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5G Technology Is Not Defined by the Spectrum Band

It is a myth that 5G requires a specific spectrum band.

5G does not require a specific spectrum band. It is a new technology that increases the network speed, lowers latency, and improves battery life of devices connected to the network.  T-Mobile CFO, Braxton Carter, shares that “… the truth of the matter, 5G like any technology is spectrum-band agnostic.” That said, it appears as if each carrier is initially deploying 5G and deploying spectrum in the areas of their networks that have been the weakest.

For example, broad coverage will always be needed and T-Mobile is deploying 5G technology in the 600MHz band because it has historically lacked coverage in much of the country. Recall, T-Mobile went through its 700MHz rollout using only 10MHz of spectrum and that was its first truly low-band spectrum deployment for coverage. DISH Network is following a similar path using both its 6000MHz and AWS-4 spectrum to deploy a “5G Only” network.

In contrast, Verizon, who has the lowest amount of spectrum per subscriber in the U.S., is starting to experience capacity issues in some markets. As a result, Verizon is deploying 5G on mmWave spectrum which provides the greatest capacity but struggles to provide coverage. While Verizon is now is in position to deploy significant high band spectrum for capacity augmentation through its mmWave spectrum platform. “There’s really 3 ways that we add capacity to the network: technology; the architecture of network; and also spectrum.” — Matt Ellis, Verizon CFO.

Not surprising, Sprint chose to deploy 5G on its 2.5GHz spectrum and has one advantage in that the vast majority of devices within its base will be capable of using the investment immediately. Sprint devices sold today are capable of supporting 2.5GHz and thus Sprint does not need to move its base toward upgraded devices.

5G technology is spectrum neutral, but the choice of spectrum band used has a huge impact on coverage. The initial spectrum band used by each carrier for 5G will dictate the use cases that we see first. Applications such as fixed wireless and AR/VR will require extremely high capacity, whereas applications such as IoT will require broad coverage and the ability to connect to thousands of devices. Autonomous vehicles will require both ubiquitous coverage and high capacity.

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