The peculiar problem of using a Smile 4G SIM in a type specific LTE smartphone

Recently, I was asked to compile and publish a list of phones that are compatible with smile 4G network. As you may already know, this 4G LTE business is already complicated as it is. There are dozens of frequencies and details to make the average user’s head explode. The summary of it is that smartphone compatibility is a big issue. But when you think you have it all figured out, some other information pops up.

4G smartphones

In the past, we have had the case of a smartphone that supported Smile’s band 20 (800 MHz), but when we put a Smile SIM in it, it failed to register to the network. That was the Lenovo A6000. Now we have another smartphone in the house that supports Smile’s 4G band but won’t register either: the Lumia 950.

So, we reached out to Microsoft about this and they sent in this explanation:

The 4G network has to have voice as well. So the radio checks for the voice first and then if seen, latches unto the 4G network.

As SMILE has no voice, it will not latch.

So, it is not enough that your 4G SIM card and a smartphone support the same LTE band. From Microsoft’s response, it appears that some smartphones are designed to look for voice first, and since Smile has no voice…bummer.

As you know, Smile 4G is not a mobile network operator. It is a broadband service provider. The recently launched SmileVoice is not a traditional network voice service, so it doesn’t count. This will present a unique situation for many Smile subscribers who will want to use their SIMs in one LTE smartphone or the other. What to do? If possible, take your smartphone to a Smile centre for a compatibility test.

In the meantime, we are compiling as much info as possible towards helping you pick smartphones that are compatible with Smile’s 4G network. The very first that we confirmed in-house here at Mobility Arena is the TECNO Phantom 5. Expect a list from us soon.

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6 comments

  1. Hiya Mr Mo, please could you help get more technical details? When they mean ‘checks for voice first’, does that imply checking if the LTE network is integrated over an existing network which supports circuit switched/voice network like UMTS/3G? I’m wondering as LTE inherently doesn’t support voice (as in circuit switched connections). Also, I learnt from Smile’s vendor that the network is built LTE only (no fallback to 3G/2G), this may explain what Microsoft means, and it implies operators running on evolving networks (2G-2.5G-3G-3.5/3.75G) will not have this issue as their 4G/LTE networks will have legacy technology to fallback to, but it will inherently not support classic voice calls (circuit switched) but VoLTE as LTE is packet switched.

    1. Sadiq, that is pretty much the technical details behind it. These details are way over the head of most readers, so we try not to get too technical. I’m not a network/radio engineer, but what you’ve highlighted pretty much covers it.

  2. Seems to be too much of a hassle to go through before using a 4G network in Naija,hopefully the GSM companies like MTN and NTEL will be rolling out their own versions of 4G networks in the nearest future..

  3. @Sadiq has said it All.Truly it couldnt have been explained any better.Smile was designed as Data ONLY LTE network with no option for Circuit switching.Like Our Almighty Mr Mo said need to get too technical.Just contact Smile First before you buy a phone or better still take your current phone to their Office before u decide to buy a Data plan with smile.I love Mobility Arena…no other site like this…Truly

  4. I use a Lenovo vibe p1m which smile certified as a 4g compatible phone wit their Network. Whenever the Sim is inserted, it takes well over an hour to register it and bring data connection. Right now it doesn’t even work after I did a phone reset. Worse part is that whenever I have the smile Sim on the phone, it doesn’t permit any games Sim to get data connection i.e I can’t browse wit my other Sim even if I set them as the Sim for data connection. Remove d smile Sim and immediately data is restored.

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