How many frequencies are there

Which frequencies does mobile communications use in Germany?

Modern cellular technology uses electromagnetic fields to exchange information between cell phones and base stations. These transmit voice and data. To transport this information, certain frequency ranges are assigned to each mobile radio standard.

Each frequency range is divided into two frequency bands: The data is transmitted from the mobile phone to the transmitter on the lower frequency band. This is the so-calledUplink. In the upper frequency band, the data is transmitted from the transmitter to the mobile phone. This is theDownlink.

Frequency ranges

The frequency ranges have been used increasingly flexibly for the respective radio standards in recent years.

The frequency ranges from 890 to 915 MHz and from 935 to 960 MHz (GSM 900) as well as from 1,710 to 1,785 and from 1,805 to 1,880 MHz (GSM 1800) are assigned to the GSM mobile radio standard. The UMTS standard uses the frequencies from 1,920 to 1,980 MHz and from 2,110 to 2,170 MHz. The Federal Network Agency originally assigned frequencies in the 800 MHz, 1.8 GHz, 2 GHz and 2.6 GHz ranges for the LTE standard. In addition, frequencies in the 700 MHz range were added by the auction in June 2015, which are particularly well suited for use in rural regions and have so far been used by radio. In 2019, the Federal Network Agency auctioned 41 frequency blocks from the 2 GHz and 3.6 GHz frequency ranges in a frequency auction.

Digital trunked radio systems for professional use (e.g. for the police) occupy the frequency ranges between 380 and 400 MHz and between 410 and 450 MHz.

The frequencies available for radio applications are physically limited. Therefore, the available frequencies must be used efficiently. This becomes a challenge, especially when the number of users increases. Since a mobile radio base station can only handle a limited number of connections, the radio networks are being expanded further. The network expansion takes place by dividing an existing radio cell into several small new cells.

Better use of frequency resources

Better use of the frequency resources could be achieved by increasing the data transmission capacity. With UMTS, the capacity of a cellular network grew by 30 to 60 percent thanks to a particularly efficient transmission process. With LTE, the use of frequencies has been further improved. LTE devices can also work with cellular technologies from earlier standards (e.g. UMTS) without any problems. If LTE is not available at the user's location, the LTE modem can automatically switch to another available (albeit slower) standard.

A major advantage of LTE is the higher transmission speed. Due to the further developments (LTE-Advanced) up to 1 gigabit per second (GBit / s) can be achieved via LTE radio networks.

Free frequencies are extremely scarce and have so far been auctioned by the Federal Network Agency at the highest bidder. 5G requires additional frequencies, especially for the targeted top speeds of 10-20 GBit / s. In 2019, the Federal Network Agency auctioned 41 frequency blocks from the 2 GHz and 3.6 GHz frequency ranges in a frequency auction.

Not every frequency segment is suitable for every scenario. Since the frequencies are scarce, bands from the 2G or 3G networks that are no longer required are released and rescheduled for 4G or 5G operation. This is up to the respective operator to decide.

Low 5G bands
Low frequencies (long-wave signals) have good propagation properties and are particularly suitable for area coverage. For the 5G expansion in rural areas, for example, the still unused area at 700 MHz is ideal; the first expansion activities are already underway here. In the course of the LTE expansion, the frequency range at 800 MHz was primarily used.

High 5G bands
On the other hand, the higher the frequency, the lower the range. In return, these radio areas offer more bandwidth and thus the achievable data transmission rate also increases. In particular, the spectrum from 3.4 to 3.8 gigahertz is intended for 5G.

Very high bands
In order to develop further frequency resources, it is possible to use even higher frequency ranges, e.g. B. the extremely short-wave radio waves in the range from 6 to 26/28 GHz. In mobile communications, frequencies above 24 GHz are sometimes referred to as millimeter waves, although the wavelength is only less than 1 cm above 30 GHz. The spread is limited to a few hundred meters under real conditions. Commercial mobile radio use of these frequency ranges is not yet possible in Germany.