Choosing a phone based on celluar frequency bands?

rasmasyean

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How exactly do the bands of providers work? When they cover say, LTE bands 1, 2, and 3, does this mean each LTE tower transmits on all 3 frequencies? Or does it mean that a random tower transmits on either 1 or 2 or 3? Should you try to match as many bands as possible when choosing a phone/provider to ensure best coverage? Or just matching only one band (per protocol) is enough?
 

RumoredNow

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You should try and match all frequencies your carrier utilizes. Different frequencies are used by region for 2G/3G/4G. It's a juggling act. They want to avoid overlapping the other local towers with the same spectrum and also avoid all their users congesting just one frequency.

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RumoredNow

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There are lookup tools to see what frequencies your carrier is using system wide.

There are tests you can run on your phone to show what active connection you have at a given moment.

Again, you want to try and match the entire network to take care of every possibility of what towers you connect to. Matching all the carrier's frequencies is best, matching some not so good and just matching the one near where you are sitting right now doesn't really help.

What country are you in? What carrier are you on?
 

rasmasyean

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I'm in USA and on T-Mobile.

So according to this LTE is on 4, 2 and 12.
T-Mobile US - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

If I get a phone that has LTE 4 and 2 only, there would likely be "holes" (approximately 1/3) of the LTE coverage map...presuming it's correct?

And in these holes, it would be transmitting 3G or 2G where according to the wiki, it's "UMTS/HSPA+ Up to 42Mbit/s" and "GSM/GPRS/EDGE" on channels 4 and 2? And my phone should have those technologies for channels 4 and 2 to compensate for that?
 

RumoredNow

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The thing about T-Mo is that MOST of their LTE is on 1700 and 1900. Bands 2 and 4 as you point out. The Band 12 is recently acquired spectrum and is behind in the build out, but very desirable to T-Mo expansion. So the Band 12 isn't 1/3. And, again, due to regional variations you could find yourself in an area that is all Band 12 or all Band 4 or 2.

Here's the good news. That Band 12 in the 700 MHz spectrum? Band 17 is a subset of 12. All of band 17 fits comfortably right into Band 12 use. Band 12 Uplink and Downlink starts a bit lower than Band 17, but both bands then cover the exact same frequency ranges and finish at the same point. They overlap precisely and band 12 just differs from having a bit more capability on the bottom of the range. So a Band 17 LTE radio sends and receives comfortably inside the range of Band 12 towers with no exclusion.

You can use a Band 17 radio on a Band 12 network. You can't use a 12 radio on a 17 network as it might use frequency outside the towers' range.

So for T-MoUS you want LTE Band 2, 4 and 12 or 17. 2/4/12 (1900 MHz/1700 MHz/700 MHz [a/b/c block]) or 2/4/17 (1900/1700/700 [b/c block]). AT&T compatible LTE IS 2/4/17.

Now the bad news. That 1700 MHz build out for LTE? That is refarmed use of the spectrum that was formerly assigned to T-Mo H+ or 3G. And they can't switch 3G to 1900 as they need it for 2G. So if you are NOT in an LTE Band 4 area, then you need 1700 MHz on the 3G radio or you fall down to EDGE (2G) speed and that just plain sucks in this day and age.

Here is what you want:
2G radio should cover 850/1900 MHz GSM
3G radio should cover 850/1700/1900/2100 MHz UMTS
4G radio should cover 700/1700/1900 MHz LTE (Bands 2/4/12 or 2/4/17)

The 850 MHz on GSM and UMTS are going to be important for roaming. Especially out west where T-Mo coverage is spotty.
 

pankaj981

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OP: Lets make this simple for you. If you are mainly concerned about Windows Phones that work on T-Mobile LTE then these are your options:

1) Any T-Mobile branded phone would give you LTE/HSPA+ on its network, period

2) Any ATT LTE device would give you LTE on T-Mobile, regardless of whether the area is refarmed or not, only T-Mobile should have enabled LTE. That's not the case for HSPA+ though. You need to be in a refarmed area to get HSPA on a ATT branded phone. When I say refarmed that means T-Mobile has enabled 1900/2100 MHz for HSPA, if not then it's mostly operating at 1700/2100 MHz which is also known as AWS.

3) The Lumia Icon from Verizon would work the same as any ATT LTE device but it's limited to LTE Band 4 only so if T-Mobile is not operating on Band 4 LTE in an area then you won't be getting LTE, same is the case with for HSPA for a refarmed area

4) Windows Phones from Rogers, Telus and Wind, Canada and phones from Latin America (Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, etc.) support almost all frequency bands for T-Mobile so they would be your second choice outside of the T-Mobile phones and before ATT phones.

5) Any other international Windows Phones would give you a max of HSPA in refarmed areas only. These would be your second last option before Verizon branded but after ATT phones
 

rasmasyean

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So what exactly is the cause of phones being this mixed up? Do manufacturers have to pay a fee to the government or something for every tech/band chip they include in the phone?
 

pankaj981

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Well I am no hardware engineer so can't speak on the manufacturing costs but I guess enabling particular bands do add up to the manufacturing cost plus can add support costs as well (testing different frequency bands). This is what the new iPhone 5S+ models to the best, they have all bands enabled for global use, LTE and HSPA+, hopefully someday all phones would follow that model
 

RumoredNow

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Frequencies are owned by the people in the United States of America. The government administers them on our behalf. Corporations lease them from the government and that access can be bought, sold or traded like any commodity. The recent move to Digital Broadcast television freed up a lot of spectrum to assist the push of cell networks nationwide. Yes, the cell companies do pay money for this and there was a bidding frenzy to get the added capacity.
 

mark233

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So ... after reading this it would seem that the RM-1039 Lumia 735 would be a little better overall in T-Mobile cell coverage than the RM-985? Just curious. I have both and where I live I get outstanding Tmo LTE signal.

RM-1039 Lumia 735 cell bands:
735 cell bands.PNG

RM-985 Lumia 830 cell bands:
830 cell bands.PNG
 

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