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Reversing that programming is called unlocking the phone. A locked phone, will only recognize a SIM card from a particular carrier.If the cell phone is unlocked, it will recognize a SIM card from any carrier.A Cell Phone uses a unique serial number in your phone known as its ESN.The ESN is used by the cell phone service provider to identify who you are.Due to proprietary settings sometimes installed in locked handsets, the phones wont always function correctly with other carriers, even once unlocked.This usually applies to carrier specific special features for your phone, which are programmed in to the phone. From the consumer viewpoint, the practice of carriers locking phones and using proprietary settings defeats many of the benefits of SIM handsets. Phones should be left unlocked, or at least unlocked after the initial contract expires.The "lock" is a software setting that keeps the cell phone "loyal" to one carrier.
The CDMA equivalent of the SIM card is the R-UIM which will be used by carriers in the future.
You can get an unlocked phone without proprietary settings if you buy it new from a third party vendor in its original, unlocked state.
The downside is that the price is usually close to full retail.
US GSM cell phones work at 1900 MHz and some at 850 MHz.
Most other countries have GSM networks at 900MHz or 1800 MHz.