How to check if your network / service provider’s 4G or 5G SIM card will work on a particular 4G or 5G Android phone

Its Black Friday again and there’s -as usual- a lot of deals and buyer’s remorse in the air. For those of you who might be eyeing a 4G or 5G Android phone, you would want to read this first so you don’t end up being someone’s Father Christmas because you bought a 4G or 5G phone you can’t use.

What’s all this talk about knowing frequencies and bands before buying a 4G or 5G Android phone?

Each service provider (e.g MTN, GLO, Airtel, 9mobile etc in Nigeria) has selected bands which it supports. Your phone (by virtue of the radio hardware) doesn’t support every band as well. This means you’ll only get signal when your service provide’s SIM card and Android phone’s hardware support the same band.

Does it matter whether or not I check my network’s supported LTE bands?

On 3G, this isn’t much of a headache but from 4G LTE, you should. If you use more than one network’s 3G to surf the internet then you must have noticed that each has its location(s) of lightening speed and those of pathetic speed (if you even have a signal). Unless you always want to go to John’s place¬†where surfing is faster to use your data, you would usually subscribe for the data plan of a network which has good speeds in your location.

Now, talking of 4G LTE and Bands, its a different kettle of fish. If a 4G or 5G phone you buy doesn’t support your network’s band(s) then you can’t use that SIM for 4G or 5G surfing on the phone. You would have to get the SIM of a network which does or just stick to 3G; this might not always be convenient for you.

How do I find out my network or service provider’s supported 4G LTE or 5G Bands and frequencies

You’ll need to contact your service provide’s customer care to find out. Some service provides / networks in Nigeria and their supported 4G LTE / 5G Bands are:

Network4G LTE Band & Frequency5G
MTN7 (2600 MHz) and 20 (800 MHz)Not supported ATM
9mobile3 (1800 MHz)Not supported ATM
GLO28 (700 MHz) and 3 (1800 MHz)Not supported ATM
Ntel3 (1800 MHz) and 8 (900 MHz)Not supported ATM
Smile20 (800 MHz)Not supported ATM
Spectranet40 (2300 MHz)Not supported ATM
Swift40 (2300 MHz)Not supported ATM
Airtel3 (1800 MHz)Not supported ATM

How do I know which 4G LTE or 5G bands & frequencies the Android phone I intend to buy or use supports

One place to check is the device’s specs (online or on the carton). Depending on your phone’s chipset, you can dial a shortcode to enter the secret menu / engineer mode. For Mediatek and Spreadtrum phones, you can use the Shortcut Master (lite) method to access EngineerMode from which you can go to BandSelect or BandMode. You’ll find supported Bands listed / ticked

How to check an Android phone's supported 4G LTE and 5G bands

Now that I know the Band(s) my network supports and also the Bands the phone supports, how do I tell if I’ll be able to use 4G LTE or 5G when my SIM is inserted

It very important you understand that network lock is different from 4G LTE / 5G compatibility. In the case of a network lock, your phone is locked to a foreign service provider so no other SIM card will work unless unlocked. In the case of 4G LTE / 5G incompatibility, you won’t be able to use 4G LTE or 5G but will be able to use other radios like 3G.

I’ll take GLO above as an example. Lets say you intend to buy a 4G or 5G Android phone and really wish to use a GLO SIM on it, you first need to find out GLO’s supported bands (which is 28 as stated above). Armed with this information, you then check the phone’s specs to see if Band 28 is supported / enabled. If it isn’t then your GLO 4G SIM won’t be able to get 4G network on the phone. This means you’ll either need to consider a different phone or prepare your mind to use another network which supports the phone’s enabled 4G LTE or 5G Bands.

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