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800MHz vs. 1900 MHz: When do you need dual band?

An earlier post here discussed the upcoming database which will allow all our customers to determine what frequency repeater they need, instantaneously and free of charge. That database is nearly completed and due for release soon. In the meantime I thought I’d deal with a related question.

Cellular signals in the US are broadcast on two frequencies, either the 800MHz frequency or the 1900MHz frequency. The 800MHz frequency is also regularly referred to as the 850MHz frequency. This is because signals are actually broadcast on bands ranging from 824–849MHz to 869–894MHz. 800MHz and 850MHz is the accepted shorthand for these frequencies, and whenever you encounter them you can be assured they refer to the same thing.

Some networks, like T-Mobile or Cricket, will use only one frequency (1900MHz in this case) for all their services across the US. All customers can be assured that only a single-band repeater will be required.

Unfortunately, other providers are much more confusing. Some use a mixture of 800 and 1900MHz bands. Verizon, for example, use the 800MHz band for their voice services in most of the US, but in some areas, notably much of Texas and Florida, it uses the 1900MHz band. In all other areas 1900MHz is used for broadband.

The situation with Cingular is even more complicated. Since their merger with AT&T, they use a complete mix of frequencies across the US. Most of their voice services use the 800MHz, with exceptions in North and South Carolina, but this is by no means a hard and fast rule. Cingular hold licences for both frequencies in many areas, and often use both.

The source for some of this confusion lies in the irregular expansion of cellular providers in what is still a relatively young industry. Companies bought licences to use particular frequency bands in certain parts of the country. When providers merged, as with AT&T and Cingular recently, their licences did not always line up with each other. Many licences are now redundant, or overlap within areas.

This means that some customers may find a single-band repeater is not enough to solve their coverage problem. There are two main situations in which a customer might need to purchase a dual-band repeater.

The first is when a household uses two or more cell phones, on networks using different frequency bands. For example, if you are with T-Mobile, but your son or daughter’s network is Alltel, you may be using both the 800 and 1900MHz frequencies. If you wish to improve coverage for both phones, you will need a dual-band repeater.

Additionally, if you wish to improve both broadband data services and voice services, you may need a dual-band repeater. Our FAQ pages have more information on how cell phone repeaters do not just improve call quality and reduce dropped calls; they also help to speed up data transfer rates with broadband services. Many networks use the same frequency band for both cell phone signal and wireless cellular data cards (for example, Sprint). Other networks use different frequencies for both (like Verizon). Still others use different bands in some areas and the same band elsewhere (Cingular). If you wish to improve both services, you may need a dual band repeater.

This post is categorized: Cell Frequency / Dual Band Repeaters and tagged:

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