4G LTE compatibility isn’t a simple matter of buying any LTE smartphone and popping in your 4G SIM card. Apart from identifying that your phone supports whichever of the many different 4G LTE bands that your mobile operator uses, it is also well documented that sometimes a phone is listed as supporting your operator’s 4G network, yet does not work with it. 4G LTE compatibility is a mess.
4G LTE is wireless broadband internet. You would expect 4G LTE compatibility to be a simple matter of buying any LTE smartphone, popping in your SIM card from any 4G LTE service provider and going your way merrily. However, it isn’t that straightforward.
For starters, there are two LTE standards – TDD (Time Division Duplex) and FDD (Full Division Duplex). Both standards are official here in Nigeria and in many other places as well. Does that remind you of CDMA versus GSM? Not exactly the same, but the incompatibility issues between the two are similar.
4G LTE Compatibility Is A Mess
Here are the differences between the two:
- FDD uses more bandwidth, requiring two separate channels. Most cell-phone systems use FDD. The newer LTE and 4G systems use FDD.
- TDD uses less bandwidth, needing only one frequency channel. Older systems tend to run this. This is where you will find LTE networks that were migrated from WIMAX.
The problem is that both standards are not compatible. So, an LTE smartphone with only FDD will not be able to use a SIM from a network using TDD. And vice versa. Some manufacturers have produced some smartphones that support both FDD and TDD. But to make matters worse, there are scores of frequency bands under both FDD and TDD. Messy; right? You can say that again.
The Key: LTE Band
To cut a long story short, your 4G smartphone may not be compatible with one or more of the available 4G networks in your area. The thing to check for is the LTE Bands that a phone supports to make sure that one of them is what the network you want to use supports.
The LTE Band may also be referred to as 4G Band, LTE Frequency Band. The information is usually printed on smartphone packaging and specifications sheets.
What To Do?
Ask. Always make enquiries about LTE compatibility before buying that LTE phone or subscribing to that LTE service. At every point of making a decision to hop on anything, ask, especially if you want to use a SIM card.
In the meantime, here is vital information that can help you navigate the present situation:
- Smile 4G uses 20 (800) FDD
- Spectranet uses 40 (2300) TDD
As other 4G networks that allow the use of SIM cards come up, we shall be providing you details that can help you make informed choices. Our dedicated page about 4G LTE networks in Nigeria is constantly being updated with information. Be sure to bookmark it and share with others as well.
But That Is Not All
There is more to 4G compatibility though. In our experience, some phones that are specified as supporting certain 4G LTE bands do not connect to a 4G network when a supposedly compatible SIM card is inserted.
For example, a smartphone is listed by the manufacturer as supporting band 20(800) or 28(700), but when you insert a Smile 4G or Glo 4G SIM card respectively, it does not connect. This is a well documented issue that we have followed over the years. In addition to our own experiences with this, we have received similar complaints from users cross the country.
What To Do?
It can be painful, after checking device specifications to be sure that a smartphone supports a particular 4G network, and buying the device, only to discover that it does not work on that network. The surest way to avoid this situation is to read reviews written by people who have used the phone in question.
Read reviews on blogs and discussion forums. Someone is bound to have some experience with the phone and can tell you whether or not it works with a particular 4G network.
Founder of MobilityArena. Yomi’s journey in mobile started in 2001. Besides obsessing over mobile phones, he also started creating WAP sites (early mobile-friendly websites created with WML). He began writing about phones in 2004 and has been at it since then. He has owned over 200 devices, from Symbian, Palm, PocketPC/Windows Mobile, BlackBerry/BB10, webOS, Windows Phone, Firefox, Ubuntu Touch, to Android, iOS, and KaiOS operating systems.