AT&T has shared their plans to deploy the C-Band spectrum it acquired back in February for 5G+. The carrier spent $23 billion back in February in an FCC auction to win 80 MHz of C-Band spectrum. That frequency, between 3.7 and 4 GHz, sits between their existing low band 5G and their super fast millimeter-wave 5G. AT&T says that they are now prepared to begin deploying that new spectrum for launch in December.
AT&T says they have been testing the new frequency in the field since the auction. They’ve entered a 5-year agreement with Ericsson and Nokia to provide the equipment necessary to complete the deployment.
When most people think of 5G they think of the super-fast speed tests they see in big cities. That particular variant of 5G is typically the high-frequency millimeter-wave 5G. It operates at frequencies around 39 GHz. This offers huge amounts of bandwidth leading to speeds over a gigabit per second, however, it also limits how far the signal can go. That’s where low band and mid band come in.
Low band 5G, which for AT&T is operating on the 850 MHz band 5, has far reaching signal. It penetrates into buildings and through trees a lot better than higher frequencies. The trade-off is slower speeds due to less available bandwidth.
Then there’s mid band. This is considered the “sweet spot” of 5G by many people. It offers a middle ground between signal reach and speeds. AT&T’s new C-Band operates between 3.7 and 4 GHz. That’s right in the sweet spot. It should allow AT&T to offer a good balance between high speeds and far reach.
T-Mobile has been operating on this 3-tier approach since the beginning, even referring to it as the “5G Layer Cake”. All three major carriers have slightly different approaches to how they handle 5G, and results vary. AT&T will now be able to offer a 3-tier system similar to T-Mobile once this new C-Band is deployed.
AT&T says they plan to have 70-75 million people covered with the new C-Band spectrum by the end of 2022, with up to 200 million by end of 2023. They also mention they will have multiple 5G devices available for customers to purchase (hopefully with great deals) later this year.