What frequency was used by IS-95 (cdmaONE)?

The IS-95 mobile networks, also known as cdmaONE systems, introduced the first CDMA based mobile networks in the mid-1990s. IS-95 stands for Interim Standard 1995, and it was a second-generation mobile network technology. The IS-95 standard has two variants IS-95 A and IS-95 B, which later evolved to the third generation mobile networks CDMA2000. For completeness, another CDMA-based mobile network is 3G UMTS which followed a different track and was used for the 3G migration of GSM networks. In this post, we will dive into the frequencies and channels used by the IS-95 systems.

Why IS-95 is CDMA based?

When IS-95 was introduced, there were two-second generation technologies, GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) and D-AMPS (Digital Advanced Mobile Phone System). Both GSM and D-AMPS use a combination of FDMA (Frequency Division Multiple Access) and TDMA (Time Division Multiple Access) technologies. With that approach, the reuse of frequency was a limiting factor which was handled differently by IS-95 due to the CDMA technology. IS-95 employs spread spectrum communication, more specifically direct sequence spreading, which is also used in the 3G CDMA2000 networks. In a CDMA system, multiple-access is provided in such a way that special codes and not frequencies separate multiple users. As a result, all cells in the same area can utilise the same frequency band without interfering because they are differentiated by codes.

What channel bandwidth and bit rates are possible in IS-95?

The carrier frequencies used in IS-95 have a bandwidth of 1.25 MHz. The peak data rates of up to 14.4 kbps can be achieved from IS-95A, while the technology enhancements in IS-95B can enable up to 115 kbps. IS-95 provides capacity advantages for its ability to accommodate more users per MHz of bandwidth. The power consumption in IS-95 networks is low, allowing users to make phone calls in decent quality even when the signal strength is not great. Due to low power consumption in these networks, the coverage is a bit wider, which means that the cell size is a bit bigger. It also means that a lesser number of cells can do a good enough job. IS-95 networks also have a soft handover (also sometimes called handoff) which means that the calls are less likely to be dropped.

Is CDMA2000 different from cdmaOne?

CDMA2000 was the 3G upgrade path for 2G cdmaOne networks. cdmaOne is the commercial name for IS-95, whereas CDMA2000 is the commercial name for IS-2000. CMDA2000 uses the same carrier bandwidth of 1.25 MHz and is both circuit-switched and packet-switched. Just like cdmaOne was launched in the same era as GSM and D-AMPS, CDMA2000 was introduced in the same era as UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System). More information on the differences between CDMA2000 and cdmaONE in this dedicated post.

What frequencies are used in forward and reverse links in IS-95?

IS-95, commercially known as cdmaONE systems, use a full-duplex scheme called Frequency Division Duplex (FDD), which basically means separate frequency bands for the forward link and the reverse link. For clarity, in GSM, UMTS and LTE networks, we use the term downlink for communication from Base Station to Mobile Station, which is called forward link in cdmaOne (IS-95). Similarly, the term uplink in GSM, UMTS and LTE means communication from Mobile Station to Base Sation, which is called the reverse link in cdmaOne (IS-95). There are two bands in IS-95; the 850 MHz band and the 1900 MHz band. In the 850 MHz band, the reverse link is from 824 MHz to 849 MHz, while the forward link is from 869 MHz to 894 MHz. Therefore, the separation between the starting frequencies for reverse and forward links is 45 MHz (i.e. 869 MHz minus 824MHz = 45 MHz). In the 1900 MHz band, this separation is 80 MHz, so the reverse link is from 1850 MHz to 1910 MHz, while the forward link is 1930 MHz to 1990 MHz. The table below summarises the forward and reverse link frequencies in IS-95 (cdmaONE).

Communication LinkcdmaOne (IS-95)Frequency (850 MHz Band)Frequency (1900 MHz Band)
Mobile Phone to Base StationReverse Link (Uplink)824 – 849 MHz1850-1910 MHz
Base Station to Mobile PhoneForward Link (Downlink)869 – 894 MHz1930-1990 MHz

IS-95 (cdmaONE) forward link and reverse link frequencies

What are the channels used in is 95?

In IS-95 mobile networks, the forward and reverse links have a different set of channel types. The forward link, the link from the base station to the mobile phone, has four physical channels: pilot channel, sync channel, paging channel and forward traffic channel. The table below provides a quick summary of the forward link physical channel types.

ChannelAbbreviation
Pilot ChannelF-PICH
Synch ChannelF-SYNCH
Paging ChannelF-PCH
Forward Traffic ChannelF-TCH
Forward Link Physical Channels

The reverse link, which is the link from the mobile phone back to the base station, has two physical channels: reverse access channel and reverse traffic channel. The table below summarises the channels for the reverse link in IS-95 (cdmaONE).

ChannelAbbreviation
Reverse Access ChannelR-ACH
Reverse Traffic ChannelR-TCH
—Reverse Link Physical Channels in IS-95 (cdmaONE)—

cdmaOne frequency band vs. GSM and D-AMPS frequencies

cdmaOne was introduced in the same era as GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) and D-AMPS (Digital-Advanced Mobile Phone System). Both GSM and D-AMPS used a combination of Frequency Division Multiple Access (FDMA) and Time Division Multiple Access (TDMA) to offer cellular services. The original GSM networks used 890 to 915 MHz for the uplink and 935 to 960 MHz for the downlink. This frequency band was later extended to add 10 MHz to both the uplink and the downlink. The extended band is known as Extended GSM or E-GSM and ranges from 880 to 915 MHz for the uplink and 925 to 960 MHz for the downlink. On the other hand, D-AMPS uses 824 to 849 MHz for the uplink and 869 to 894 MHz for the downlink.

Conclusion – IS-95 frequencies

The frequency band used by IS-95 (cdmaOne) can either be 824 to 894 MHz or 1850 to 1990 MHz with separate frequency bands for the reverse and forward links with a channel bandwidth of 1.25 MHz. In the 850 MHz band of IS-95, the reverse link (uplink) employs 824 to 849 MHz, and the forward link (downlink) employs 869 to 894 MHz. In the 1900 MHz band, the reverse link is 1850-1910 MHz, and the forward link is 1930-1990 MHz.

Here are some helpful downloads

Thank you for reading this post, I hope it helped you in developing a better understanding of cellular networks. Sometimes, we need some extra support especially when preparing for a new job, or studying a new topic, or maybe just buying a new phone. Whatever you are trying to do, here are some downloads that can help you:

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Professionals: If you are an experienced professional but new to mobile communications, it may seem hard to compete with someone who has a decade of experience in the cellular industry. But not everyone who works in this industry is always up to date on the bigger picture and the challenges considering how quickly the industry evolves. The bigger picture comes from experience which is why I’ve carefully put together a few slides to get you started in no time. So if work in sales, marketing, product, project or any other area of business where you need a high-level view, Introduction to Mobile Communications can give you a quick start. Also, here are some templates to help you prepare your own slides on product overview and product roadmap.


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