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Everything you need to know about 4G LTE in Nigeria

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Everything you need to know about 4G LTE in Nigeria

Inspiration they say can come from anywhere, and this article was inspired from this rather funny (in my opinion), exchange between a customer and a service provider a few days ago.

After the laughs, it occurred to me that as 4G LTE starts to gain more ground in these parts, many of these sorts of exchanges will happen going forward, because LTE (Long-Term Evolution Networks) are a different beast entirely from what we are used to.

LTE is based on the GSM/EDGE (2G) and UMTS/HSPA 3G, 3.5G) network technologies. In the simplest of terms, it allows you send a lot more data using the same technology as 2G and 3G networks, with a different radio interface and a few core network enhancements. The above definition is why LTE is very popular and won the “4G war” against Wimax (sort of like Betamax vs VHS or BlueRay vs HD DVD), an existing GSM or CDMA network can be upgraded relatively easily and cheaply provided you have the spectrum to use. (keyword: relatively).

I digress.

Where LTE gets a bit confusing is when it comes to frequencies and bands.

To understand it, we need to go back to the basics: Telecom signals travel in waves.

A frequency is the rate per second of a vibration constituting a wave, either in a material (as in sound waves), or in an electromagnetic field (as in radio waves and light). In the most basic form, when you toss a stone into water, the ripples it makes are waves and the speed of the waves (or number of waves that gets to a predetermined point (like the edge of the water) in a fixed time (like one second) is called frequency. There’s a more complex discussion to be had about frequencies, which I’ll skip so it doesn’t get boring, but note that frequencies matter, in how far signals can move without losing quality. As an example, you are more likely to realise someone is knocking on the door if s/he knocks three times in two seconds, than if s/he knocks once a minute.

A band is a range of frequencies or wavelengths in a spectrum.

A spectrum is the entire range of wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation.

So in essence, a group of frequencies is a band. They’re usually grouped by how close to each other they are. And a spectrum is all the waves that share the same characteristic or in the example above, all the waves made by one stone thrown into the water.

So now that we have a basic understanding of what frequencies and bands, lets go back to the fact that telecom signals travel in waves. If you consider that by law, you can only broadcast on spectrums you “own” or have permission to use, it makes sense that they broadcast within the frequency which they “own” or are permitted to broadcast on. Considering that these frequencies are usually in a range, it’ll makes sense that these frequencies will have bands…right? Simple.

Now with all of that said, let’s consider the last part of the equation, which is your device. With all the explanation above, this bit is quite easy to understand. For your device to work on any given network, it has to support at least one band that the network is broadcasting on. Simples.

Funny thing is, we had this same confusion when 3.5G became a thing in these parts, it’s the reason why you and your friend can sit in the same place, and be on the same network and yet his/her signal indicator has an H or H+ while yours is locked on 3G. His/her device supports the 3.5G band, and yours doesn’t. It’s obviously not such a big deal for most in the 3.5G case, because there’s 2G and 3G to fall back to. For LTE-only devices or LTE only networks, like the one in the tweets above, there’s no fall back. It’s either you have service or you don’t.

Some devices let you check the bands they support.

Some devices let you check the bands they support.


To round this up, here is a table that shows all the 4G LTE networks in this parts and what frequencies and bands they support, that you can use as a guide, so that when you’re in the market for an LTE device, you know what to look for.

Network Supported Frequencies Supported Bands
Bitflux 2300 40
MTN 800 and 2600 7 and 20
Smile 800 20
Spectranet 2300 40
SWIFT 2300 40
Ntel 900 and 1800 8 and 3

P.S: Notice how the same frequencies have the same bands? Duh!

Any questions? Yes? Leave them in the comments. No? Class dismissed. Lol.


...half genius, half unserious.

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