, but do not want to go through the pain and expense of changing business numbers and potentially losing customers. You may also be able to take your phone along with you, providing the wireless carriers use identical wireless technologies. A CDMA phone, for example, is not going to work on a GSM network. Therefore, AT&T Wireless' GSM and EDGE phones are not going to work on Verizon's CDMA networks.

The good news is that most carriers are offering great deals on wireless phones if you should make the LNP leap, and even throwing in deals to allow you to swap phones every year for no or low-cost to keep up with the technology. The bad news is you may be asked to ink a two-year agreement for these perks. Also, if you presently have a contract with AT&T Wireless, you may have to pay an early-exit penalty of dropping out before the agreed time is up. This fee could equal several hundred dollars. Our advice: Wait a bit to see who acquires AT&T Wireless and then make your decision after the dust settles. You may find yourself in a better wireless neighborhood, without having to go through the hassle of early termination fees and phone swaps.

This was first published in February 2004

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