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Which Unlocked Phones Work With Your Operator? A Guide to US 2G, 3G, 4G and LTE Bands

Wondering if that unlocked phone you are considering on eBay or Swappa will get 3G or LTE, or even work at all on your prefered operator? Here's a guide to the bands used by each major US operator.

AT&T uses the 850Mhz and 1900 Mhz bands for GSM (voice), EDGE (2G) and UMTS (3G) data. In some markets they use both bands in others one or the other.  Other than some outdated maps, there's no way to tell where they use each band.

For LTE AT&T uses bands 2 (1900), 4 (1700), 5 (850), 12/17 (700 a, b) 29 (700 d) and 30 (2300) Band 12  is AT&T's primary LTE band. Band 17 is the subset of band 12 that AT&T uses. AT&T originally identified its 700 Mhz spectrum as band 17 but now identifies it as both 12 and 17 which allows phones with either band 12 or band 17 to use it. Bands 2, 4, 5, 29 and 30 are used in areas where AT&T doesn't own any band 12 spectrum and also in combination with band 12 in urban areas to increase capacity and speeds.

T-Mobile uses the 1900 Mhz band for GSM (voice) and EDGE (2G) and UMTS (3G) data. It also uses the 1700 (AWS) band for UMTS (3G) data in some markets.

For LTE, T-Mobile uses bands 2 (1900), 4 (1700) and 12 (700 a,b,c). T-Mobile's primary LTE band is band 4. Band 2 is being deployed in former 2G only non-urban areas where T-Mobile doesn't have any band 4 spectrum. In some, maybe all, of these band 2 only LTE markets, 3G is not offered, only 2G and LTE.

Band 12 is relatively new. T-Mobile started deploying LTE on band 12 in the second half of 2014. There's a map of T-Mobile's band 12 spectrum here. Band 12 is a lower frequency band that provides extended range and improved building penetration compared with bands  4 and 2.

As for Sprint and Verizon, you can pretty much forget about using phones from other operators on either of their networks. With a couple of exceptions (iPhones from the Apple Store and the Nexus 5 from the Play Store), both operators will only activate phones that they have sold. It is still possible to "flash" Sprint, U.S. Cellular and other non-Verizon CDMA phones to Verizon MVNO PagePlus, but even that avenue is expected to be blocked soon. It's still useful to know which bands Sprint and Verizon use when shopping for phones as older phones nay not support all of the bands currently used by either operator.

Verizon uses 850 Mhz and 1900 Mhz for voice, 1xRTT (2G) and EVDO (3G) data
For LTE, Verizon uses bands 4 (1700c) and 13 (700). Band 13 is Verizon's primary LTE band. Band 4, which Verizon markets as XLTE, is used to provide increased speed and capacity in urban areas.

Sprint uses the 800 Mhz and 1900 Mhz bands for voice, 1xRTT (2G) and EVDO (3G) data
For LTE Sprint uses bands  25 (1900), 26 (800) and 41 (2500). Band 25 is Sprint's primary LTE band. Bands 26 and 41 are used to increase capacity and speed. Sprint markets service using all three LTE bands as Sprint Spark.
WiMAX, Sprint's original 4G technology, operates in only 71 of the over 300 US mobile markets. It uses the 2.5Ghz band and is scheduled to be shutdown at the end of 2015.

To be sure that a phone will work to its fullest or at all with a given carrier you need to know which bands it supports.

For phones made for the US market PhoneScoop.com is my favorite resource for checking specs. It provides a full page of detailed specifications for virtually every US phone model. Supported bands are listed in the Modes section of the specs. Click the + more detail link to see which LTE band numbers are supported. With LTE  It's not enough to refer to bands by their approximate frequency (850, 1700, 1900), as multiple incompatible LTE bands can exist in the same frequency ranges. LTE bands can only be positively identified by their LTE band number.

For checking band support for non-US market phones I like PDAdb.net and frequencycheck.com Be sure you are looking at specs for the phone's exact model number rather than its marketing name (Samsung Galaxy i9500 rather than Samsung Galaxy S4), as most phones come in multiple versions supporting different bands.

When comparing phones you will quickly discover there are relatively few truly universal phones that are sold unlocked and work across all operators. The only ones I'm aware of:
Apple iPhone 6s (A1633) and 6s Plus (A1634)
Nexus 6P (H1511)
Samsung Galaxy S7 Special Edition (SM-G930U) and S7 Edge Special Edition (SM-G935U)

A few more that come close are the:
Verizon iPhone 6 (A1586) and 6 Plus (A1522) lack T-Mobile band 12 and AT&T band 30
iPhone SE (A1622) lacks Sprint band 41
Nexus 5x (H790)  and Nexus 6 (XT1103) lack AT&T band 30
Motorola Moto X Pure Edition (2105) (XT1575), Moto G4 (SM-G935U) Moto G4 Plus (XT1644) and Moto G4 Play lack AT&T bands 29 and 30

Updated 27-Aug-2016 - revised AT&T and T-Mobile band lists and descriptions, updated "universal" phone list.

Sources: Cellular Binder, TmoNews, Apple, Wikipedia

Image: Cell phone tower in Oregon by M.O. Stevens some rights reserved CC-BY-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons


128 comments:

Comment Page :
  1. Great article! Dennis, are there any disadvantages in using a Verizon iPhone 5s or iPhone 6 with AT&T?

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    1. that's what I am doing now it is ferfectly work on lte but u have to enter the appropriate data setting

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    2. The MMS setting for picture messages needs to be entered. I had to jailbreak my phone in order to get MMS to work on a Verizon phone with H2O.

      Delete
  2. Really like this article.

    I am thinking of going with Truphone (t-mobile default and att as backup) and trying to decide which phone, how to unlock, & which gets the fast data.

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  3. Great summary!

    The question I have is: The internationally available iPhone 6/6+ are listed as being the same as the US Sprint model. Is it possible to buy an unlocked international model 6/6+, and have it work on all 4 US carriers, which it seems capable of supporting?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. An iPhone sold as an unlocked phone or for a different opperator can't be activated by Verizon and Sprint because its MEID isn't in the operator's data base. When you buy an iPhone from Apple and tell them you will be using it on Sprint or Verizon they do some magic that adds the phone to the respective opperator's database of permited devices.

      Delete
  4. I got me a Truphone SIM not long ago, NOT happy that calls go to voice mail after 15 seconds of ring time.

    Called CS, they said sure we can change/increase that, then after trying, told me it looks like the system will only allow the 15 seconds, my understanding is: In the past CS could select/change the amount ring time for you, but now can no longer.

    I think this 15 second thing came about because of the change Truphone made to incoming calls being free, the 15 sec ring time would increase the number of calls that can't be answered before going to voice mail and result in the Truphone user having call back missed calls.

    The real bummer is, I can't put Truphone on my Google Voice account because I don't want my calls to GV going to the Truphone voice mail. I contacted Truphone CS about this a number of times, and there just is no way to increase the ring time.

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    1. Can Truphone disable voice mail entirely? That would solve the problem of calls to your Google Voice number getting picked up by Truphone voice mail and also increase ringtime.

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    2. That's a bummer. I thought they advertise that they are tech savvy. Seems like they cannot turn off voicemail. You don't want to use google voice's presentation where you have to press 1?

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    3. Yes I had Truphone disable voice mail entirely?

      I thought that would fix the problem so I could use GV, but NO, it does not work, with VM disabled, calls go to a msg stating that the cell phone user you are calling is not available after 15 seconds of ringing.

      It seems there is no way around this 15 second ring thing on Truphone.

      Delete
    4. CS says it can be longer than 15 seconds?

      Delete
    5. GV advises most people to use that "press 1 to accept call" mode. That way, voicemail boxes don't accidentally pickup the call as if a human answered i.

      Delete
  5. This is a timely post. My mother is currently on my AT&T family plan. I may switch to Cricket in the near future, so I'd like to transfer her line to a pay-as-you-go GSM service since all she does is make occasional phone calls - no texting or data usage. She is using an unlocked Nokia 6300 tri-band GSM 2G phone, which will work on either AT&T or T-Mobile networks. I've read that T-Mobile is gradually replacing their 2G service with LTE, hence reducing their coverage/footprint for older phones. Therefore I am leaning toward AT&T MVNO providers. Any thoughts?

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    1. AT&T plans to have its 2G Network shut down by January 1, 2017. Just Google the topic --lots of news articles.

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    2. That's true but I think it will be a non issue for most users. AT&T hasn't sold 2G phones in a couple of years. Even their flip phones support 3G now.

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    3. T-Mobile is replacing base stations so they can deploy LTE on their 1900MHz spectrum, currently used for 2G, 3G and HSPA+. In many rural areas, they are just using the spectrum for 2G and voice. Once the base stations are replaced, they can run all 4 data services at the same time, and hand off calls from one service to another as needed. In rural areas when they only have 2G data service now, they will keep some spectrum for that even after LTE deploys, until there is not enough demand to support it. So, LTE deployment will not just turn off 2G service in rural areas.

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    4. Thanks, I wasn't aware that AT&T is planning to phase out its 2G service in a few years. I might as well just go with T-Mobile's pay-as-you-go service for my mom. At least I can still buy a Samsung T199 3G candybar phone for her, which is a T-Mobile prepaid feature phone; it's pretty similar to her Nokia 6300 in functionality. Target sells them for $20. Since she doesn't plan to use data, T-Mobile's voice network (w/roaming) should be plenty sufficient.

      Delete
  6. All the operators are reallocating 2G spectrum to 3G or 4G as there are fewer 2G customers so there's excess 2G bandwidth. It's just normal network management and shouldn't effect remaining 2G users if done right.

    H20 (AT&T) and PTel (T-Mobile) are the bext value GSM pay as you go options currently.

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    Replies
    1. Dennis, thank you for your response. I was going to compare your H2O and Airvoice carrier profiles this evening. Once I switch my own line to Cricket and my mother's line to H2O or Airvoice, I'll probably cut my overall monthly mobile phone service costs by 50%, perhaps even more than that if I decide to go with Cricket's $25 unlimited talk and text plan instead of their $40 plan with 1 GB data. Thanks again for all the work you do in putting this site together.

      Delete
    2. Dennis:

      Airvoice is better value than H20.

      Voice, text, and data rates are all lower.

      Delete
    3. I generally prefer Airvoice over H2O. However the OP asked about a plan for very light voice-only usage.

      Airvoice's $10/90 day pay as you go plan charges 10¢/minute and has a $1/month fee

      H2O $10/90 pay as you go plan charges 5¢/minute with no monthly fee which makes it a much better deal

      Delete
  7. Thanks for this article. This is very useful information that is painful to try to accumulate via bits and pieces.

    It's going straight into my notebook.

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  8. The new ZTE ZMAX also supports the new LTE band 12 for T-Mobile, Dennis.

    http://www.zteusa.com/phones/zte-zmax.html

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  9. Can I use a VERIZON samsung galaxy tab S in t-mobile (4g lte and HSDPA)?

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  10. Dennis.
    The post has a typo that might get confusing. "Very few current phones. support band 2"
    I think you meant band 12. Also I don't get the period after "Very few current phones"

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've corrected the typos. Thanks for pointing them out.

      Delete
  11. Which Verizon android phones have GSM with ATT capability ? Which of those have ATT LTE capability ? - Thanks

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    1. I think the iPhone 5c, 5s and latter are the only Verizon phones that support all of AT&T's GSM, UMTS amd LTE bands. There are others that support the GSM and UMTS bands but only band 4 LTE.

      Use the Phone Finder on PhoneScoop.com to serach for Verizon phones with UMTS and LTE and then drill down into Modes section for each phone to see which bands they support.

      Delete
  12. As usual, great coverage Dennis.

    Can't find this kind of info anywhere else.

    Submitted to many social media sites.

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  13. So if you are in a T-Mobile refarmed area you are better off picking up an ATT SIII device over a T-Mobile? It is really confusing, but you are saying that unless you have the 700 (17) band you most likely will not get ATT LTE in most areas? Will the ATT SII pick up t-mobile LTE? SIII ATT carries the LTE 700 (band 17), 1700/2100 (band 4) MHz

    I picked up a Metro F6 and was hoping to use ATT SIM and get LTE of course HSPA + may work better than T-Mobiles and if it does then it may work well for my needs anyway.
    F6 carries LTE 850 (band 5), 1700/2100 (band 4), 1900 (band 2), 2100 (band 1) MHz
    Any advice would be appreciated!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. According to Phonescoop the T-Mobile S III supports all the bands that the AT&T S III does plus it has 1700 UMTS so it's the better choice for T-Mobile.

      Where are you seeing that the MetroPCS F6 has LTE bands 1 and 5?. Phonescoop show it as having LTE bands 2, 4, and 17.

      Delete
  14. I pulled that from Phone Arena?
    As far as T-Mobile my HSPA+ speeds are pathetic where I live yet LTE speeds are much better! We are refarmed so I don't know if I happen to fall into that category where we are relegated to 2G.
    Why LTE is possibly the better option if the devices handle the correct frequencies for the the particular service. Why I asked about Band 17
    I find it interesting that CDMA is trashed and that GSM is the holy grail, except it is not talked about how you need all the right bands supported for either T-Mobile and ATT for the device and the local area you live and you travel to. It is facade, you are still tied to the carrier in so many respects.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. LG shows CAT 3, which is apparently (700 / 1900 / 2100 MHz) .

      Delete
    2. LTE CAT 3 refers to theoretical top speed (100 Mbps down, 50 Mbps up). According to LG Optimus F6 user guide downloaded from the MetroPCS site it supports:
      GSM 850/900/1800/1900
      3G/UMTS Bands I(2100), II(1900), IV(AWS, 1700), V(850)
      LTE Band 2(1900), 4(1700), 17(700)
      Which agrees with PhoneScoop. I doesn't trust PhoneArena for specs.

      Delete
    3. So Dennis, I was under the impression the SIII T999 did not come with LTE, but when looking around it seems there is the T-999L that also carries the 700 -1700 LTE Bands. Any reason to stay away from this version? Reason I ask is that this version seems to go for a less than the non LTE version T-999?

      Delete
    4. Do you think an unlocked T-999L will be the best choice for both T-Mobile and AT&T connectivity? Will be using in LA - SF Bay Area - San Benito and Monterey Counties
      Samsung shows GSM: 850/900/1800/1900; UMTS: Band 1(2100), II(1900), IV (1700), V(850); LTE: Band IV(1700), XVII(700)

      Any advice would be appreciated

      Delete
    5. The T-999L is a good choice for use on both AT&T and T-Mobile. However if you your goal is support for the maximum number of bands used by both carriers there are some even better choices including:

      Nexus 5, iPhone 5c, 5s, 6 and 6 Plus, T-Mobile Galaxy S 4 (SGH-M919) and S5 (SM-G900T) which support all the bands that the T-999L does plus LTE band 2 (used by T-Mobile & AT&T) and 5 (used by AT&T)

      The T-Mobile Note 4 (SM-N910T) which supports all the above bands that the Nexus 5, etc. support plus LTE band 12 (used by T-Mobile).

      Delete
    6. I am looking to spend $200 or less per device and to replace the Wife's Sprint SIII and my Son's Sprint HTC EVO LTE, so my options are somewhat limited. LTE is not a necessity using AT&T but more so with T-Mobile. I should be pretty well covered for HSPA+ on the AT&T side, correct and 17(700) band is AT&T go to LTE band right? It being T-Mobile device I see no issues either HSPA+ or LTE
      Problem is knowing what AT&T is using in the areas I mentioned or anywhere for that matter.
      Thanks for your input Dennis

      Delete
    7. I would consider a used N5 but the lack of an SD card is the killer!

      Delete
    8. The 32 GB Nexus 5 has 27 GB available to the user. That will hold a lot of apps and music. Do you really need more?

      Another option is the unlocked Lumia 635 for $199.99 from the Microsoft store. It supports quad-band 3G and LTE bands 2, 4, 5 and 17 and has an SD card slot.

      Delete
    9. I don't, but my son needs more than that, LOL........ the Wife loves her SIII and she wants to stay with that platform for at least the interim. I guess I will just pick one up, test it and go from there.
      Thanks again.

      Delete
  15. Dennis can you add this article to the "Prepaid How To". Because over time this article will be buried by the other news.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Dennis.
    Could you add the data speeds the different LTE classes support?

    There's a typo under AT&T that reads "In some markets they use both bands in others one of the other" maybe you meant "one or the other"

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've fixed the typo, thanks

      LTE classes denote the maximum theoretical speeds (in Mbps) a device is capable of:
      class 1 10 down, 5 up
      class 2 50 down 25 up
      class 3 100 down 50 up
      class 4 150 down 50 up
      class 5 300 down 75 up

      Delete
  17. Sorry for the late-follow-on post but I am new to the LTE party.

    I'm a long-time Page Plus user and have just purchased a VZW 1st Gen Moto X to use with the new PP LTE service (which, having just enrolled, I'm enjoying the new 5/3 speeds rather than the as-launched 3.5/1+ speeds).

    Per Phonescoop.com, The 1st. Gen VZW Moto X supports LTE bands 13 (750/Upper 700, for Verizon) as well as band 4 (1700 AWS). Does that mean the phone can also be used with T-mo LTE (you state that "T-Mobile's primary LTE band is band 4"). The phone also handles the following WCDMA (3G / 4G) freqs: 850 Cellular / band 5; 900 band 8; 1900 PCS / band 2; and 2100 IMT / band 1. That would seem to allow interoperability with both T-Mo and ATT (in, for example, Chicago) for 3G+ access (assuming I am correct that WCDMA = UMTS). True/False?

    Fantastic write-up, Dennis; thanks! One of the best and most concise I have found on this subject.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, the Verizon Moto X (2013) will work on T-Mobile including LTE. 3G coverage will be a little lacking as it lacks T-Mobile's primary UMTS band: 1700 Mhz. WCDMA is the air-interface technology used in UMTS and is often used as a synonym of UMTS.

      Delete
    2. Dennis,

      Would all 1st gen Moto X function the same on Tmo or a Tmo recarrier (I'm on Simple Mobile)? My impression is that of the GSM models there are three versions: an At&t branded phone, a Tmo branded phone, and the custom phones offered on the motomaker website. Would I correct? I live in an area where LTE is scarce, and don't want to have a lackluster 3g connection. Also, is Simple ok as far as Tmo carriers go? And finally, does a phone being unlocked affect which bands it accesses?

      Thanks in advance.

      Delete
    3. I used to own the T-Mo Moto X version (no branding marks), which was the same as the unlocked GSM model, XT1053. It worked fine on HSPA+ and LTE service. I used Ptel, but you can use any MVNO and T-Mo HSPA+ is the same as T-Mo service. Unlocked does not affect this. I ordered mine through the Moto custom site, but that only affected the appearance. Simple is owned by Am Movil and has no off-network roaming so coverage is limited to the T-Mo native network. CS is offshore, so be patient and prepared to call several times if the first rep can't solve your problem.

      Delete
    4. Anonymous is correct, XT1053, the T-Mobile and unlocked US model, is the best 1st gen Moto X for T-Mobile. It supports
      UTMS (3G) on 850/900/1700/1900/2100 Mhz. T-Mobile uses mainly 1700 with a 1900 overlay in most large urban areas.
      LTE on bands 2/4/17. T-Mobile uses mainly band 4 with band 2 in former 2G only areas where they don't own any band 4 spectrum. T-Mobile is also just starting to use band 12 LTE which very few current phones support.

      Other Moto X models are:
      XT1058 (AT&T locked) UTMS 850/900/1900/2100, LTE 2/4/5/7/17
      XT1060 (Verizon) UTMS 850/900/1900/2100, LTE 4/13
      XT1052 (unlocked international) UTMS 850/900/1800/1900/2100, LTE 3/5/7

      Delete
  18. Thanks. I'll keep the phone primarily on PagePlus, but I'm hoping for the opportunity to occasionally experiment. I'm in Chicago so when I'm staying put I should be able to use the phone on VZW and its MVNOs for Band 4 LTE and 3G CDMA service; T-Mo and it's MVNOs for Band 4 LTE and 1900 Mhz band UMTS service; and AT&T and its MVNOs for 1900 Mhz band UMTS service.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Hope someone can help. I purchased the Unlocked/Contract free tmobile phone6 from apple.com. I got it, put my H20 wireless sim card in and I cannot change my APN settings. I contacted both Apple and H20. Apple says that it is H20 not allowing me to change carrier settings and they need to provision my account and push the settings to me. H20 said the only way I can change my APN settings is to jailbreak my phone, which Apple said was incorrect info. I see others have purchased the same phone with no issue. Does Airvoice wireless or Cricket allow me to change settings? In my area must be ATT mvno.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Only Apple partner operators can push carrier profiles to iPhones to set APNs for data AND MMS. H2O is not an Apple partner.

      If you only want data and don't care about MMS, H2O has a "Smart SIM" that is supposed to configure to data APM but not the MMS APN. You can also send the data-only APN to the phone using http://unlockit.co.nz/.

      To be able to setup MMS on AT&T MVNOS like H2O and Airvoice that aren't Apple partners you need to be jail broken and install an APN editing app.

      If you want MMS and don't want to jailbreak, AT&T based prepaid carriers that are Apple partners include GoPhone, Cricket, Consumer Cellular, Straight Talk and NET10.

      Delete
  20. Hi Dennis, I am planning to get the LG G3 phone from Amazon/ Ebay.
    Seems like the D855 (international version) would not work on either AT&T or T-Mobile 4G network.

    And I am wondering if D850 (AT&T unlocked) would works on T-Mobile 4G network.

    Currently I am using T-Mobile service.
    I assume as long as the phone has “Band 4 – 1700”, then it should work with T-Mobile 4G?

    Hope to hear from you, thank you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. LG D850 supports
      GSM 850, 900, 1800, 1900,
      UMTS 850, 1900. 2100
      LTE bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 17

      It supports all of T-Mobile's bands except UTMS 1700 and LTE band 12

      Delete
    2. No problem. You can enable hidden bands in your unlocked phone. Try this This is of course a great post. I just gone through this and found useful for my unlocked device http://www.digitdirect.in/2016/09/how-to-enable-4g-lte-on-lg-g3.html

      Delete
    3. Unfortunately i could not enable VoLTE. Is there any help???

      Delete
  21. Hi Dennis:

    Thanks for your reply! If D850 is just missing UTMS 1700 and LTE band 12, it should be still OK to receive 4G LTE since T-Mobile primary LTE is Band 4?

    Or you would suggest just get the D851 (T-mobile) one to ensure?

    Many thanks!!


    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. D851 adds support for UTMS on 1700 Mhz which is T-Mobile's main band for 3G and HSPA+ 4G. The D851 will get 3G or 4G in non-LTE, non-refarmed areas where the D850 won't. Unless the price difference is very large, recommend the D851.

      Delete
  22. hi Dennis, because you sound very knowledgeable regarding the different LTE frequencies AT&T and T-Mobile operates on I was hoping you can help me with my dilemma. I recently purchased a Sony Xperia Z1C (D5503) to replace an AT&T Branded S4. the phones is being used on NET10 service with a AT&T Sim. prior to me switching phones, I did get AT&T LTE service on the S4 however, now that I have my Sony Xperia Z1C (D5503), I am not getting LTE. because of this, I was considering switching to T-Mobile but, I wasn't sure if my Sony Xperia Z1C (D5503) would even work on T-Mobile's LTE network too. would you happen to know if my Sony will or not? better yet, which network would offer the better use of their network for my Sony?

    Much thanks!...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Sony D5503 supports these bands:

      UMTS HSPA+ 850 (Band V), 900 (Band VIII), 1700 (Band IV), 1900 (Band II), 2100 (Band I)
      GSM GPRS/EDGE 850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz
      LTE (Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 20)

      As you can see it lacks support for LTE band 17 which is AT&T's primary LTE band. It does support bands 2, 4 and 5 which are AT&T's secondary LTE bands so you should get LTE in markets where those bands are in use by AT&T.

      You might get more consistent LTE on T-Mobile which uses band 4 primarily

      Source: Sony

      Delete
  23. Thank you Dennis...now I just have to see how well T-Mobile coverage is in the MD/DC/VA area.

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  24. I did not know that T-Mobile uses 1700 MHz for 3G. I thought they use 1900 MHz or 2100 MHz like other providers. Thanks for the info. T-Mobile's coverage in the Baltimore and Washington Area is good. There is spotty reception in the rural areas away from the big highways.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Hi Dennis,

    Firstly, great article!

    My question is regarding the following part in your article, "With LTE It's not enough to refer to bands by their approximate frequency (850, 1700, 1900), as multiple incompatible LTE bands can exist in the same frequency ranges. LTE bands can only be positively identified by their LTE band number."

    Is there somewhere where I can find more information regarding this? I'm trying to understand WHY LTE Band 3 (1800MHz) and Band 9 (1800MHz) are not "compatible with each other. I understand that there are some differences in the channel bandwidths and uplink/downlink MHz...

    Is that enough to cause a phone compatible with Band 3 to not work with Band 9 (or vice versa)? Or perhaps in SOME cases, it can be compatible (ex. Band 13 (700MHz) and Band 14 (700MHz).

    Looking forward to your reply.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This Wikipedia page lists the the LTE bands and the frequencies involved. Just because band 13 and 14 are adjacent to each other within the same 100 Mhz space doesn't give a band 13 phone band 14 receivers, transmitters, attennas and software.

      Carriers have no reason to enable a competitor's bands and each band has to go through a rigorous and expensive FCC test suite so there are costs involved in enabling unneeded bands.

      Sometimes phones can be hacked to enable additional bands.

      Delete
  26. Can i use unlocked lenovo a806 in t-mobile in 4g lte?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No, according to this Amazon listing, the Lenovo a806 doesn't support any US bands so it won't work at all on T-Mobile or any other US carrier.

      Delete
    2. I have this phone and it works on Cricket here in Ohio. only thing is I can only get 3g out of it, 4g doesn't seem to want to work.

      Delete
    3. I have the Lenovo A806 and here in Ohio it works with Cricket, should work with others to. Only thing is can't get 4g, only 3g with it.

      Delete
  27. Thank you! I went to a metro pcs store, they told me that is able to work in 4G LTE!.... Then i went to another metro pcs store, there they told me the lenovo A806 only works in HSPA+, i wasn't sure about what they told me! I look in many websites and lots of people says only works in 2G band! Thanks a lot!

    ReplyDelete
  28. Why are the same frequencies labeled as different bands?
    For example, AT&T: 17 (700) vs Verizon: 13 (700) vs TMobile 12 (700)

    So the bottom line would be that for a phone to work on everything it'd need to support 10 bands, 6 frequencies:
    2/25 (1900), 4 (1700), 5 (850) and 17/12/13/17 (700), 26 (800) and 41 (2500)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 17, 13 and 12 use different frequencies in the 700-x range. Upper band, lower band, etc.

      Delete
  29. I want to buy an unlocked AT&T Galaxy S5 Active and use it with T Mobile instead. I believe its missing the 1700 band for 3g service. How will this affect the functionality of the phone and service? Will it cause me not to have service at all in certain areas? Here are the bandwidths that are shown for the S5 Active ·2G: GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900, 3G: HSDPA 850 / 1900 / 2100l, 4G: LTE 700 / 850 / 1700 / 1800 / 1900 / 2100 / 2600 Would you say this phone would be good to go with TMo or would you recommend sticking with TMo regular S5?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I use an unlocked AT&T LTE phone that doesn't support 1700 3G and the lack of 1700 Mhz 3G is not a big deal in my experience.

      Most places where there's 1700 3G there's also 1700 LTE and 1900 3G both of which the phone supports. In a few areas you might only have 2G data where a T-Mobile phone gets 3G. Voice and texting which use 1900 GSM and should be fine everywhere T-Mobile has service.

      Delete
  30. Thanks so much for the quick reply! Anything will be better than the old HTC Sensation I've been using.

    ReplyDelete
  31. Replies
    1. No one can help you if you don't say what you need help with :)

      Delete
  32. Other than the Android smartphones TracFone sells, what all other CDMA smartphone can be used on TracFone's network ?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Verizon postpaid phones or Verizon Prepaid phones that have been used on Verizon Prepaid for 6 months.

      Delete
  33. Hi Dennis,
    I wanted to buy an international unlocked Samsung Galaxy s5. The seller says that the phone needs to run on both frequencies so if TMobile runs on 1700 and 2100 but the phone is only compatible with 2100, does that mean that the phone will not work? Phone is LTE 800 / 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 / 2100 / 2600

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Based on those specs I would not buy the phone. 2100 means LTE band 1 which is not used in the US. T-Mobile's primary LTE band is band 4 and it's primary 3G band is 1700 So the phone will not get LTE on T-Mobole and will only get 3G in rewarmed markets

      Delete
  34. >Refarmed< markets (band 2, 1900 Mhz).

    ReplyDelete
  35. Great article Dennis. I want to buy an octa-core samsung galaxy note 4. Will this work on lte with t-mobile? The lte bands are 700 (AWS)/800/850/900/1800/1900/2100/2600. Thank you for your help

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The T-Mobile version on the Note 4 is N910T. It supports all of T-Mobile's LTE bands (b4, b2 and b12). It has a quad core Snapdragon 905.

      There many versions on the Note 4 for different carriers. I don't trust any site that lists LTE bands as 100 Mhz ranges. LTE bands need to be listed by band number as there are multiple band numbers in a single 100 Mhz range.

      You are probably looking at the N910C for Europe, Asia and South America. It supports bands 2 and 4 but not 12. Samsung USA won't honor the warranty on non-US models.

      BTW, the quad-core Snapdragon in N910T is comparable in performance to the N910C's octa-core Exynos. I would not buy a N910C over an N910T unless it was much cheaper.

      Delete
  36. Does anyone know how the unlocked HTC one M9 will perform on T-Mobile? It has the following:

    HTC One M9 Unlocked & Developer Edition Band Support
    2 (1,900 MHz)
    3 (1,800 MHz)
    4 (1,700 MHz AWS)
    5 (850 MHz)
    7 (2,600 MHz)
    12 (700 MHz lower A/B/C)
    13 (700 MHz upper C)
    17 (700 MHz lower B/C)
    29 (700 MHz D/E)
    30 (2,300 MHz WCS)

    ReplyDelete
  37. The band specs you posted are incomplete because they don't specify which air interfaces (GSM, UMTS, LTE, etc) are supported on each band. It's common for phones to support LTE but not UMTS on band 4 (1700) or to support GSM and UMTS but not LTE on band 2 (1900).

    As stated in the post T-Mobile uses:
    GSM, GPRS. Edge (voice. 2G):1900 Mhz
    UMTS (3G) 1700 Mhz (primary) and 1900 Mhz
    LTE: bands 4 (primary), 2 and 12

    If you know what air interfaces were supported on each band you should be able determine if the phone would be fully functional on T-Mobile or not

    ReplyDelete
  38. Hi Dennis. I have a T-Mobile zte zmax unlocked running on At&T. The phone lacks band 17. Does not having band 17 impact call quality or just data speeds? I live in the Austin TX area. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Band 17 is only used for LTE data currently. Calls use GSM 850 and 1900 and will be unaffected by the lack of band 17.

      Delete
  39. Hello your info and explanations are extremely helpful and greatly appreciated. Can u please tell me if the Tmobile info stated directly above (re voice 2g, 3g, LTE) is exactly the same for a phone to fully function on MetroPCS? I've searched and searched and can't find a clear, concise info on any site, so I'm hoping you can help me clarify. I know Metropcs piggybacks on T-Mobiles network, but not sure to what extent they use the same exact bands and/or frequencies for each: 2gvoice, 3G,LTE. I'm trying to find an inexpensive white smartphone, at least 5.5" screen size, with decent internal memory that i can fully use on Metropcs for voice and data, mainly LTE data speeds. It doesn't have to be a well known brand. I've seen several phones on Amazon but not sure if they're compatible. Any info you can offer would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. MetroPCS IS T-Mobile. Same network, same bands. If it works on T-Nobile it will work on MetroPCS.

      Delete
  40. Hid Dennis, I am looking into buying a Samsung Galaxy s5 sm-g900v, which is a Verizon phone. I currently have metropcs and want to make sure that phone is compatible and will function properly with metro. I found the specs/bands
    TechnologyGSM / CDMA / HSPA / EVDO / LTE2G bandsCDMA 800 / 1900 - all versions GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 - SM-G900V, SM-G900P3G bandsCDMA2000 1xEV-DO - all versions HSDPA 850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100 - SM-G900V, SM-G900P4G bandsLTE band 4(1700/2100), 13(700) - SM-G900V LTE band 2(1900), 4(1700/2100), 5(850), 12(700), 17(700) - SM-G900R4 LTE band 25(1900), 26(850), 41(2500) - SM-G900P
    I have heard of problems with trying to use samsung galaxy s5 phones on metro. So any help would be greatly appreciated, thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Verizon S5 SM-G900V will work on MetroPCS but I don't recommend it. The problem is that it doesn't support MetroPCS/T-Mobile main 3G band 1700 Mhz and only supports one of T-Mobile's three LTE bands you will be stuck with only 2G data more than you need to be.

      Get the T-Mobile (SM-G900T) or MetroPCS (SM-G900T1) version of the S5 to get the most out of the T-Mobile network.

      Delete
    2. Thanks for your quick response. The guy who is selling it says hes using a t-mobile sim card and has had no issues. I have never noticed using 3g on my phone now (a metro LG phone),i have seen the 2g pop up from time to time. Wouldnt i mostly be using the 4GLTE? When would i run into problems?

      Delete
    3. Two places:

      1) T-Mobile is adding LTE on band 2 to most of its current 2G-only areas which are primarily along highways lightly populated area like i-80 across Nevada and CA-101 amd CA-128 in Northern Calif.

      2) 1700 Mhz is T-Mobile's main 3G band which phones fall back to when LTE isn't available. T-Mobile does have 3G on 1900 Mhz in many, but not all, major Metropolitan areas.

      SM-G900V doesn't support LTE band 4 or 1700 Mhz 3G, so in areas where those are available but band 4 LTE or 1900 Mhz 3g aren't SM-G900V would fall back to 2G. I can't say how often that will happen but SM-G900V typically isn't any cheaper than SM-G900T so why buy a less capable phone?

      Delete
  41. Youre right, a better capable phone is ideal. Looking on craigslist and found it for $275, most others are more expensive. But i guess i will just have to look harder for those specific ones you listed. Sounds like its definitely what i need for where im at. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  42. anybody know if metropcs's 4g only phones (Lg 70) will be able to get 4g where t mobile has reframed band 2 1900 mhz to be 4g lte.. or is it only going lte... without 4g?

    i.e. will the $30 month deal.. give users only 2g data..even if phone supports band 2 for 3/4g ??? If that's the case then with only 1gb maybe they should of allowed lte phones esp.. if there's areas with only 2g speeds....

    Question then.. does 4g on band 2 included when areas got 4g lte on band 2 1900 mhz??

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Band 4 (1700) is T-Mobile's primary band for both LTE and HSPA+ fauxG. ReFARMing added HSPA+ on some band 2 (1900) towers in metropolitan areas. The L70 supports both band 2 and 4 so it should get HSPA+ wherever it's available.

      Carriers periodically adjust the percentage of bandwidth allocated to various technologies (2, 3G/fauxG, LTE) in each cell. As demand for LTE increases more bandwidth will be allocated to it than 2G and 3G/HSPA+. It's a gradual process not a total switch from HSPA+ to LTE. If the network engineers do their job right non-LTE phones like the L70 should continue to get HSPA+ until HSPA+ gets shut down if it ever does.

      T-Mobile has not announced any plans to shutdown HSPA+. It's possible that they will drop 2G first like AT&T has in some markets.

      Delete
    2. For a rough idea of HSPA+ availability, in March of 2014 T-Mobile announced they had deployed LTE to 210M POPs and had HSPA+ covering 230M POPs.
      http://newsroom.t-mobile.com/news/t-mobile-celebrates-1st-anniversary-of-lte-rollout-by-launching-major-network-upgrade-program.htm?icid=WMD_TM_CVRGQ32014_XRKOTQNOMVU745
      Now they have LTE on 275M+ POPs, with no numbers announced recently for HSPA+. The T-Mobile CTO has also said in the past that they plan to keep 2G for a long time, much longer than AT&T and Verizon.

      Delete
    3. As of Nov, 2013, according to their Q3 earnings report, T-Mobile had '4G' HSPA+ coverage of 203M POPs on the PCS Band 2, 1900 MHz channel, and 229M POPs coverage on AWS Band 4, 1700/2100 MHz channels.

      Delete
  43. Hello There
    I am planing to buy a galaxy A5 LTE model and I was wondering if the phone will properly operate under MetroPCS network

    Connectivity specs of the phone
    2G bands GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900
    3G bands HSDPA 850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100
    4G bands LTE 800 / 850 / 900 / 1800 / 2100 / 2600

    IF the phone finally fail to met the minimum specs.... do you know if the phone will properly operate under any other USA network?
    Thanks in advance

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Based on the information you provided there's:
      No support for T-Mobile LTE
      No support for T-Mobile's main 1700 3G band
      No or limited support for AT&T's LTE. I can't tell whether 850 refers to AT&T's b5 or one of the three other bands that are in the 850 Mhz segment

      In summary, it's not a good choice for use primarily in the US. It will be limited to 2G on much of T-Mobile's network and 3G on AT&T's

      Delete
  44. TMO compatibility?
    2G bands GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900
    3G bands HSDPA 850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100
    4G bands LTE 1800 / 2100 / 2600 TD-LTE 1900 / 2300 / 2500 / 2600 (Bands 1, 3, 7, 38, 39, 40, 41)

    ReplyDelete
  45. If I'm learning correctly, a chinese tablet with gsm 2g 900/1800 mhz and wcdma 3g 2100 mhz isnt compatible in the US, correct?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's correct, those bands are not used in the US or Canada.

      Delete
  46. Microsoft phones like the 640 seem to support many bands

    ReplyDelete
  47. Dennis - thanks for all the great info. Question:

    Most US GSM carrier phones seem to have only quad band UMTS coverage. With AT&T or T-Mobile, the only difference is the 900 vs 1700 UMTS bands. If you were going to go with one carrier's phone for use on the other's network or to travel with internationally, which do you think is better?

    My guess is that for domestic purposes, an unlocked T-Mobile phone will work better on AT&T than vice-versa because of the lack of 3G/1700 band on an AT&T phone whereas a T-Mobile quad-band will include AT&T's main 850 & 1900 Mhz bands. But, I would think that the T-mobile phone might not be as international friendly as an unlocked AT&T phone which includes the UMTS 900 band, which seems to be the standard on most factory unlocked phones you might buy. Would that be right?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Outside of the Americas UMTS band 1 (2100 Mhz) is the most widely used. Band 8 (900 Mhz) is also used but not nearly as much. List of UMTS networks - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia shows where the bands are used.

      To reliably get 3G in Europe,Asia and Africa you need a phone that supports UMTS band 1 (2100 Mhz). Band 8 (900 Mhz) is also helpful in a few countries.

      UMTS band 1 support is quite common on both T-Mobile and AT&T phones. Check the specs before you buy.

      Delete
    2. Thanks, so is it fair to say that if you're choosing between an AT&T UMTS 850/900/1900/2100 and T-Mobile UMTS 850/1700/1900/2100, for domestic purposes a T-Mobile phone will work as well on AT&T as the AT&T branded phone, but take the AT&T phone onto T-Mobile and you'll lose a lot of 3G coverage without that UTMS 1700, right? The only real benefit to the AT&T phone would be that it will give you 3G coverage on 900 Mhz in a handful of countries. Is that right?

      Delete
    3. I agree, although I'm not sure how much T-Mobile 3G coverage you would actually lose with the AT&T phone as T-Mobile seems to be in the process of moving most of their 3G from 1700 to 1900. Also, T-Mobile now has LTE almost everywhere they have 3G.

      I have an AT&T Note 4 on PTel and I get LTE almost everywhere. I rarely see 3G and almost never 2G except outside urban areas.

      Delete
    4. And you're pretty sure that those times when you see 2G it's not because you don't have the 3G band on your phone? Guess it would be difficult to know unless you had a T-mobile phone in the same spot to compare it.

      Thanks again - you're definitely the most knowledgeable person I've found on this.

      Delete
    5. I get 2G in the same places with my T-Mobile LG G2 which has 3G AWS as I do with the AT&T Note 4 which doesn't.

      Delete
  48. All of this is super confusing! So sorry if I'm repeating any questions for phones used in the US what bands do sprint run on? Is the galaxy L720t compatible?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sprint's bands are listed in the post. The Samsung Galaxy S4 L720T is the Sprint version. Provided it meets Sprint's Financial Eligibility Critera (FEC) is can be activated on Sprint, Boost and Sprint MVNOs. For more about Sprint's FEC see: Sprint Partially Fixes the BYOSP Mess It Created

      Delete
  49. Hello dennis I purchased a sm-g900V for dirt cheap n I have family Mobile service I was wondering simce family mobile is on tmobile why when I put the sim card in it wont work says emergency calls only please help me

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The phone needs to be in global mode to work on GSM networks. Go to settings/connections/more networks/mobile networks/network mode/ and change it to global. That should get calls and SMS working.

      If even calls don't work there may be a reason why it was dirt cheap. It might be a phone that's blocked from all networks because it was reported lost or stolen or the previous owner didn't complete EIP or contract. Check it at Swappa | ESN / IMEI / MEID Check (Free).

      If it passes Swapp's check it's likely that the SIM is bad, unactivated or not inserted the right way around or the phone is defective.

      If callsdo work, to get data and MMS working, go to settings/connections/more networks/mobile networks/access point names, and create a new APN with the WFM values which are:

      Name: WFM
      APN: fast.t-mobile.com
      MMSC: http://wirelessfour.mmsmvno.com/mms/wapenc

      Leave all other fields at their default values, save the the new APN and select it as the active one.

      Source, more info: xda-developers - View Single Post - [Q] How to PROPERLY unlock Verizon for T-Mobile??

      Delete
  50. Hi Dennis. Thank you for your service and helpfulness.

    My question is fairly simple. I would like to have 'one' phone to work in both Europe and US as I spend about half my time in those two locations. China (Shanghai) coverage would be an added benefit.

    I can see, that for Europe I need LTE bands 8 and 1 so that is easy. With that in mind as must-have bands, which phones would be good choices to have as *many carrier options* as possible in the US?

    I am partial to IOS but cost is also an important factor. I.e. I dont need the newest 6+ or anything like that. If there are any cost-conscious Android recommendations I would like those as well.

    In summary - MUST work well on LTE in both Europe (bands 8 and 1) and have as many network choices as possible in the US. Cost is an important factor. China coverage would be an added benefit.

    Thank you very much in advance!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The iPhone 6S and 6S Plus. iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, Nexus 6, 5X and 6P and the 2015 Moto G Pure Edition support most of the bands used by all four US carriers. Check their specs on Phonescoop or the manufacture's sites to see if they also support LTE bands 1 and 8 and whatever bands the various Chinese operators use.

      The brand new 2014 Nexus 6 is $300 on eBay and $350 on Amazon, The 2015 Moto X Pure Edition is $400 direct from Motorola .

      Delete
  51. Thank you so much for the quick reply.

    I compared all the phones you mentioned, and in case it will help somebody else, the conclusion is pretty clear: unless you want to spend USD 600+, the Moto X Pure Edition is the 'clear' winner. No other phone supports as many LTE bands and it cost only USD 400 unlocked. It also have a memory card slot, which is getting more and more rare on new phones.

    The Nexus phones do not support both LTE 8 and 1, which make them poor choices for good European coverage, and the iPhone 6's are much more expensive.

    Thanks again - and I hope this will help somebody else too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The iPhone 6S supports far more LTE bands than the Moto X.

      Delete
    2. 13 LTE bands for the Moto X vs vs 19 for the 6S, but the Moto X is $250 less expensive and the OP says that it supports the bands he needs.

      Delete
    3. OP says: "No other phone supports as many LTE bands.." referring to Moto X.
      The iPhone 6S supports either 22 or 23 LTE bands, depending on which model you buy. No other smartphone supports more LTE bands.

      Delete
  52. Dennis: In case you stumble across this comment...

    This excellent reference is still prominent on your main page, and I refer to it often. If you were to update the content it would be worthwhile to edit the reference to 1700 (AWS) being the primary band for T Mobile UMTS (3G) data. TMo has been moving 3G service from AWS to its 1900 MHz PCS spectrum for a long time now so as to free-up spectrum for LTE.

    ReplyDelete
  53. What version of the galaxy s3 will work with most carriers?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't know off hand. You need to use the resources in the post to research it.

      Delete
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