LTE Frequency Bands for Cell Signal Boosters

This article explains, in simple terms, what frequencies are being used by cellular carriers and devices.

Frequency bands

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

Each cellular band is made up of multiple channels (blocks). Each cellular channel is divided into uplink (transmit from the cell phone to the tower) and downlink (transmit from cell tower to phones) portions. Having separate uplink and downlink within a channel allows for faster two-way voice and data transmissions.

In the beginning: Cellular and PCS bands

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

As cell phone usage grew, more bandwidth was needed to support the increasing user load, so band 2 1900MHz was licensed to the carriers and named the Personal Communications Service (PCS). 1900MHz has six channels, A through F. (Band 25 PCS was added later with seven channels, A through G.)

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

Cellular 800 MHz band 5 channel diagram PCS 1900 MHz band 2 channel diagram

U = uplink, D = downlink. PCS was later expanded to include band 25 block G frequencies.

The rise of cellular data: AWS and SMH bands

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 went from low-bandwidth voice and text devices to high-bandwidth users of Internet data. Web browsing, email, social media, and streaming audio and video began to play a major role in mobile. User loads on cell towers soared. Smartphones have since been joined by 4G tablets, laptops, and smart watches. As the chart to the rightabove shows, the number of cellular devices per person has been increasing exponentially.

Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) and Long Term Evolution (LTE) frequencies were launched in 2006 and 2010, respectively, to support the massive amounts of data that cellular carriers were moving through their networks. Later, 4G LTE technologies increased data speeds over ten times those of earlier 3G networks.

AWS’s uplink channels use the 1700 MHz spectrum, while its downlink channels reside in the 2100 MHz range. LTE (also known as SMH) resides in the lower half of the 700 MHz spectrum.

AWS 1700/2100 MHz band 4 channel diagram SMH 700 MHz bands 12, 17, and 13 channel diagram

U = uplink, D = downlink

The future is upon us: 5G, IoT, autonomous vehicles, and more

5G cellular networks are just around the corner. A wave of continually-connected devices and appliances—the Internet of Things (IoT)—has already started to crest, and self-driving vehicles will demand instantaneous data for guidance and control. These new advances will require faster data in more locations.

New cellular networks are already starting to operate in the 600, 2300, 2600, 3600, and even the 5200 MHz frequency ranges. These will provide cellular connectivity to more devices with higher bandwidth requirements.

LTE and other cellular frequencies amplified by consumer cell signal boosters (2018)

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.

Signal boosters currently on the market cover the following frequencies. With cellular technology rapidly evolving and expanding, manufacturers will undoubtedly be adding additional frequencies soon.

Band
Common name
Uplink MHz
Downlink MHz
Width (MHz)
12
Lower SMH
699–716
729–746
18
17
Lower SMH
704–716
734–746
13
13
Upper SMH
777–787
746–756
11
5
Cellular
824–849
869–894
26
4
AWS
1710–1755
2110–2155
46
2
PCS (blocks A–F)
1850–1910
1930–1990
61
25
PCS (blocks A–G)
1850–1915
1930–1995
66