GSM 850 MHz band — Not To Be Overlooked.

Over the past several years I have owned Nokia phones, the last one being the (tri-band) Nokia 6310i. However, I was always finding blind spots in my coverage. Would be half a kilometer along the drive out of my subdivision and having to apologize for phone calls cutting out over the next kilometer or so.. I was also aware of some coverage gaps along the 401 freeway connecting Toronto to Montreal and Ottawa. This continued to be my experience with the Nokia N70 and N91 which were so-called quad band phones but supporting GSM/GPRS only at 900, 1800 and 1900 MHz while having UMTS at 2100 MHz as its “fourth” band.. While obtaining some parameters last summer to allow web browser operation on the N70 and N91, I was advised by a Rogers network engineer that all new towers installed in Canada in the previous two years were 850 MHz for both capacity and coverage range reasons

On the other hand my Blackberry 8700 supports true quad band, including 850MHz, along with the EDGE enhancement on GPRS. Recently I received for evaluation the new N73 and N93 — a quint (five) band phone (no WiFi) and a quad band phone (plus WiFi) respectively. I moved my primary SIM chip to the Blackberry about six weeks ago and instantly found I have better coverage not only as I drive out of my subdivision but also within the Scotiabank Centre, home of the recent Voice 2.0 conference. A couple of trips along the 401 have also demonstrated significantly improved coverage as well as a tourist area where I have previously received marginal coverage. When I received the Nokia N73 last week I moved a second SIM chip into it and immediately found that gap near my home had disappeared. Phone Boy reports similar experiences trying out the N93 on Cingular and T-Mobile in the U.S.

Bottom line is that, if you want to have full coverage in North America you need a quint band “world” phone covering 850, 900, 1800 and 1900 MHz for GSM/GPRS/EDGE plus 2100 UMTS for any forthcoming UMTS deployment. As an indication of the presence of the 850MHz channel, on the N73 I see an “E” above the traditional Nokia data service symbol, as well as a much stronger signal level indicator; also the downloads are significantly faster. On the Blackberry 8700, as shown above, you see the word “edge” associated with the signal strength indicator. This recommendation applies to both all purchases of wireless GSM phones for residents of North America and those residents of Europe and Asia who may be traveling to North America and want full wireless (GSM) phone coverage.

Something to think about as we await the Skype Client for Symbian, apparently to be released next month (I assume, initially as a beta). As indicated in a previous post, fast networks are required for adequate IM and VoIP operation over wireless networks. Alec Saunders talks about some of the battery limitation potential for these phones when running a VoIP client while he attempts to configure the N93’s WiFi connection.

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About Jim Courtney

Bringing over thirty years' experience in the sales, marketing and management of cutting edge technology businesses.

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