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Basics[]

This guide shows how to check the network compatibility of common devices like phones, tablets or modems. If you have an unlocked device, different technologies and employed frequencies pose the biggest obstacle to use it somewhere else.

GSM-based and other devices[]

First of all, you need to determine whether if you have a GSM device. This standard is used in all countries in the world. Only two systems really survived: GSM and CDMA. All others like WiMAX, iDEN have been shut down.

There are only a hand full of countries with CDMA remaining, but major operators like in the USA (Verizon, Sprint), China (China Telecom) or Japan (KDDI) still use it. Coming from one of those countries and networks, you'll need to be sure to have a 'world phone' with a SIM card slot to have coverage in the rest of the world. All others from other places don't really need to care about this.

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How to determine compatiblity of a GSM device[]

First, you have to find out on which frequencies your device operates. You need to check 2G, 3G, 4G, and 5G seperately. A phone that is working on 1900 MHz in 2G doesn't need to work on the same frequencies in 3G, 4G or 5G.

Major phone models with the same name or number are sold in various versions in different regions of the world. Sometimes it's quite tricky to find out which version of a specific model you actually have.

You can check various websites where technical phone specifications are listed like for example www.gsmarena.com. Another source of information can be your manual. Sometimes, it just works, when you put in your phone model and "frequency" on Google and check results.

Sometimes different abbreviations are used, but they always refer to either 2G, 3G, 4G or 5G:

  • 2G: GSM, GPRS, EDGE
  • 3G: UMTS, W-CDMA, HSPA, HSDPA, HSUPA, HSPA+ or any of these with DC- before
  • 4G: LTE. LTE+, LTE Advanced, TD-LTE, FD-LTE, TDD-LTE, FDD-LTE
  • 5G: NR

These results either in MHz (or Bands for 4G and 5G) you should write down for 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G. Then check our country listings and the given frequency bands in the Basics chapter of each article and country. You need to compare these with the numbers taken from your device information again for 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G. If you have a coincidence, you will have coverage. If not all numbers match, the coverage may be limited. If all numbers are different, your device wont work at all.

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For example this LG G5 phone works on four 2G frequencies, seven 3G spectrums each given in MHz and 15 4G bands given by the band number.

You can skip the whole procedure and go right away to a site like http://willmyphonework.net/. But their information is not always accurate and doesen't differ between primary (mostly used) or secondary (back-up) frequencies.

Incompatibilites[]

Compatibility depends on two things: your device and where you are going. High-end smartphones tend to be more universal than cheap ones. Mostly within the same world region, the same spectrums are used. So you can be pretty sure in Europe or Asia that your phone works in the neighbouring country too. This can be different in diverse regions like the Caribbean or the South Pacific.

A particular hotspot is the USA that employs frequencies rarely used anywhere else. Only high-end devices from other markets in overseas can cope with it. Apple's iPhones 5, 6 or 7, some top-class Androids by e.g. Samsung, HTC or LG and some Windows Phone Luminas have both European/Asian and US LTE bands. This issue is addressed in detail in the United States article. You better check before travelling to avoid blackouts.

5G band support on phones can be rather limited. While a phone might support several 4G bands used in other countries, 5G bands might only be supported as needed for the intended region. For example, phones intended for the United States support 5G mmWave bands while devices sold in most other regions don't support these bands. Furthermore, so far, most 5G deployments are non-standalone (5G NSA Mode) which means that a simultaneous 4G connection is necessary to use 5G. The 4G band that enables the connection to the 5G network is called an anchor band. A problem is that a phone might only support certain 4G anchor band and 5G band combinations. This means if a phone doesn't support all 4G bands of the destination country 5G might not work, even if your phone supports a 5G band in the destination country. The anchor band issue will be elevated with moving the 5G deployments to standalone (5G SA Mode) which work without a 4G connection. But this leads to the next issue because even if your phone supports 5G chances are it only supports 5G NSA Mode or only a few of the supported 5G bands can also be used for 5G SA Mode. As 5G is still a rather new technology the capabilities of 5G devices might be expanded down the line with support for 5G SA Mode or support for additional 5G bands that work in 5G SA Mode through software updates. But especially early 5G devices might not be as lucky as newer models.

Links[]

For phone specifications:

For frequencies:

Combining both:

Guide to frequencies[]

2G frequencies (GSM)[]

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4 frequencies are used worldwide for GSM:

  • 850 MHz
  • 900 MHz
  • 1800 MHz
  • 1900 MHz

A phone working on 3 frequencies is called tri-band, on all 4 frequencies quad-band.

3G frequencies (UMTS)[]

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8 frequencies are used worldwide for UMTS. The first 5 are the most common:

  • Band 1: 2100 MHz (IMT)
  • Band 2: 1900 MHz (PCS)
  • Band 4: 1700 MHz (AWS)
  • Band 5: 850 MHz (CLR)
  • Band 8: 900 MHz (E-GSM)
  • Band 19 (formely 6): 800 MHz (only used by NTTDoCoMo in Japan)

4G frequencies (LTE)[]

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More than 30 frequencies are used worldwide for 4G/LTE. Frequencies on LTE should be identified by their band number and not by their MHz value, as several bands can share the same MHz frequency but are otherwise incompatible among devices. To make things more complex, some bands can exist entirely within other bands: band 17 is a sub-band of band 12; band 9 is a sub-band of band 3; bands 5, 6, 18, 19 are sub-bands of band 26. Phones that support band 3 will also support band 9, and phones that support band 12 also support band 17.

The most important bands are:

On FDD-LTE:

  • Band 1: 2100 MHz (IMT)
  • Band 2: 1900 MHz (PCS)
  • Band 3: 1800 MHz (DCS)
  • Band 4: 1700 MHz (AWS)
  • Band 5: 850 MHz (CLR)
  • Band 7: 2600 MHz (IMT-E)
  • Band 8: 900 MHz (E-GSM)
  • Bands 12-14, 17: 700 MHz (USMH, LSMH) *
  • Band 20: 800 MHz (EUDD)
  • Band 28: 700 MHz (APT) *
  • Band 31: 450 MHz (NMT)
  • Band 66: 1700 MHz (Extended AWS)
  • Band 71: 600 MHz (USDD)

* = Be aware that 700 MHz on Bands 12,13,14,17 used mostly in the US and Canada is not compatible with 700 MHz on Band 28 used or going to be used in Australia, Asia, Europe and Latin America. That's why for LTE often the Bands are mentioned instead of the MHz.

On TDD-LTE:

  • Band 38: 2600 MHz (IMT-E)
  • Band 39: 1900 MHz (DCS–IMT Gap)
  • Band 40: 2300 MHz (S-Band)
  • Band 41: 2500 MHz (BRS US)
  • Band 42: 3500 MHz (CBRS EU/JP)
  • Band 44: 700 Mhz (APT)

5G frequencies (NR)[]

Already over a dozen frequencies are used for 5G worldwide. As with 4G, 5G frequencies are identified by their band number. 5G bands are often written with a leading 'n' to identify them as 5G (or NR) bands. As was the case with 4G bands, a 5G band can completly exist within another 5G band. For example band n78 is a sub-band of band n77 and band n41 is a sub-band of band n90. This means devices that support band n77 also support n78 and devices that support n90 also support n41.

Some of the most important bands are:

On Sub6-FDD-5G:

  • Band n1: 2100 MHz (IMT)
  • Band n2: 1900 MHz (PCS)
  • Band n3: 1800 MHz (DCS)
  • Band n5: 850 MHz (CLR)
  • Band n28: 700 MHz (APT)
  • Band n66: 1700 MHz (Extended AWS)
  • Band n71: 600 MHz (USDD)

On Sub6-TDD-5G:

  • Band n38: 2600 MHz (IMT-E)
  • Band n40: 2300 MHz (S-Band)
  • Band n41: 2500 MHz (BRS US)
  • Band n77: 3700 MHz (C-Band)
  • Band n78: 3500 MHz (C-Band)

On mmWave-5G:

  • Band n260: 39000 MHz (Ka-Band)
  • Band n261: 28000 MHz (Ka-Band)
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