The Current LTE Spectrum Situation

I was recently asked by a friend how I see the current LTE spectrum assignments. I would have liked to give a simple answer but it is actually not quite straight forward. This is how I see it at the moment:


  • 2.1 GHz band, used for 3G today but still a lot of unused capacity: Most likely the first band where 5 MHz LTE carriers will be deployed. No limitations from regulators, LTE can be deployed straight away.
  • 2.5 GHz spectrum auctions still outstanding in most countries. Good for going beyond 5 MHz carriers
  • 900 MHz band: Maybe some deployments of 5 MHz carriers or less. Good for in-house coverage but the band is heavily used for GSM today so it's difficult to clean up enough space for a meaningful LTE deployment without running into congestion issues. It might get better as more people get 3G phones and some of voice and data traffic currently running over GSM in the 900 MHz band will start flowing over 3G in the 2.1 GHz band. That reduces the load, hence, it might be possible for carriers to clear some spectrum for LTE, if they haven't opted for UMTS 900 deployment, which is available today.
  • 800 MHz band (Digital Dividend): Strong push in Europe at the moment to free the same bandwidth in all member countries. First trials have started to bring high speed Internet to rural areas with HSPA and LTE.

North America:

  • Verizon will deploy LTE in the 700 MHz band and has a single 10 MHz carrier available. That's not much. The spectrum has been assigned, so it can be deployed straight away.


  • According to the presentation of NTT DoCoMo at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this year, they will also deploy LTE in the 2.1 GHz band, replacing one of their UMTS carriers with LTE at the beginning.


  • Not sure

Unfortunately, it does not end here, 3GPP has lots of additional frequency bands defined for LTE. So fracturization is likely to increase. As always, comments, additions, etc. are very welcome!

3 thoughts on “The Current LTE Spectrum Situation”

  1. I think the North American situation is somewhat worse than you are aware of. The assignment to Verizon vs AT&T have their duplexing reversed and are scattered over the 100Mhz range. Probably for good interference reasons, but the additional radio complexity is significant.
    has a reasonable summary, although it could be clearer now the bands have been won.

    Verizon’s meager 10Mhz is the lions share. AT&T appear (from limited reading) to have two seperate 5Mhz allocations.

    Also see

    As you point out, the USA 700Mhz spectrum is completely different to the European 800Mhz.

  2. 1’800MHz is also an option for Europe: there is a lot of not so used spectrum in that band. Manufacturers tend more and more to include that band on their roadmap. Most operators should be able to free 10MHz for the beginning of their rollout.

    Possible scenario:

    2.6GHz will be used with 20MHz carriers for hotspots

    1.8GHz could be used for city-wide coverage

    The digital dividend band will not be big enough for more than 10MHz channels in most countries. Usage could be in cities for deep indoor coverage or for covering white spots.

  3. 1.8GHz is an option in Europe but it’s less preferred because of the performance.

    In China there are two major players – China Mobile will use Band 39 for TDD. I heard that the Chinese government has put aside total 100MHz for TDD – meaning they’re very determined to push TDD even further from today’s TD-SCDMA. Another operator is China Unicom, who recently got the WCDMA license and in process of rolling out HSPA on 2100MHz. Pretty sure they’ll go for 2100MHz FDD – they also have some 900MHz and 850MHz.

    China is also trying to push TDD into other Asian countries by holding significant shares of other operators. But this is China Mobile only, not China Unicom.

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