Roaming Report – Part 7 – Frequency Bands used for LTE and 5G in the US – Operator 1

As I live in Europe, I pretty much know the EU LTE and 5G frequency bands by heart. In North America, however, the frequency ranges and particularly the band numbers are significantly different, so I had a closer look which bands my devices were using while having been there, and which bands the networks asked my devices to report back in their band support list.

The first network I was using in San Diego typically steered my devices to LTE band 4 and then aggregated a 5G carrier to my LTE connection on band n41. As LTE carrier aggregation was not activated on my test devices for the North American market, I was delighted to see that 5G band n41 was assigned with the full 100 MHz channel bandwidth. When connecting to the network, the UE was then requested to indicate its support for the following frequency bands:

LTE: 2, 4, 66, 12, 71, 46, 25, 41, 26
5G: n25, n41

A number of things stand out here, from a European point of view. On the LTE side, the network requested an indication for LTE band 41. This is the 2.5 GHz spectrum, and I assumed that all of the spectrum has been migrated to the 5G side. But perhaps this is not the case!? Or perhaps it’s still in the request, because nobody has bothered to take it out. Hard to say. LTE band 71 was also interesting to me, it’s 600 MHz spectrum and hence much lower on the frequency scale than the lowest spectrum used in Europe, which is in the 700 MHz range. Another interesting one is LTE band 46. That’s spectrum in the 5 GHz ‘Wi-Fi’ band (please forgive the simplification), i.e. from a 3GPP point of view, that is ‘License Assisted Access’ in unlicensed spectrum. Makes me wonder if it is really used, and how well it is supported by devices sold in North America!? The other bands are pretty much ‘standard’ and cover the 700, 800, 1700, 1900 and 2100 MHz frequency ranges.

On the 5G side, things are equally interesting: Band n41 is the 2.5 GHz range, and I got assigned a channel bandwidth of 100 MHz. And then there’s 5G band n25, which is the extended PCS band in the 1900 MHz range. An indication of band 25 support is also requested on the LTE side. Perhaps, and I have no way of knowing, spectrum is slowly moved from LTE to the NR side on this band?

And now obviously, the very important questions: Which bands would my high end device released back in 2022 support. Here we go:

LTE: 2, 4, 5, 12, 17, 26, 13, 25, 64, 41
5G: 25, 41

Band support on the LTE side looks pretty good, missing bands are just band 66, 71, and 46, while the device reported some bands which were not even requested. As far as the missing bands are concerned: 66 is the extended 1700/2100 MHz band, 71 is the 600 MHz band (pretty new in 2024 I guess), and band 46 is LAA (not a problem, not widely used if at all I assume). In other words: Pretty good support of this device that was sold in Europe for US bands! If it would just do LTE Carrier Aggregation in the US… Sorry for the repetition, but this bothers me no end.

On the 5G side, support for all bands requested was indicated, so I was well covered here as well. Overall, much wider support than what I was hoping for. I am aware, however, that the network might use slightly different bands in other parts of the country, because frequency band holdings are not homogeneous. Nevertheless, I think it gives a pretty good picture of the overall situation. Particularly the good low band support, except for the pretty new 600 MHz range means that rural areas will not be a problem for my EU device, either.

So much for the first network operator I was looking at. You might wonder why I am not naming names, but this post it is not about particular operators but overall EU/North America interoperability. In the next post, I’ll continue with a look at the next network I connected to.