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Cheat sheet: which 4G LTE bands do AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint use in the USA?

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Cheat sheet: which 4G LTE bands do AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint use in the USA?

What are the 4G LTE bands supported by AT&T? Do they differ from the 4G LTE bands that T-Mobile uses? And what about Verizon Wireless massive 4G LTE network and its supported frequencies? And where is Sprint left in the 4G LTE picture?

If you have ever tried to understand what's the deal with 4G LTE band support, you would have inevitably stumbled upon a reality of limitations and restrictions. Truth is that up to this day, most phones only support bands for some carriers, but not all.

We are breaking down the 4G LTE carrier bands for each of the major U.S. carrier (take a look at the table at the bottom of this article), but first, let's say a few words about the state of 4G LTE on all of them.

Carrier4G LTE BandsFrequencies
AT&T2, 4, 5, 12, 171900, 1700 abcde, 700 bc
Verizon Wireless2, 4, 131900, 1700 f, 700 c
T-Mobile2, 4, 12, 66, 71**1900, 1700 def, 700 a, 600
Sprint25, 26, 411900 g, 850, 2500
Europe3, 7, 201800, 2600, 800
China, India40, 412300, 2500
*Main band for each carrier is marked in bold.
**Rolling out in 2017.

AT&T


First, AT&T. The company has rolled out a massive 4G LTE network in the United States with support for bands 2, 4, 5 and 17, but the backbone of it remains band 17 in the 700MHz range, the company's primary band. The remaining bands 2, 4 and 5 are mostly used in areas where AT&T does not have band 17, while in the densely populated metros, AT&T combines spectrum from multiple bands for better coverage. This is the reason why it is important that your phone supports all and not just one of these bands, in order for you to make maximum use of 4G LTE speeds.

Starting in the summer of 2015, AT&T has begun rolling out WCS spectrum in the 2.3GHz frequency range. Those new bands are still only available in limited areas and are considered "capacity layer" on top of AT&T's nationwide 700 MHz coverage. It's worth knowing that not all phones support WCS bands and you might need to double check in our detailed specs sheets for a particular model. From 2017, AT&T towers now also support band 12 as per FCC requirements.

Verizon Wireless


Verizon Wireless was the first to arrive to the 4G LTE race and it has also built its nationwide network based on 700 MHz spectrum, but the primary band for Verizon is band 13. Bands 2 and 4 are used to strengthen the signal in the densely populated urban areas. One important thing to note about Verizon Wireless is that many phones are built specifically for the carrier, including its 4G LTE bands. In other words, the common case is that you will not be able to use an AT&T device on Verizon's 4G LTE network.

Sprint


As of February 2016, Sprint is finally allowed to shut down its WiMax network and expectations are that it will flip the switch off by the end of March 2016.

Sprint's 4G LTE network runs on bands 24, 25 and 41 with band 25 in the 1900 MHz range being the carrier's primary frequency. Bands 24 and 41 are used to boost the capacity of the network and its speed.

In Sprint marketing speak, markets that support all three bands are denoted as Sprint Spark compatible.

T-Mobile


Finally, T-Mobile has been the loudest and arguably the fastest growing 4G LTE network, especially in the big cities. 

2017 Update: T-Mobile has won a big 30MHz chunk of spectrum in an auction held this summer. The frequencies that it is now allowed to operate are in the low-band, 600MHz band, and are referred to as 4G LTE band 71. The new band 71 is rolling out to cities in Wyoming, Northwest Oregon, West Texas, Southwest Kansas, the Oklahoma panhandle, Western North Dakota, Maine, Coastal North Carolina, Central Pennsylvania, Central Virginia and Eastern Washington by the end of 2017. This is expected to boost its coverage by 6 million people to a total of 321 million Americans.

Currently, T-Mobile's main band is still band 4 (AWS) in the 1700 MHz range. Band 2 is used in markets where band 4 is not available, but the two are also aggregated for better coverage in markets, where both are available.

Band 12, on the other hand, is where a lot of T-Mobile's growth happens. While at the beginning of the roll-out in late 2014, few phones supported band 12, currently, most popular phones do and the increased penetration of the lower-frequency band makes it preferable.

Europe and China 4G LTE bands, 4G LTE support in phones


While the 700 MHz range in various bands has been the backbone of the U.S. 4G LTE coverage, in Europe and China carriers use different spectrum and bands, so phones from the United States may not work there. In Europe, most carriers base their networks on bands 3 (1800 MHz), 7 (2600 MHz) and 20 (800 MHz).

China, on the other hand, uses a whole different 4G LTE standard - while the Western world has rolled out FDD-LTE networks, China and large parts of Asia use TDD-LTE. The differences between FDD and TDD are purely technical and the main one boils down to the fact that FDD is symmetrical (1:1 upload vs download), while TDD allows variable up / down ratio. The main bands for China are TD bands 40 and 41.

Finally, it's worth noting that these days still only a few phones can truly be considered global: the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus support practically all Western bands in one phone (the full list of supported bands include 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30), the Nexus 5X and 6P are two other phones that support a fairly comprehensive list of bands.

Do not forget that you can always check the supported bands for each phone by simply looking up the specs at PhoneArena.com!

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