Since its intial rollout in 1985 with three carriers using an analogue-based system, the cell phone industry has evolved and grown into a product and service that have become almost essential to out everyday lives. Now, 34+ years later we have multiple carriers offering various services marketed towards key consumer segments. There are a number of carriers that build and maintain physical networks; Bell, Rogers, Telus, Freedom, Mobilicity, although there are many brand names reselling services on those networks (see table below). Below is a chart outlining the technology breakdown of the carriers and their physical networks.

CARRIER
(in Alberta)
NETWORK
VOICE
Frequency Bands
DATA
Frequency Bands
discount
brands

HSPA1,5
850 & 1900 MHz
850 & 1900 MHz
Koodo Mobile
Public Mobile

LTE8
VoLTE4 only
(6003) & 700 & 850 & 1900 & 1700/2100 & 2600 MHz


HSPA1,5
850 & 1900 MHz
850 & 1900 MHz
Solo Mobile
Lucky Mobile
Virgin Mobile
PC Choice Mobile

LTE8
VoLTE4 only
(6003) & 700 & 850 & 1900 & 1700/2100 & 2600 MHz


GSM5 & HSPA5
850 & 1900 MHz
850 & 1900 MHz
Fido
Chatr
SpeakOut
LTE8
VoLTE4 only
(6003) & 700 & 850 & 1900 & 1700/2100 & 2600 MHz


AWS
1700/2100 MHz
1700/2100 MHz

AWS
1700/2100 MHz 1700/2100 MHz
1 this is a joint-venture network shared between Telus & Bell
2 this 800 MHz band is not the same as the cellular 850 MHz band and requires different amplifier equipment
3 Industry Canada spectrum auction for usage 1st quarter 2019
4 Voice over LTE, same as VOIP technology but on LTE data, phone must be capable and feature activated on account, may also include Wi-Fi calling
5 both 850 MHz & 1900 MHz are used as needed for voice and/or data now
8 LTE is a high speed data network only, limited phones have VOIP-like VoLTE voice calling capabilities

Voice Band includes: voice calls, standard text messaging, and voicemail notification
Data Band includes: multimedia text messaging, email, and web browsing

The frequency assignments (aka channels) in a given frequency band are unique to each carrier.

There are a number of carrier towers throughout the city, province, and country.

Some towers are exclusive to a specific carrier and others are shared by multiple carriers.

Tower height is very important in that a shorter tower will more likely be affected by terrain and obstructions.
Cellular signals will not penetrate or go over hills or metal structures.
(see coverage plot pictures in "getting started")

Antenna placement on a given tower is generally one of two configuration types. The most common type is three antennas placed 120 degrees apart with the first pointing roughly north. The second type is two antennas 180 degrees apart pointing along a road and/or through a valley.


Frequency Band (MHz)
Band Name
LTE Band Designator
600
RRBS - Remote Rural Broadband System
71
700
MBS - Mobile Broadband Service
12, 13
850
Cell - Cellular
5
1900
PCS - Personnal Communication Service
2
1700/2100
AWS - Advanced Wireless Service
4
2600
BRS - Broadband Radio Service
7


One huge misconception about LTE and data speeds is that they should be super fast. Yes, the carriers try to achieve that but the reality is that the LTE data speed at any given time is determined by a number of variable parameters. The biggest determining factors are the frequency band you or on from the tower and how good the signal is. As a rough guide, this is the RSSI reading (signal bars) on the phone. There are many factors though that determine the true RSSI as compared to a raw RSSI. This graph shows the maximum LTE data speed by band vs signal strength.


Also! Follow this link for my 5G primer . . .