When shopping for a 5G phone, one comes across quite a few options in the marketplace. As most phones have a different configuration, it makes it difficult to decide which 5G phone to choose. Some phones support just a couple of 5G bands whereas others offer multiple and even more than a dozen 5G bands. Some models of iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max offer as many as two dozen 5G bands.
These variations make us wonder if we really need all 5G bands on our phone. And why some phones have only a few 5G bands and others so many? To answer such questions, we first need to understand the basics of 5G bands and their applicability.
Types of 5G bands
5G bands can be broadly classified into sub-6GHz 5G and millimeter wave 5G (mmWave). In most parts of the world, it is the sub-6GHz radio frequencies that are widely used. mmWave 5G has also been deployed globally, but it’s not as widely used commercially. Sub-6GHz frequencies can be further classified into low-band and mid-band. This gives a total of three primary categories of 5G bands.
From the user’s perspective, it’s the mid-band that will be most practical to use. Mid-band 5G can cover wide distances and also has capabilities to carry voluminous data at high speeds. It can deliver real-world speed of around 100 to 500 Mbps. Some of the most widely used mid-band 5G frequencies include n77 (TD 3700), n78 (TD 3500) and n79 (TD 4700). Much of the world is currently utilizing these 5G bands.
While browsing 5G mobile phones, one also comes across 5G bands such as n1 (2100 MHz), n2 (1900 MHz), n3 (1800 MHz), n5 (850 MHz), n7 (2600 MHz), n8 (900 MHz), n12 (700 MHz), n40 (TD 2300), n41 (TD 2500), n48 (TD 3600), n66 (AWS-3), etc. These are low-band 5G frequencies that have a much wider reach in comparison to mid-band and mmWave.
However, their data carrying capacity is not very good. So, low-band can keep you connected even in far-off regions, but don’t expect top speeds. Low-band 5G can give speeds of around 200+ Mbps. It can also drop to around 20-30 Mbps, which is no better than existing 4G network.
For max 5G speed, it is mmWave that is used. It includes 5G bands like n258 (26 GHz), n260 (39 GHz) and n261 (28 GHz). But mmWave has serious limitations, as it cannot penetrate things like building, trees, etc. You can even block it with your hand. For mmWave to function, it needs a clear line of sight. Moreover, its reach is only around 500 meters. In essence, mmWave can be effectively deployed in only limited environments.
How many 5G bands your phone needs?
The answer to how many 5G bands your phone needs will depend on your location. For example, if your location has mid-band 5G network, there won’t be any need for low-band or mmWave.
But you also need to consider if you will be travelling abroad and where exactly. If you are a globetrotter, you will probably need as many 5G bands as possible on your phone. If not, you would be fine with just a couple of 5G bands.
So, don’t be swayed by how many 5G bands a phone supports. Instead, look at the type of 5G network in your location and choose accordingly. Mid-band 5G is emerging as the preferred choice in most parts of the world. That’s where most carriers will focus in the coming years.