GSM Frequencies and Frequency Bands [7]

- a tabular summary of the frequencies and frequency bands allocations and spectrum used by the GSM cellular telecommunications system.

Although it is possible for the GSM cellular system to work on a variety of frequencies, the GSM standard defines GSM frequency bands and frequencies for the different spectrum allocations that are in use around the globe. For most applications the GSM frequency allocations fall into three or four bands, and therefore it is possible for phones to be used for global roaming.

While the majority of GSM activity falls into just a few bands, for some specialist applications, or in countries where spectrum allocation requirements mean that the standard bands cannot be used, different allocations may be required. Accordingly for most global roaming dual band, tri-band or quad-band phones will operate in most countries, although in some instances phones using other frequencies may be required.

GSM band allocations

There is a total of fourteen different recognised GSM frequency bands. These are defined in 3GPP TS 45.005.

Band Uplink
380 380.2 - 389.8 390.2 - 399.8  
410 410.2 - 419.8 420.2 - 429.8  
450 450.4 - 457.6 460.4 - 467.6  
480 478.8 - 486.0 488.8 - 496.0  
710 698.0 - 716.0 728.0 - 746.0  
750 747.0 - 762.0 777.0 - 792.0  
810 806.0 - 821.0 851.0 - 866.0  
850 824.0 - 849.0 869.0 - 894.0  
900 890.0 - 915.0 935.0 - 960.0 P-GSM, i.e. Primary or standard GSM allocation
900 880.0 - 915.0 925.0 - 960.0 E-GSM, i.e. Extended GSM allocation
900 876.0 - 915 921.0 - 960.0 R-GSM, i.e. Railway GSM allocation
900 870.4 - 876.0 915.4 - 921.0 T-GSM
1800 1710.0 - 1785.0 1805.0 - 1880.0  
1900 1850.0 - 1910.0 1930.0 - 1990.0  

GSM frequency band usage

The usage of the different frequency bands varies around the globe although there is a large degree of standardisation. The GSM frequencies available depend upon the regulatory requirements for the particular country and the ITU (International Telecommunications Union) region in which the country is located.

As a rough guide Europe tends to use the GSM 900 and 1800 bands as standard. These bands are also generally used in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Oceania.

For North America the USA uses both 850 and 1900 MHz bands, the actual band used is determined by the regulatory authorities and is dependent upon the area. For Canada the 1900 MHz band is the primary one used, particularly for urban areas with 850 MHz used as a backup in rural areas.

For Central and South America, the GSM 850 and 1900 MHz frequency bands are the most widely used although there are some areas where other frequencies are used.

GSM multiband phones

In order that cell phone users are able to take advantage of the roaming facilities offered by GSM, it is necessary that the cellphones are able to cover the bands of the countries which are visited.

Today most phones support operation on multiple bands and are known as multi-band phones. Typically most standard phones are dual-band phones. For Europe, Middle east, Asia and Oceania these would operate on GSM 900 and 1800 bands and for North America, etc dual band phones would operate on GSM 850 and 1900 frequency bands.

To provide better roaming coverage, tri-band and quad-band phones are also available. European triband phones typically cover the GSM 900, 1800 and 1900 bands giving good coverage in Europe as well as moderate coverage in North America. Similarly North America tri-band phones use the 900, 1800 and 1900 GSM frequencies. Quad band phones are also available covering the 850, 900, 1800 and 1900 MHz GSM frequency bands, i.e. the four major bands and thereby allowing global use.

By Ian Poole

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