Understanding Spectrum, Frequency Bands and Why Telecom Operators Need It

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If you are aware of the key terms used within the telecom industry, you would have heard the word ‘spectrum’. Many people, when they hear that a particular telco is bidding for a spectrum band, think that it is a tangible asset which the company can take back to its office.

But that’s not the case. No company can store the purchased spectrum safely or protect it from being stolen or damaged. This is because while spectrum is recognised as an asset for the telcos, it is not a tangible asset. Spectrum is nothing but radio frequencies present in the air that telecom companies use to provide connectivity services.

Everything from FM radio to Wi-Fi signals to mobile networks operates on the spectrum in different frequency bands. This leads us to another question; what are frequency bands in a spectrum?

What Are Spectrum Frequency Bands?

If you understood what spectrum is, understanding frequency bands wouldn’t be an issue.

Before we talk about frequency bands, though, let’s take up the term ‘frequency’ and understand it better. Frequency is the number of times a wave carrying data repeats in a given second. So lower-frequency means that the repetition of waves in a second is very less. For high-frequency, it is the opposite, meaning higher repetition of waves in a second.

Just for a hypothetical example, with a lower-frequency spectrum, the repetition of waves in a second might be 3 times, while with the higher-frequency spectrum, it can be around 10 times. So essentially, higher frequency waves will be able to carry more data in a second than lower-frequency waves.

But the issue with higher frequency waves is that they need a lot of power to travel and get disrupted or interfered with very easily by walls and other things. Thus they have lower coverage but can provide a faster experience.

The low-frequency waves can provide much better coverage because they can easily get inside buildings and walls but cannot carry as much data as high-frequency waves.

The above can cover your basic understanding of frequency; thus, it’s time to move on to frequency bands.

‘Frequency bands’ mean a regulated and divided group of spectrum airwaves. Let me explain it to you in simple words. We are surrounded by airwaves/spectrum all the time. The government takes up the responsibility of allocating airwaves to different sectors, companies, and groups based on their requirements.

For the unaware, spectrum bands or frequency bands are recognised as a sovereign or national asset. The government holds all the rights of the airwaves and allocates them to different groups depending on their needs. For providing connectivity services, the government allocates a group of frequency airwaves to the telcos.

For providing 4G, telcos in India utilise spectrum in the 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz, and 2300 MHz, frequency band. The telcos in India can also bid for frequencies in the 700 MHz band and 2500 MHz band in spectrum auctions for providing telecom services.

The aim of dividing frequencies into different bands is to be able to allocate them to different sectors and companies efficiently. It allows the companies to provide services without any interruption in the airwaves allocated to them.

For example, FM signals use frequencies in the range of 100 MHz to 200 MHz, and telecom companies use frequencies starting from 800 MHz in India at present. This allows FM radio companies to provide seamless services without facing any interruption in signals from telecom companies.

This is all for now, but do let us know in the comments section below what more you want to understand about the telecom industry.

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Tanay is someone with whom you can chill and talk about technology and life. A fitness enthusiast and cricketer, he loves to read and write.

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