Explaining 2G technology and GSM bands

Posted on by Caroline Siñel in GSM/SMS Technology

Note: This article discusses how 2G/GSM technology works. For an updated list of frequency bands, please go to List of mobile frequency bands

2G is short for second-generation wireless telephone technology. 2G technologies allowed us to make voice calls, send SMS, picture messages, MMS (via GPRS), and connect to the internet via GPRS/EDGE. In order for 2G services to become available in the country, a telco must obtain a 2G license and must operate within the GSM frequency band/s allocated by the NTC.

The GSM frequency bands used in most parts of the world are GSM-900 and GSM-1800. They are used in Europe, Middle East, Africa, Australia, Oceania (and most of Asia). While GSM-850 and GSM-1900 are used in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, the United States and many other countries in the Americas. In the Philippines, telcos operate in the GSM-900 or GSM-1800 bands to offer 2G services nationwide.

GSM network

The difference between GSM-900 and GSM-1800 is that the GSM-900 has double the coverage as compared to GSM-1800. This is because as the frequency increases, cell size decreases due to the path loss increase. So in order to achieve full coverage for a particular area, more number of towers need to be erected in GSM-1800 than in GSM-900. But because there are more frequencies available on GSM-1800 band, more capacity can be catered for good traffic. This enables GSM-1800 to handle more subscribers than GSM-900. A balance of both can help achieve good coverage.

GSM-900 Band

GSM-900 uses 890–915 MHz to send information from the mobile station to the base station (uplink) and 935–960 MHz for the other direction (downlink). Duplex spacing of 45 MHz is used (890 MHz to 935 MHz). GSM-900 has lower propogation losses and has double the coverage as compared to GSM-1800. Initially, only 3 telecom operators were given frequency assignments on the GSM-900 bands; Globe, Smart and Islacom.

GSM-900 band in the Philippines

In 1994, Islacom launched the country’s first digital mobile communication services using GSM world standard digital technology. Islacom was then acquired by Globe Telecom on June 27, 2001 and became 100%-owned subsidiary of Globe. NTC approved on August 1, 2002 the joint use of Islacom’s frequency by the Globe Group. In September 2002, Globe announced the operational integration of Globe and Islacom’s wireless networks.

Carrier Frequency Assignment Bandwidth
Globe 890-897.5/935-942.5 MHz 7.5 MHz
Smart 897.5-905/942.5-950 MHz 7.5 MHz
Globe 905-915/950-960 MHz (formerly owned by Islacom) 10 MHz
After the acquisition of Islacom, Globe now owns a total of 17.5 MHz in the 900 MHz frequency band. Smart, on the other hand, owns 7.5 MHz.

GSM-1800 Band

GSM-1800 uses 1710–1785 MHz to send information from the mobile station to the base transceiver station (uplink) and 1805–1880 MHz for the other direction (downlink). Duplex spacing is 95 MHz. GSM-1800 frequencies can carry more traffic than GSM-900 due to more frequencies available. But GSM-1800 has high propogation losses so more number of sites are required (approx.1.5~2 times that of GSM-900).

GSM-1800 band in the Philippines

Carrier Frequency Assignment Bandwidth
Belltel 1710-1720/1805-1815 MHz 10 MHz
Extelcom 1720-1725/1815-1820 MHz 5 MHz
Smart 1725-1732.5/1820-1827.5 MHz 7.5 MHz
1735-1740/1830-1835 MHz 5 MHz
1745-1750/1840-1845 MHz 5 MHz
1780-1782.5/1875-1877.5 MHz 2.5 MHz
Bayantel 1750-1760/1845-1855 MHz 10 MHz
Globe 1732.5-1735/1827.5-1830 MHz 2.5 MHz
1740-1745/1835-1840 MHz 5 MHz
1775-1780/1870-1875 MHz 5 MHz
Digitel 1760-1775/1855-1870 15 MHz
1782.5-1785-1877.5-1880 2.5 MHz
In August 2000, Bayantel obtained its GSM license for providing wireless services using 10MHz on the 1800 MHz frequency band. However, Bayantel has been delayed in rolling out its network due to litigation relating to the validity of its license.

On August 7, 2000, Digitel was granted by the NTC a GSM license to offer digital wireless service on the 1800 MHz frequency band. Digitel began to build its network in 2000 and formally launched its wireless service under the brand name Sun Cellular in February 2003.

On September 2001, NTC gave Extelcom 5 megahertz (MHz) frequency in the 1800 bandwidth for its planned GSM operations. They dropped their GSM plans in 2003 in favor of deploying a network based on the CDMA protocol.

After the acquisition of Digitel, PLDT now owns a total of 37.5 MHz in the 1800 MHz frequency band.

Summary of GSM Band Allocation

GSM-900 GSM-1800 Total
Belltel 10 MHz 10 MHz
Extelcom 5 MHz 5 MHz
Bayantel 10 MHz 10 MHz
Globe 17.5 MHz 12.5 MHz 30 MHz
Smart 7.5 MHz 20 MHz 27.5 MHz
Digitel 17.5 MHz 17.5 MHz
Smart and Digitel 7.5 MHz 37.5 MHz 45 MHz
Winner Globe Smart and Digitel Smart and Digitel
[Sources: Wikipilipinas, Wikipedia, ABS-CBN News, GMA News, GMA News, PLDT Annual Report 2006 and 2011, Globe Annual Report 2002 and 2003]

References: PLDT

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2 Comments on Explaining 2G technology and GSM bands

  1. Hi so how do I find out what frequency Globe or Smart are using in my area?900? 1800 ? Im in Biliran its part of Leyte.John


  2. Are the above information still applicable nowadays?


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