What is a Network Frequency band?

A network frequency band is something that you should know. In fact I think everyone ought to have an idea of what it means. This is because it is rather important.

Smartphones are communication devices. Inorder for them to carry out this function, they have to be able to connect to a network. When people think of the term network, they usually suppose that it is a uniform entity. It is not.

On the mobile broadband platform, network signals are separated based on frequencies. These frequencies are known as network frequencies (bands).


What is a network frequency band?

A network frequency band can be defined as a collection or range of frequencies. These bands are then assigned to different network operators or providers.

You can think of it like FM radio channels. Each channel is assigned a specific frequency e.g. Brila FM (Lagos) uses the 88.9MHz frequency while Independent Radio (Benin City) uses 92.3MHz.

Unlike radios that are tied to one frequency in a particular area, two or more network providers can use a single network frequency band. The difference here is that the SIM card of one provider is configured to accept the signal of that provider and ignore the others.

So if you have a situation where two providers like Airtel and MTN are both broadcasting on Band 20 (4G), an MTN SIM card would accept the signal from the MTN network tower and ignore the one from Airtel.


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Network generations

Each network generation has its own specific band of signal frequencies. The network frequency bands of 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G are different from one another. In other to connect to these network bands, one needs to purchase a compatible smartphone as well as band-ready SIM card. For example, to connect to a 5G network band, you need a 5G enabled phone and a 5G ready SIM.


2G

Most network frequency bands of the 2G era were usually low frequencies with low bandwidths. This is why 2G networks were unable to carry good amounts of data. Thus they were very slow.

What they lacked in bandwidth however, they made up for it in reach. 2G networks still have some of the widest reaches of any network signal.

BandFrequency (MHz)Uplink (MHz)Downlink (MHz)Region
GSM 380380389399No longer in use
GSM 410410419429"
GSM 450450457467"
GSM 480480486496"
GSM 710710716746"
GSM 750750792762"
GSM 810810821866"
GSM 850850848893North, Central and South America
GSM 900 (P, E, R, T)900876960Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East.
DCS - 1800180017841879Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East.
PCS - 1900190019091989North, Central and South America.

The GSM 900 band is the most popular GSM band and can still be found working in places like Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia.


3G

The third generation networks made their debut in 1998. They jettisoned the use of the frequency to name the bands and simply just assigned them numbers.

3G networks operated at much higher frequencies and had more bandwidth. This meant that they were able to carry more data. The 3G era brought with it, the rise of faster mobile internet surfing and video streaming.

BandNameFrequency (MHz)Uplink (MHz)Downlink (MHz)Region
1IMT210019802170Europe, Africa, Asia, Oceania, Uruguay, Brazil and Costa Rica
2 and 25PCS190019101990North and Latin America
3DCS180017851880
4 and 10AWS170017552155USA, Canada and Chile
5 and 26CLR850849894North an Latin America, Israel, Thailand, Australia and New Zealand.
6UMTS 800800840885Japan
7IMT - E260025702690
8E - GSM900915960Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Dominican Rep., Paraguay and Venezuela
9UMTS 1700170017841879Japan
11Lower PDC150014471495Japan
12Lower SMH700716746
13Upper SMH700787756
14Upper SMH700798768
15 to 18-Reserved---
19 and 26Upper 800 (Japan)800845890Japan
20Digital Dividend (EU)800862821
21Upper PDC150014621510
22C - Band250034903590
23 to 31-Reserved---
32L - Band15001496??

The disadvantage was that 3G networks has a lower reach and would cover a lesser area than 2G networks did.


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4G LTE

The fourth generation of mobile networks showed at the beginning of the last decade and basically picked up from where 3G left off. The focus of 4G was mostly to provide more bandwidth for faster data connection. It retained the naming system of the 3G era. 4G brought with it, the rise of video calls (facetime), online gaming and faster video streaming.

RegionBand(s)
North America2 4, 5, 7, 12, 13, 17, 25, 26, 29, 30, 38, 40, 41, 42, 43, 66 and 71.
Caribbean and South America1, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 17, 28 and 41.
Europe1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 11, 18, 19, 21, 26, 28, 31, 38, 39, 40, 41 and 42.
Africa1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 20, 28 and 41.

Band 28 is only used in Nigeria (Glo) and Kenya (Faiba).
Asia1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 11, 18, 19, 21, 26, 28, 31, 38, 39, 40, 41 and 42.
Oceania1, 3, 7, 12 and 20.

Just like 3G, it operated at higher frequencies and as a result did not cover a wide area.


5G

This is the current generation of mobile networks. 5G is considered a huge leap forward but it is not entirely true. 5G is mostly divided into 2: sub – 6GHz and mmWave.

5G Type5G Band
Sub 6GHzn1 to n99
mmWaven257 to n262

Sub-6GHz operates at the frequencies (700MHz to >5000MHz) that most 4G networks use. The name sub 6GHz means that the network frequencies here are all below 6GHz (6000MHz). The difference is that 5G technology allows for more bandwidth and a faster data connection.

mmWave is where the true next-gen power of 5G shines through. mmWave network frequencies are over 6GHz and bring with it incredible data speeds. The 5G modem of the Mediatek Dimensity 9000 can download at theoretical speeds of 7Gbps (785MB in one second).

5G also inherits the range problem that 3G and 4G has. It is even more pronounced with mmWave as the network transmitters have a really short range (1500ft/457m). Sub 6GHz however trades some bandwidth and data speed for a wider range.


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