Explaining 3G technology and UMTS bands

Posted on by Caroline Siñel in GSM/SMS Technology

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).

UMTS-2100 band in the Philippines

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)
Carrier Frequency Assignment Bandwidth
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
After the acquisition of Digitel, PLDT now owns a total of 25 MHz in the 2100 MHz frequency band. Globe, on the other hand, owns 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) .

UMTS-850 band in the Philippines

AMPS 850 (Year 1991)
Carrier Frequency Assignment Bandwidth
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 August 23, 2005, the NTC issued Memorandum Circular No. 07-08-2005 or the Rules and Regulations on the Allocation and Assignment of 3G Radio Frequency Bands, allocating the 825-845MHz/870-890MHz frequency bands for 3G.

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
Carrier Frequency Assignment Bandwidth Notes
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
After the acquisition of Digitel, PLDT now owns a total of 35 MHz in both 850 and 2100 MHz frequency bands. Globe only has 10 MHz.

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
[Sources: ABS-CBN News, GMA News, PLDT Annual Report 2007 and 2009]

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2 Comments on Explaining 3G technology and UMTS bands

  1. Is there a coverage map for Smart Bro?


  2. i would like to know regarding android cell phone in terms of wifi connections what is the operating bandwidth recommended using a smart sim card ? is it 2.5 mgh or 5 mgh ? we are giving the choice i need to select auto or 2.5 or 5 .


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