Waaaay back in October 2010 I wrote about some of the confusion around carrier selection for Windows Phone and the fact that the websites from Microsoft, the carriers and the OEMs all seem to contradict themselves (to some extent) [link]. Well 14 months later we finally have some gen-2 handsets starting to hit the market, the Samsung Omnia W and the Nokia Lumia 710 and 800. Add to this that the various carriers have been doing network upgrades and, for the most part, the process this time ‘round is a lot easier, although not without it’s hazards, especially if you’re planning on buying an unlocked handset outright. To that end, Sheeds over at Windows Phone Down Under has written an excellent post.
So where do we sit today? In a perfect world, 3G (UMTS/WCDMA) would use a pre-ordained frequency (or set of frequencies) and any phone could be used on any carrier anywhere without any issues allowing the consumer true freedom of choice. However this is not the case. Carriers have to bid and vie for their slice of the frequency spectrum and due to the numbers of subscribers they need to service they may have multiple slices of spectrum. The OEMs (that is, the phone makers) do their best to ease the pain for the consumer (because they want to sell lots of phones) by making phones that work on multiple frequencies. This is where you may have heard of tri-band, quad-band or even penta-band handsets (remember a decade ago when dual-band GSM phones where the latest innovation?)
In Australia, 3G services are delivered over 3 different frequency bands; 850, 900 and 2100MHz. The various carries use these as follows:
Upgrades in progress
Regional areas only
The Windows Phone handsets on the Australian market (or anywhere as far as I know) are generally all tri-band 3G devices (and quad-band GSM/2G). No problem I here you say, 3-bands, 3-bands. Well no actually, the bands used are (usually) 850 or 900 plus 1900 and 2100. You might think that the simple fact that 2100MHz is the lowest common denominator across the board will have you covered, and you would be right, however coverage on the 2100 band is poor. At the very very least you’ll be able to make calls on the GSM network.
As mentioned earlier, Sheeds over at Windows Phone Down Under has written a very good post about the Nokia Lumia 710 and 800 and their availability across the different carriers [here]. Because these handsets will be available for use across all carriers each have 2 sub-models, either 850/1900/2100 or 900/1900/2100, so selecting the right model to use is important. Of course if you get your phone directly from the carriers this is a no brainer, they’re going to sell you the right phone for their network.