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4G frequency bands - Which UK networks will my phone work on?

4G frequency bands

What frequencies are used in the UK?

There are a total of 5 different frequencies used in the UK used by the mobile networks to deliver their 2G, 3G and 4G mobile services.

  • 800MHz (Band 20)
  • 900MHz (Band 8)
  • 1800MHz (Band 3)
  • 2100MHz (Band 1)
  • 2600MHz (Band 7)

What frequencies do the different operators use?

Each operator in the UK utilises different frequencies to deliver their mobile networks with the core networks being EE, O2, Vodafone and Three. Then there are also operators, called mobile virtual network operators (MVNO), who utilise the backend of the core networks to offer their own services.

Frequencies used by major UK networks

Network Frequencies used Check Coverage
EE

800MHz (4G)

1800MHz (2G & 4G)

2100MHz (3G)

2600MHz (4G)

EE-Coverage-compressor
O2

800MHz (4G)

900MHz (2G & 3G)

1800MHz (2G)

2100MHz (3G)

O2-Coverage-compressor
Vodafone

800MHz (4G)

900MHz (2G & 3G)

1800MHz (2G)

2100MHz (3G)

2600MHz (4G)

Vodafone-Coverage-compressor
Three

800MHz (4G)

1800MHz (4G)

2100MHz (3G)

Three-Coverage-compressor

Frequency converted into bands: 800MHz (Band 20), 900MHz (Band 8), 1800MHz (Band 3), 2100MHz (Band 1) and 2600MHz (Band 7)

Frequencies used by UK’s MVNO’s

Network Frequencies used Coverage
Asda Mobile

1800MHz (2G)

2100MHz (3G)

Asda-Coverage-compressor
BT Mobile

800MHz (4G)

1800MHz (2G & 4G)

2100MHz (3G)

2600MHz (4G)

BT-Coverage-compressor
iD Mobile

800MHz (4G)

1800MHz (4G)

2100MHz (3G)

iD-Coverage-compressor
Freedom Pop

1800MHz (4G)

2100MHz (3G)

FreedomPop-compressor
GiffGaff

800MHz (4G)

900MHz (2G & 3G)

1800MHz (2G)

2100MHz (3G)

GiffGaff-Coverage-compressor
Lebara Mobile

900MHz (3G)

2100MHz (3G)

Lebara-Coverage-compressor
Lyca Mobile

800MHz (4G)

900MHz (2G & 3G)

2100MHz (3G)

Lyca-Coverage-compressor
TalkMobile

900MHz (2G & 3G)

2100MHz (3G)

Talk-Mobile-Coverage-compressor
TalkTalk

800MHz (4G)

900MHz (2G & 3G)

2100MHz (2G)

TalkTalk-Coverage-compressor
Tesco Mobile

800MHz (4G)

900MHz (2G & 3G)

1800MHz (2G)

2100MHz (3G)

Tesco-Coverage-compressor
The People’s Operator

1800MHz (2G & 4G)

2100MHz (3G & 4G)

TPO-Coverage-compressor
Virgin Mobile

1800MHz (2G & 4G)

2100MHz (3G)

2600MHz (4G)

Virgin-Coverage-compressor

How can I find out which operators my phone is compatible with?

In order to check if your phone is compatible you need to get your phone specification from your manufactures website and find out the frequencies and bands it supports which you can then reference to the tables above.

In order to get maximum speeds and coverage you want your phone to support all the bands offered by an operator, but don’t forget to check coverage and speeds in your area before making a final decision.

What are the advantages/disadvantages of the relevant 4G frequencies?

Three different frequency bands are used for 4G LTE in the UK. There’s the 800MHz band, the 1800MHz / 1.8GHz band and the 2600MHz / 2.6GHz band.

800MHz frequency band

The 800MHz frequency band is one of two which was auctioned by Ofcom in February of 2013. Previously this band was used to provide analogue television signals, but since TV’s switched over to digital it was freed up to be used with 4G.

The lower the frequency of the band the further it can travel, so the 800MHz band is the most adept of the three at travelling over long distances, which means users can get a 4G signal even when they’re a long way from a mast. This becomes particularly useful in rural areas where masts are likely to be quite spread out.

However, it also has some advantages in cities, because low frequencies are also good at passing through walls and other physical objects. So the 800MHz band is good for indoor coverage and for heavily built up areas where a signal might otherwise struggle to travel.

On the other hand it has a comparatively low capacity, as it was only available in small 5 and 10MHz blocks, which means that it can’t always deal brilliantly with lots of people trying to connect at once, particularly if they’re carrying out demanding actions such as streaming HD video. So even in places with a good connection it may not always deliver consistent speeds, especially in urban areas where there’s likely to be a lot of data traffic.

2.6GHz frequency band

The 2.6GHz band is the other frequency which was auctioned by Ofcom and it’s essentially the opposite of the 800MHz band. So it’s not great at travelling over long distances, meaning that masts need to be closer together to deliver reliable coverage and as such it’s not so suited to rural areas.

It’s also not all that adept at penetrating walls so indoor signal on the 2.6GHz band won’t always be perfect.

But on the other hand with 35MHz blocks available it has a high capacity. So it can cope with thousands of simultaneous connections, which in that sense makes it a good fit for cities and other busy areas.

1.8GHz frequency band

Unlike the other two frequencies the 1.8GHz one wasn’t auctioned, instead it’s a frequency band which EE already had access to and which now Three does too. As you might have guessed, the 1.8GHz band falls somewhere in the middle of the other two.

Conclusion

Going purely on the frequencies and amounts of spectrum that each network has EE is in by far the best position, while O2 may struggle the most to keep up with data demands, particularly in urban areas.

Neither Three nor Vodafone can quite match EE but they should be fairly well served, especially Vodafone, which has the extremes of both the 800MHz and 2.6GHz bands covered quite well, even if it has no spectrum in between.

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