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What is LTE Frequency, Band & Why do Carriers use different ones?

What does an LTE frequency actually represent?

For the most part, LTE frequencies are expressed as a single number with the unit "megahertz", or MHz. But in reality, this notation is a shorthand way of expressing a range of frequencies. For example, the frequency 700 MHz actually refers to the entire range from 699 to 789 MHz.

What are LTE bands, and how do they differ from frequencies?

LTE bands are linked to frequencies and represent blocks of sequential LTE frequency ranges. While all LTE bands are sequentially numbered, some bands may exclusively refer to a particular mobile carrier while other LTE bands are shared by two or more mobile carriers. Similarly, some frequency ranges correspond directly to one LTE band, while other frequency ranges comprise multiple bands. If we continue to use the 700 MHz frequency as an example, we will see that this corresponds with bands 12, 13, 17, and others throughout Canada & United States.

Why do we need different LTE frequencies and bands?

If you have wondered why multiple bands are offered by different cell phone carriers, let us explain in detail. LTE frequencies exist in a spectrum from frequencies as low as 700 MHz right up to high frequencies of 2600 MHz. To understand the role of different frequencies across the spectrum, it can help to consider the extreme examples – the very highest and very lowest LTE frequencies available in North America.

The highest frequency, 2600 MHz, is designed for densely populated cities. It is built for speed, delivering large amounts of data at high speed across short distances. Its high capacity allows for multiple people to connect at one time. High LTE frequencies do not perform well over long distances.

The lowest frequency, 700 MHz, is designed with rural areas in mind. Ideal for the countryside, island areas, and any other sparsely populated areas, low-frequency LTE services can't handle the data capacity of the higher frequencies, but excel when it comes to travelling long distances. For this reason, low-frequencies are generally used in areas where telephone exchanges struggle, such as rural areas. In addition, lower frequencies are uniquely designed to penetrate walls, making them a better choice for indoor areas like multistorey apartment blocks or office towers.

If we then consider middle range frequencies, such as 1800 MHz, we will find a balance being struck between speed, data capacity, and distance. Mobile carriers tend to offer a select range of low-frequency, mid-frequency, and high-frequency LTE services to suit the varying needs of their subscribers. And since different mobile carriers tend to service different areas, with some focusing more on densely populated cities and others servicing suburban or even rural areas, different mobile carriers offer vastly different LTE frequencies and bands.