• January 5, 2009 11:00 pm


This topic, while being discussed many times every year is still of interest because how segregated a market it creates.  Whether your a GSM junkie or CDMA fanboy, when ever the topic of GSM vs. CDMA come up you can guarantee that there will be a very heated debate afterwards as both camps have fiercely loyal members.  Each camp will claim superiority and that they are a better solution for world communication.  What camp do I associate with?  I will come right out in the beginning and say that I have a thing for GSM.  Why?  One of the biggest reason’s is SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) cards.  They make life so much easier.  You never have to worry about calling someone to activate a your phone.  You just swap the sim and go.  It makes having more than one phone such as one for work and another for weekends feasible.  CDMA doesn’t do this.  It requires you to call your service provider and have them activate it.  A hassle to say the least.  Another reason is GSM has a much larger selection of handsets to choose from, and being a tech junky, I love choices!


Above: A comparison of GSM and CDMA usage across the world

GSM (Global System for Mobile communication) was formed in 1982 by the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administration, however the first network was not launched until 1991!  Each technology has pros and cons associated with them.  It’s the importance of each pro or con that eventually pushes you towards one or the other.  CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) is a slightly newer technology.  It is also the so called “ugly duckling” in cell phone standards across the world as CDMA usage is much smaller than GSM (CDMA’s 474,000,000 to GSM’s more than 2,000,000,000, although the gap is shrinking daily.  GSM  is older and much more widespread globally.

So which has better reception, speed, and reliability?  Those questions don’t have a “correct” answer.  It depends on a slew of factors such as how far you are from a cell tower, how many people are on that cell tower, what frequency the tower operates on, what people are actually using that tower for (voice or data), and the list goes on.  You can test literally a million different points around the country and come up even with your results.  Certain carriers focus on certain areas more than others. That is just how they do business.

What about here in America?  In America we are lucky enough (or cursed) to have to major cellular technologies vying for our attention and wallets.  As of CDMA rules over GSM in America.  Again, the gap is shrinking though.  It is interesting to note that the U.S. is one of the bigger supporters of CDMA technology.  Some other big countries that use CDMA include: China, Japan, India, and Canada just to name a few.

An interesting thought that Mobile Whack voiced was that other countries that only have one cellular technology or are severely biased towards one cellular technology are often ahead of us in cellular technology by several years.  Take for instance Asia and Europe.  Many years ago, as the two mobile technologies were emerging and fighting for the crown, these two countries decided to adopt only one: GSM.  It is because of this decision that they have progressed faster than us.  Instead of having to design, build, and sell just about every phone twice, one each for GSM and CDMA networks, they have freed up vast amounts of time and money that can instead be focused on improving the network they are on.

While this whole thing looks like a big fight, everything is not all bad.  There are many handsets that are both CDMA and GSM by including SIM card slots.  Usually these phones are CDMA first, with the GSM feature only used for use in another country where CDMA might not be used.  Such phones that offer the best of both worlds to name a couple include:

  1. Samsung W531
  2. Blackberry 8830

The debate in America over GSM and CDMA is far from over and at times looks as if it is intensifying.  Unfortunately, I don’t see an end in sight anytime soon.  Our country will continue to be split when it comes to cellular technologies, preventing us from truly excelling and keeping as follower in the mobile market rather than a leader.  Below is short recap provided by Mobiletor:


  • More number of subscribers can be handled.
  • More security thanks to its pn (pseudo random) sequence that is generated uniquely for each subscriber. Difficult to crack even with the brute force hacking method.
  • Channel quality is hampered with increase in the number of users. So you limit the number of users if you want a good call quality.
  • WCDMA supports roaming. (Get ready to pinch your pocket until it hurts)
  • Royalty payments for Qualcomm per handset.
  • Not very easy to change handsets.
  • Poor spectrum flexibility and scalability.
  • GSM

  • Less system capacity. The number of users is limited to the number of channels.
  • Universal Roaming
  • Channel quality is better
  • Micro-celling can be used to increase the capacity.
  • Handsets come with no loyalty. Hence cheaper. Larger variety of handsets.
  • Universally accepted.
  • I have talked more than enough so it’s time to hear you talk.  What are your thoughts, opinions, facts.  Please share them as no comment is unwelcome!

    Source: Wikipedia , Mobile Whack, GSM Arena, Phone Arena. Mobiletor


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    • lex

      I think you are thinking like sukrat, but I think you should cover the other side of the topic in the post too…

    • Gadget God

      I think I did a pretty good job of listing the pro’s and con’s of each without letting my bias come to far into the topic. Thank you for your comment!