Choosing which frequency band to operate a LTE network is one of the most critical decision. Operator has to make when it comes to capacity planning. The frequency propagation and penetration characteristics will determine the number of sites that need to be built in order to cover the designated area chosen by the Operator. This in turn will decide the final capacity that can be offer for commercial services.

The figure below gives a high level view of the likely difference in coverage strength offered by the different major frequency band currently chosen for LTE deployment.

Difference in Propagation Loss due to Frequency Band

With its shorter coverage range, 2.6GHz is more likely to be used and is best suited for urban environment which also demand higher capacity within a smaller area. On the other hand, 800MHz is more likely to be used for rural applications due to the more extended coverage.

RF coverage – RSRP

As in any other cellular technologies, coverage is always a leading indicator of the likelihood of getting good service level, either in the form of throughput or call quality and LTE is no difference in this regard.

Reference Signal received power is a common measurement that can provide the coverage quality level. Although intercell interference will not be reflected by RSRP level, it is still a strong indicator of throughput level as long as the initial radio network was designed properly.