Cellular Frequency Bands

Frequencies used by cellular phones and cell signal boosters

Cell phone towers on a mountain

Updated July 31, 2020

This article explains, in simple terms, what cellular frequencies are being used for 4G and low-band 5G by cellular carriers and devices in the United States, Canada, and many other countries in the Western Hemisphere.

How to get better cell signal

Cell signal boosters provide cellular reception where today’s networks can’t reach: inside buildings made from concrete, metal, and low-e glass; rural and remote locations; low-lying areas and other places where signal is blocked by natural and man-made obstacles.

Bands of Cellular Frequency

The cellular spectrum is divided up into different bands of frequency. National governments control the allocation of these bands and how they are used. In the United States, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) licenses specific bands to cellular carriers and the carriers have exclusive use of those bands in specific regions of the country.

Each cellular band is made up of multiple channels (or blocks). Each cellular channel is divided into an uplink portion that transmits from cell phones to the tower and a downlink portion that transmits from the cell tower to phones. Separating uplink and downlink within a channel allows for simultaneous (and faster) two-way voice and data transmissions.

In the Beginning: 2G/3G Cellular and PCS

In the early days of cellular phones, 800 MHz band 5 was used for voice transmissions. There are only two channels in the 800 MHz band: A and B.

Cellular 800 MHz band 5 channel diagram

U = uplink; D = downlink.

As cell phone usage increased, more bandwidth was needed. 1900 MHz band 2 was licensed to the carriers and named the Personal Communications Service (PCS). band 2 has six channels, A through F. (PCS band 25 was added later to overlap band 2 with an additional G channel.)

PCS 1900 MHz band 2 channel diagram

PCS was later expanded to include band 25 block G frequencies.

Band 2 (800 MHz Cellular) and band 5 (1900 MHz PCS) were the primary bands of cellular frequency for few years.

The Rise of 4G Cellular Data: AWS and 700 MHz

Number of cellular connected devices per person, 2010-2020 (Click to enlarge)

The introduction of the smartphone in 2008 changed the cellular landscape: Cellular phones changed from low-bandwidth voice-and-text devices to high-bandwidth users of internet data. Web browsing, email, social media, and streaming audio and video took over the mobile space. User loads on cell towers soared. Smartphones have since been joined by cellular-enabled tablets, laptops, and smart watches. As the chart to the rightabove shows, the number of cellular devices per person increased exponentially over the last decade.

In 2006, 1700/2100 MHz band 4, named Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) debuted to provide high-speed cellular data in the same area of frequency served by PCS:

AWS 1700/2100 MHz band 4 channel diagram

AWS’s uplink channels use the 1700 MHz spectrum, while its downlink channels reside in the 2100 MHz range.

Four years later, cellular service opened up in the lower 700 MHz bands 12 and 17 and the upper 700 MHz band 13. These longer-range frequencies in the Seven-hundred MHz (SMH) range provide cellular coverage in rural and remote areas as part of 4G’s Long Term Evolution (LTE) plan.

SMH 700 MHz bands 12, 17, and 13 channel diagram

The Future Is Now: 5G Networks

Carriers in the U.S. and Canada are now actively building 5G cellular networks. Always-connected devices and appliances—the Internet of Things (IoT)—are flooding the market, and self-driving vehicles will demand instantaneous data for guidance and control. These new advances will require faster 5G data in more locations.

Cellular carriers have begun expanding their low-band networks into 600 MHz band 71 and 2300 MHz band 30. 5G will use all of the above and even higher frequencies—all the way up to 48 GHz—to provide cellular connectivity to more devices with higher bandwidth requirements.

Learn more about 5G technology, 5G frequencies, and health concerns about 5G.

Low-band Cellular Frequencies

Today’s cellular signal boosters cover many common low-band frequencies used for 4G and 5G networks. With cellular technology rapidly evolving and expanding, booster manufacturers are seeking blanket approval from the FCC to cover additional frequencies.

U.S. carriers offer cellular service on the following bands within the United States. Not all bands are available in all areas; some bands have limited deployment in urban areas or certain test markets.

Band
Common name
Uplink (MHz)
Downlink (MHz)
Bandwidth (MHz)
U.S. carrier(s)
Signal boosters
71
Digital Dividend
663–698
617–652
36
T-Mobile icon
No
12
Lower 700 MHz
699–716
729–746
18
AT&T mobility icon T-Mobile icon Sprint icon U.S. Cellular icon
Yes
17
Lower 700 MHz
704–716
734–746
13
AT&T mobility icon
Yes
13
Upper 700 MHz
777–787
746–756
11
Verizon Wireless icon
Yes
14
FirstNet
788–798
758–768
11
FirstNet icon
Yes*
5
Cellular
824–849
869–894
26
Verizon Wireless icon AT&T mobility icon U.S. Cellular icon
Yes
26
Extended Cellular
814–849
859–894
36
Sprint icon
No
4
AWS
1710–1755
2110–2155
46
Verizon Wireless icon AT&T mobility icon T-Mobile icon
Yes
66
Extended AWS
1710–1780
2110–2200
91/71
Verizon Wireless icon AT&T mobility icon T-Mobile icon
No
2
PCS
1850–1910
1930–1990
61
Verizon Wireless icon AT&T mobility icon T-Mobile icon U.S. Cellular icon
Yes
25
Extended PCS
1850–1915
1930–1995
66
Verizon Wireless icon AT&T mobility icon T-Mobile icon Sprint icon
Yes
30
WCS
2305–2315
2350–2360
11
AT&T mobility icon Sprint icon
No
41
BRS/EBS
2496–2690
2496–2690
195
Sprint icon
No

* Band 14 is reserved for first responder emergency services. One booster (the Cel‑Fi GO RED) amplifies this band.