C Spire turns on initial 5G service in Mississippi

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C Spire said it's deploying 5G at a variety of spectrums. (C Spire)

After a major LTE upgrade in Mississippi early this year, C Spire has launched 5G service in the state, starting with locations in two counties.

In the announcement, C Spire’s Brian Caraway, general manager of the wireless division, said C Spire is deploying 5G “at a variety of spectrums.” Additional details weren’t disclosed, and it wasn’t immediately clear if it’s a pre-standards version of 5G.

C Spire said the 5G launch coincides with handset availability, and the Ridgeland, Mississippi-based carrier is offering the new iPhone 12 lineup. It’s unclear if C Spire is using dynamic spectrum sharing (DSS) technology or dedicated spectrum for its initial 5G rollout. C Spire did not immediately respond to questions from FierceWireless.

5G is first debuting in Brookhaven located within Lincoln County in south Mississippi, and Columbus in the northern Lowndes county. By the end of 2020, C Spire plans to expand 5G to parts of Hattiesburg, Madison and Ridgeland in the greater Jackson metropolitan area, and parts of the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Further expansion is expected in 2021, alongside new 5G-capable smartphones, with C Spire calling out Samsung specifically.

RELATED: C Spire debuts ‘no bull’ pricing

The carrier recently introduced a new pricing plan, offering a $45 per month for one line with unlimited talk, text and 10 GB of high-speed data.

C Spire has also seen some executives head to Dish Network. Most recently in September, when former C Spire Chief Innovation Officer, Craig Sparks left to become part of Dish Networks’ new wireless team. Sparks joined Stephen Bye, who became Dish’s EVP and chief commercial officer last fall.

The 5G news follows investments in LTE upgrades over the last few years. Earlier this year, as part of the continued LTE-Advanced enhancements, C Spire deployed 3-carrier aggregation at 60-megahertz, adding more band 41 (2.5 GHz) spectrum to 172 cell sites located in 40 cities.

After the approximately $200 million upgrade, C Spire said customers were seeing speeds of 200 Mbps. C Spire added support for Voice over LTE (VoLTE) across its footprint in 2019, with new base stations and software that provided a 20% increase in average speeds.

RELATED: C Spire upgrades Mississippi sites with more 2.5 GHz spectrum

“We’re deploying 5G at a variety of spectrums – so many customers will have a faster experience on a 5G network while others may still see the best performance on our 4G LTE deployments,” Caraway said in a statement. “5G is a new technology that will improve with time, but regardless of where you live, C Spire is dedicated to providing the best network experience for the most customers possible.”

The announcement also called out the carrier’s fiber optic infrastructure, which is supporting the wireless network as well as other services. In August, C Spire secured federal grants to expand its fiber network in rural and unserved areas as part of a broadband program related to COVID-19. It said it would spend around $2.2 million to install more than 33 miles of underground fiber infrastructure.  

C Spire didn’t purchase priority access licenses (PALs) in the FCC’s CBRS auction over the summer, but was listed as an applicant to bid in the upcoming C-band auction for mid-band spectrum between 3.7-3.98 GHz. Its application status was noted as incomplete. The C-band auction is set to start December 8.  

RELATED: Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, Dish submit C-band applications

C Spire holds millimeter wave spectrum in the 28 GHz band. It launched a fixed wireless 5G home internet service in 2018 in a Harrison County subdivision. That rollout wasn’t based on the global 3GPP New Radio (NR) standard, but met the IMT-2020 requirements for fifth-generation wireless network technology. Verizon also initially launched a pre-standards 5G fixed wireless service, using its own proprietary standard before transitioning to the 3GPP-based NR specification.