The importance of network frequency bands on smartphones

The importance of network frequency bands on smartphones cannot be overstated. It is rather unfortunate that a lot of people do not know about network frequency bands and what they do.

Network frequency bands refer to the signal frequencies that are assigned to network providers. These network providers then use these frequencies to broadcast their signals.

Network providers are different across many countries. For example in India you have Airtel, Jio and Vi India, in Nigeria you have MTN, Airtel, Glo etc. and in the UK you have 3, EE, O2 and Vodafone. So where you live determines the network provider that you have to use. I live in Nigeria so therefore I can neither use AT&T nor China Telecom.

These different network providers also use their allocated network frequency bands to broadcast their signals to their subscribers.


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What is the importance of network frequency bands on smartphones

These days, smartphone OEMs tend to make different versions of the same phone for different regions. Two very good examples of companies that do this are Samsung and Xiaomi.

These different versions of the same phone usually only support network frequency bands in the regions that they are meant for. A good example of this can be seen in phones meant for India supporting LTE bands 1, 3, 5, 8, 40 and 41.

As earlier stated, I live in Nigeria so I am bound to use Nigerian cell providers like MTN (LTE band 7 and 20), Airtel (LTE band 3) and Globacom (LTE band 3 and 28).

It would make zero sense to me to buy a phone meant for the Indian region because apart from bands 3, it would not support my Nigeria LTE bands. If I buy such a phone, I would be forced to use a network provider with band 3, otherwise my phone would be useless as a communications device.

It would make much more sense for me to buy a device from the Chinese region (bands 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 20, 40 and 41) as such a phone would support network signals from most of my Nigerian cell providers.


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List of some selected countries and their supported network frequency bands

Nigeria

  • 2G – GSM 900 and 1800
  • 3G – UMTS 2100
  • 4G – LTE bands 3, 7, 8, 20, 28, 40 and 42
  • 5G – Nil

India

  • 2G – GSM 900 and 1800
  • 3G – UMTS 900 and 2100
  • 4G – LTE bands 1, 3, 5, 8, 40 and 41
  • 5G – Nil

USA

  • 2G – GSM 850 and 1900
  • 3G – UMTS 850, 1700, 1900 and 2100
  • 4G – LTE bands 2, 4, 5, 12, 13, 14, 17, 25, 30, 41, 42, 46, 66 and 71
  • 5G – Sub 6GHz (n2, n5, n12, n41, n61, n66, n71 and n77) and mmWave (n258, n260, n261 and n262)

United Kingdom

  • 2G – GSM 900 and 1800
  • 3G – UMTS 900 and 2100
  • 4G – LTE bands 1, 3, 7, 8, 20, 28, 32, 38 and 40
  • 5G – Sub 6GHz (42 and 78)

China

  • 2G – GSM 900 and 1800
  • 3G – UMTS 2100
  • 4G – LTE bands 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 20, 40 and 41
  • 5G – Sub 6GHz (78)

Conclusion

If you made it all the way to the end, congratulations. A big high five to you. So whenever you are going through the spec sheet for your next device, these spooky numbers won’t seem strange to you.

It is very important that you know the supported network frequency bands in your country and only buy a phone that can take advantage of them. This will save you a lot of headache in the long run.


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