Note: This article discusses how 3G/UMTS technology works. For an updated list of frequency bands, please go to List of mobile frequency bands
3G, also known as third generation mobile telecommunication, allowed us to make video calls, watch mobile TV, connect to the internet via high-speed 3G/HSDPA. In order for 3G services to become available in the country, a telco must obtain a 3G license and must operate within the UMTS frequency band/s allocated by the NTC.
UMTS frequencies are identified using band numbers. For example, 2100 MHz is Band I, 1700 MHz is Band IV, and 850 MHz is Band V. Band I (2100 MHz) is the most widely deployed UMTS band. In the Philippines, telcos operate in Band I (2100 MHz) or Band V (850 MHz) to offer 3G services nationwide.
Band I (2100 MHz)
Band I (2100 MHz) uses 1920–1980 MHz to send information from the mobile station to the base station (uplink) and 2110–2170 MHz for the other direction (downlink). Band I (2100 MHz) can accommodate more subscribers than Band V (850 MHz) but it has lesser coverage. Initially, only 4 telecom operators were given frequency assignments on Band I; Globe, Smart, Sun Cellular (Digitel) and Umobile (CURE).
In December 2005, the NTC awarded four out of five 3G licenses to Smart, Globe, Digitel and to a new entrant, Connectivity Unlimited Resources Enterprises, or CURE.
Smart received the largest radio frequency allocation of 15 MHz as well as first choice of frequency spectrum as a result of ranking the highest among the competing operators on a grading system conducted by the NTC. Smart got a perfect score on a 30-point grading system designed to gauge the capability of telecommunication operators to effectively provide extensive 3G services. Smart chose the 1920-1935 MHz and 2110-2125 MHz spectrums.
|Band I (2100 MHz)|
|Smart||1920-1935/2110-2125 MHz||15 MHz|
|Digitel||1935-1945/2125-2135 MHz||10 MHz|
|Globe||1945-1955/2135-2145 MHz||10 MHz|
|CURE||1955-1965/2145-2155 MHz||10 MHz|
Band V (850 MHz) / AMPS 850 Band
AMPS cellular service operates in the 850 MHz band (824-849 and 869-894 MHz). In 1991, 850 MHz band is used for AMPS. Piltel and Extelcom were the only telcos offering cellular phone services using AMPS standard.
But in UMTS, the bands 824-849 and 869-894 MHz are labelled as 850 MHz or Band V. It uses 824-849 MHz to send information from the mobile station to the base station (uplink) and 869-894 MHz for the other direction (downlink). Band V (850 MHz) has wider coverage and has better building penetration than Band I (2100 MHz) .
|AMPS 850 (Year 1991)|
|Piltel||824-835/869-880 MHz||11 MHz|
|845-846.5/890-891.5 MHz||1.5 MHz|
|Extelcom||835-845/880-890 MHz||10 MHz|
On March 6, 2008, Piltel’s frequency band 825-835/870-880 MHz were reassigned to Smart for additional 3G use.
NTC approved the transfer of Piltel’s remaining frequencies to SBI (Smart Broadband Inc.) on January 8, 2010. Piltel is now PCEV (PLDT and Energy Ventures Inc.)
|Band V (850 MHz) / AMPS 850|
|SBI||824-825/869-870 MHz||1 MHz||AMPS/CDMA; transferred from Piltel to SBI in 2010|
|845-846.5/890-891.5 MHz||1.5 MHz||AMPS/CDMA; transferred from Piltel to SBI in 2010|
|Smart||825-835/870-880 MHz||10 MHz||transferred from Piltel to Smart then converted to 3G in 2008. Used for 3G and W-CDMA.|
|Extelcom||835-845/880-890 MHz||10 MHz||AMPS|
Summary of UMTS Band Allocation
|Band I (2100 MHz)||Band V (850 MHz)||Total|
|Smart||15 MHz||10 MHz||25 MHz|
|Digitel||10 MHz||–||10 MHz|
|Globe||10 MHz||–||10 MHz|
|CURE||10 MHz||–||10 MHz|
|Smart and Digitel||25 MHz||10 MHz||35 MHz|
|Winner||Smart and Digitel||Smart and Digitel||Smart and Digitel|