I'm sick of "Will THIS work on Wind!?!?!", so I'm detailing my procedure for checking device compatibility of any device on any network. Period. And it's a simple acronym so it'll be easy to remember.

Here it is:

T F P

Technology
Frequency
Permission

What does this mean? Read on.

Technology refers to the network technology used. GSM, UMTS, IDEN or CDMA, most likely. Look at the technology type(s) for your device, and then at the network you want to use. If they match, continue. If they don't, stop, do not pass go, do not collect $200. Look for a new device or a new network.

Some devices, typically UMTS ones, support both GSM and UMTS networks. So long as there is at least one network that both phone and network support, the phone should work on the network. Only running on one technology may reduce internet speeds, services or coverage, though.

If the phone matches the frequency of the network, you can move on to the next criteria: frequency.

Frequency is the operating frequency that a phone operates on. Unlike an FM radio, the frequency of a phone cannot be changed, but there are usually several bands that a phone supports - from 2 to 5, typically. Even if a phone uses the same network technology as a network, unless they run on the same frequency, the phone won't be able to connect to the network.

Please note that many networks work on 2 frequencies, typically a high and a low one. If a phone can use one of the frequencies and not the other, you may get some service, but coverage and/or signal strength may be reduced.

If a phone runs on the same technology and frequency as a carrier’s network, there’s no scientific reason why the device shouldn’t work. But politics always plays a role, so next to check is permission.

Permission is the test of whether a phone will be allowed on the network, or the use of a network on a phone is allowed. Both the phone and the network have to give permission for the device to be used.

Some, but a minority of networks will only allow their own branded devices to be used on their wireless networks. The older CDMA networks of Telus and Bell operated in this manner: a phone could only be activated on the service for which the device is branded, and the network would only activate devices sold by the carrier. With newer, SIM-based networks (including the Telus/Bell UMTS network), this is not usually the case, and a SIM card can be activated for use on any compatible device.

The more common permission issue is that of SIM-locking. This is where a phone can only be used with a SIM card of the provider the phone was bought from. For example, a phone bought from AT&T will not accept a SIM from T-Mobile, as all SIMs except AT&T SIMs are blocked. Phones can be unlocked to accept other SIMs, either by asking the original service provider (some have policies for/against this), using an unlocking service found online or in a mall, or using tools such an iSmartSIM (Google it).

If a phone can accept a SIM from the provider you want service from, and the service provider is willing to offer a SIM, or otherwise allow your phone on the network, you have permission, and the phone will work on the network. Well done!!

How to use TFP

TFP is easy to use once you understand it. Let’s run through the practical applications of TFP.

I want to buy a new phone. The first thing to check is the technology of the phone against the technology used by the carrier I want to use. In this case, I want to use Wind Mobile Canada. The device I want is a MyTouch 3G.

Wind’s network uses the UMTS technology, sometimes known as HSPA or WCDMA (NOT the same as CDMA, 1x, or EV-DO). The MyTouch also uses UMTS, and has GSM as well. Wind’s roaming in Canada and abroad uses GSM, so I’ll get coverage at home, and when travelling. The phone at the network share the same technology, and I can pass onto the frequency stage. Here are some other examples of checking technology:

Passing Example

Phone name: LG Rumour
Phone technology: CDMA
Network name: Bell Mobility (old network)
Network technology: CDMA
Result: PASS - move on to Frequency
Failing Example

Phone name: Nokia 6301
Phone technology: GSM
Network name: Bell Mobility (old network)
Network technology: CDMA
Result: FAIL - try a different device, or network
After knowing my device uses the right technology, I need to check the frequency.

As a quick aside, it’s good to note that there may be several versions of the same device, which use different frequencies or technologies based on the location in which they were designed for. For example, the HTC Hero comes in 3 versions: A CDMA version for Sprint in the USA, an 850 / 1900 MHz UMTS version for use in Canada by Telus and a 900 / 2100MHz UMTS model for use in Europe. Check the technology / frequency of the device you are buying or have bought!

After finding out what version of the phone I want (the T-Mobile MyTouch 3G, not the HTC Magic from Rogers or from Europe), I check the frequencies: 1700 MHz and 2100 MHz. Wind’s network uses 1700 MHz, so the MyTouch is compatible with the technology Wind uses, on the same frequency. Almost there!

Also, Just like with network technology, some frequencies can have different names. For example, 1700 MHz can be written as 1.7 GHz, AWS, UMTS band IV, etc. If unsure, use Google for an explanation. It is important to ensure that you are checking the frequency of each network technology, as each radio technology may operate on different frequencies within a phone (confusingly enough!). For example, a European Nokia E71 uses GSM on Quad-band frequencies (850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 MHz) but UMTS on only 900 / 2100 MHz, so if I use this device on Rogers Wireless, which has GSM on 850 and 1900 MHz, but UMTS on 850 and 1900 MHz as well, I can only use this phone on GSM, since the European E71 only supports UMTS on frequencies that Rogers do not.

Here are a couple of extra examples of frequency compatibility:

Passing Example

Phone name: iPhone 3G
Phone technology: GSM and UMTS
Phone frequency: 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 MHz on GSM, 850 / 1900 / 2100 MHz on UMTS
Network name: Rogers Wireless
Network technology: GSM and UMTS
Network frequency: 850 / 1900 MHz on GSM, 850 / 1900 MHz on UMTS
Result: PASS - works on both, check Permission
Failing Example

Phone name: iPhone 3G
Phone technology: GSM and UMTS
Phone frequency: 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 MHz on GSM, 850 / 1900 / 2100 MHz on UMTS
Network name: Wind Mobile (Canada)
Network technology: UMTS
Network frequency: 1700 MHz on UMTS
Result: FAIL – phone does not run on carrier’s frequency
After technology and frequency comes permission. Permission is the hardest criteria to judge and has the most variables, but also the only one that can be fixed if there is a problem. As a rule of thumb for devices, especially in North America, is that if the device has a carrier’s branding on the device’s hardware (such a brand logo), then it is SIM-locked, and must be unlocked. If buying a device used, ask the seller if the device is unlocked, although unless advertised, it probably isn’t.

If the device is locked, look at the price of getting it unlocked, if possible. If it is easy and economical to do so, then getting the phone unlocked will let it work with your network, providing you have a SIM card. In my case, I can unlock a MyTouch 3G easily, and Wind provide SIM cards for $10, so I have permission.

Here are a couple of other examples:

Passing Example

Phone name: iPhone 3G
Phone technology: GSM and UMTS
Phone frequency: 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 MHz on GSM, 850 / 1900 / 2100 MHz on UMTS
Network name: Rogers Wireless
Network technology: GSM and UMTS
Network frequency: 850 / 1900 MHz on GSM, 850 / 1900 MHz on UMTS
Phone can use Rogers SIM: Yes, phone is unlocked
Phone permitted on Rogers network: Yes, SIM card available
Result: PASS – this phone will work flawlessly on Rogers
Failing Example

Phone name: LG Xenon
Phone technology: GSM and UMTS
Phone frequency: 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 MHz on GSM, 850 / 1900 MHz on UMTS
Network name: Rogers Wireless
Network technology: GSM and UMTS
Network frequency: 850 / 1900 MHz on GSM, 850 / 1900 MHz on UMTS
Phone can use Rogers SIM: No, phone is SIM locked to Bell
Phone permitted on Rogers network: Yes, SIM card available
Result: FAIL – must be unlocked before being used with a Rogers SIM
Failing Example

Phone name: BlackBerry Curve 8330 (Bell)
Phone technology: CDMA
Phone frequency: 800 / 1900 MHz
Network name: Telus Mobility (old network)
Network technology: CDMA
Network frequency: 800 / 1900 MHz
Phone can use Telus SIM: CDMA phone, no SIM
Phone permitted on Telus network: Phone is Bell branded, may not be used on Telus
Result: FAIL – Only Telus devices may be used on Telus CDMA network
So my MyTouch 3G will work with my Wind service plan, as proven by TFP. This guide may seem a bit long, so here’s a cheat sheet you can reference easily:

Easy TFP Guide

1) Discover the network technology of both the device and the network. If at least one matches, continue.
2) Find out the frequencies at which both the network and the phone run on. If at least one matches, continue.
3) Make sure the carrier allows non-branded devices on the network.
4) Find out if the phone is SIM unlocked, or if SIM unlocking is possible.

If all 4 come out positive, you’re good to go.

A few notes about Wind Canada:

Wind operates a UMTS / WCDMA / HSPA network at the 1700 MHz frequency, known as AWS or Band IV. IT DOES NOT RUN ON 2100 MHz! NO 1700 MHz, NO WIND!

Thanks for reading my guide, hope this helps out, feel free to ask questions and if I see a single thread asking if X device will work, I WILL PERSONALLY TRACK DOWN YOUR IP, BURN YOUR HOUSE DOWN AND THEN STEAMROLL THE ASHES.