Carriers Exceed 5G Buildout Goals for Year


Even with the delays in turning on the C-band, the major wireless carriers have had good news concerning their 5G buildouts, reporting that they have met or exceeded their goals for 2021. 

Verizon announced this week that it has exceeded its year-end target of 14,000 new 5G Ultra Wideband cells sites, providing phone service to parts of 87 U.S. cities, 5G Home to parts of 65 cities and 5G Business Internet to parts of 62 cities, the carrier said. 5G Home is now available in five times the number of markets compared to 2020, and 5G Business Internet in nearly three times the number of cities originally projected for 2021.

AT&T’s 5G deployment plans are on track, according to CEO John Stankey at the UBS Global TMT Conference this week. AT&T beat its year-end goal in July, covering 250 million people with 5G. AT&T currently offers two types of 5G: 5G+ over high band mmWave spectrum, which is live in parts of 39 cities and more than 20 venues and entertainment districts, and the more widespread, 5G over the low band Sub-6 GHz.

In November, T-Mobile, which is not dependent on the C-band auction for mid-band spectrum, said it had already reached its 2021 goal of covering 200 million people nationwide with its Ultra Capacity 5G, bringing 5G performance to a majority of Americans. However, The Verge noted, “the milestone doesn’t mean that there’s still not a lot of work to do in building out its network further.”

C Band Fireworks to Come

But it is clear that all eyes at AT&T are on the C-band. In a blog, Mo Katibeh, AT&T SVP, Network Infrastructure and Build, said, “We are aggressively testing and preparing our network for C-band spectrum.” 

Verizon said it has also been working “diligently,” securing agreements with tower partners on its C-Band spectrum, installing equipment on thousands of cell sites in hopes of providing 5G Ultra Wideband service to 100 million people by the end of the first quarter of 2022 using C-band spectrum.

The Data Speeds to Take Off in New Year

Due to the depth of 2.5 GHz spectrum holdings obtained in the Sprint merger, T-Mobile is showing an impressive rise in 5G download speeds, according to Opensignal. “Our T-Mobile 5G users saw their average 5G download speeds soar by 66.5 percent, from 71.3 Mbps in Opensignal’s April 2021 5G Experience report to 118.7 Mbps in the latest report published in October 2021.

According to RootMetrics, T-Mobile was the only carrier to exceed 100 Mbps, hitting 100 Mbps in 21 cities and 200 Mbps in four, including 273 Mbps in Kansas City. “T-Mobile’s increased usage of mid-band spectrum once again led to outstanding speeds,” the company said.

Verizon gave a taste of the speeds it has been able to muster in recent field tests. Using 100 megahertz and 200 megahertz channels of C-band spectrum, the company has seen speeds of 1.5 Gbps and 3 Gbps, respectively. And in a recent lab test using carrier aggregation (800 MHz of mmWave and 100 MHz of C-band) and a test device powered by Snapdragon® X65 5G Modem-RF System, Verizon and Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. were able to reach download speeds of 7.92 Gbps.

By J. Sharpe Smith Inside Towers Technology Editor

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