Which bands are used the most by the major U.S. wireless providers to carry data?

Which bands are used the most by the major U.S. wireless providers to carry data?
Ever wonder which spectrum bands belonging to the nation's four major wireless carriers are being used the most to carry data? This information has been computed by Tutela, which uses crowdsourced data to measure network traffic, and published by Fierce Wireless. The data was collected from iOS and Android devices starting on January 1st, 2018, and ending on August 31st, 2018.

According to the data, Verizon's 1700MHz AWS spectrum (45.2%) and its 700MHz airwaves (35.1%) are carrying the bulk of the data traffic to and from Big Red customers. In rural markets, Verizon relies more on its 700MHz spectrum (57.1%) than it does throughout the rest of the country. Similarly, AT&T's 700MHz is responsible for carrying the majority of data (37.3%) outside of the city. Throughout the rest of the U.S., the carrier's 1900MHz (41.8%) does most of the work.

While we continue to hear about T-Mobile's deployment of the 600MHz low frequency spectrum that it won from an FCC auction last year, and its expanding use of 700MHz airwaves, it is both the wireless provider's 1700MHz AWS-1 (32.3%) and 1900MHz (33%) that carry most of T-Mobile's data load. Outside of the city, T-Mobile's 700MHz spectrum is more active (28%), but the 1900MHz band still does most of the heavy lifting (39.7%).

Sprint's high-frequency 1900MHz is responsible for more than half of the carrier's data traffic in the states (50.2%). In the cities, this frequency carries even more of Sprint's data traffic (53.3%). In rural areas, Sprint relies on its 1900MHz (49.9%) and its 850MHz (30.2%) airwaves.

Keep in mind that low frequency spectrum travels farther and penetrates buildings better than the high frequency variety. All four major U.S. carriers appear to use their low frequency airwaves more often in rural markets, and rely on mid and high band frequencies in urban settings.

You can check out graphs and maps based on the data by viewing the image at the top of this article, and by clicking on the slideshow below.

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9 Comments

1. libra89

Posts: 2297; Member since: Apr 15, 2016

This is very fascinating. It shows that the bands that a phone has matters. Based on this, it seems like your best bet is to have a phone that has as many LTE bands as possible that your carrier uses if you desire to have an unlocked phone.

2. kennybenny

Posts: 218; Member since: Apr 10, 2017

I am shocked at the difference between Verizon and Sprint's coverage. Sprint seems to not invest as much into coverage as Verizon. Sprint's coverage looks like a spider web.... lol BTW I am from the country north of the US. ;)

3. tiz_meh

Posts: 78; Member since: Aug 11, 2017

My phone have all the T-Mobile bands, but it always on band 4. Once awhile it shows band 2. So that mean other bands are useless?

4. libra89

Posts: 2297; Member since: Apr 15, 2016

From what I heard, not necessarily. Different bands might be stronger in different areas, but it's great to know which ones are used in your area. When I was on T-Mobile, bands changed between 2 and 12 at work so reception was solid or bad.

5. mike2959

Posts: 696; Member since: Oct 08, 2011

I always read the lower freq travels farther, then what is the advantages of higher freq?

9. andynaija

Posts: 1262; Member since: Sep 08, 2012

Usually higher frequencies support more bandwidth/capacity for users.

6. Reybanz88

Posts: 101; Member since: Jul 28, 2016

So T-Mobile also uses band 3 aka 1800MHz? Never knew that... or is this information wrong...

8. andynaija

Posts: 1262; Member since: Sep 08, 2012

The information is wrong because there's no carrier in the US that uses band 3 1800MHz.

7. niteiknight

Posts: 77; Member since: Aug 02, 2012

These maps showing usage of band 1, 3, and 7 (2100, 1800, and 2600 MHz) sure are weird, as those aren't used in the United States (only Canada uses band 7 in all of North America).

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