C Spire upgrades Mississippi sites with more 2.5 GHz spectrum

C Spire said Thursday that it’s delivering mobile speeds up to 200 Mbps after upgrading more than 150 LTE sites across Mississippi as part of the carrier’s multi-year network investment initiative.

C Spire, the nation’s sixth-largest carrier, has deployed three carrier aggregation at 60 MHz, according to a spokesperson, adding Band 41 spectrum to 172 cell sites located in 40 cities in the state.

Sites in Mississippi that were upgraded with additional 2.5 GHz spectrum and now offer what C Spire calls “5G-equivalent” speeds include:

  • The Delta (10 counties and 29 sites)
  • East Central Mississippi (two sites in Meridian)
  • Central Mississippi (four counties and 56 sites)
  • Gulf Cost (two counties and 19 sites)
  • The Pine Belt (four counties and 18 sites)
  • Southwest Mississippi (two counties and 8 sites)
  • North Mississippi/Golden Triangle (six counties and 30 sites)

C Spire is introducing the speed enhancements to consumer and business customers at no additional charge, and doesn’t have plans to introduce any special data plans at this time, the spokesperson said. C Spire offers Unlimited 4G LTE with unlimited mobile hotspot included for $50 per month for four lines.

While 5G deployments using millimeter wave spectrum, like those by Verizon, have clocked peak speeds above the 2 Gbps threshold, 5G roll outs using mid- and low-band spectrum have delivered still increased, but more tempered speeds.

Early 5G network test results from RootMetrics in October showed that Sprint, which is using 2.5 GHz spectrum for 5G, consistently hit download speeds in the 200 Mbps range.

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C Spire started rolling out carrier aggregation using 2.5 GHz spectrum for LTE in 2017, at the time enabling peak LTE speeds of 100 Mbps, up from typical speeds between 5 Mbps and 12 Mbps. In that time C Spire has invested $200 million in LTE network upgrades, including adding advanced features like 12-layer MIMO and 256 QAM for improved spectral efficiency.

The latest deployments follow a 10-month project that involved C Spire enhancing about one in five cell sites with additional spectrum and capacity, focused on 252 cell sites across 41 counties.

The regional carrier completed the initial phase of its network upgrade last year, including support for Voice over LTE (VoLTE). C Spire said that in 2019 it installed new base stations and software at its more than 1,200 cell sites, delivering a 20% bump in average speeds across its network.

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"We're delivering real 5G speeds, better service and an improved customer experience today through widespread use – almost 10,000 route miles - of some of the world's most advanced technology – fiber optic infrastructure," said Brian Caraway, general manager of C Spire's wireless division, in a statement.

The sites involved in the upgrade are fed using the company’s fiber backhaul, which according to the spokesperson, “enables us to move much faster when we have the opportunity to deploy more spectrum for faster speeds.”

C Spire said the network initiative is aimed at delivering 5G-equivalent speeds to customers now, instead of several years down the line.

In 2018, the carrier rolled out a 5G fixed wireless service in a subdivision in Mississippi, using its millimeter wave spectrum in the 28 GHz band to provide download speeds of up to 750 Mbps and peak upload speeds of 600 Mbps. That followed a quiet fixed wireless roll out in 2018 using Wi-Fi technology and unlicensed 5.8 GHz spectrum, delivering 120 Mbps download speeds. 

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Although the company dubs the service “5G,” C Spire’s Craig Sparks previously told FierceWireless that its fixed wireless offering meets the IMT-2020 requirements for fifth-generation wireless network technology, but isn’t based on the global 3GPP 5G New Radio (NR) standard.  

In terms of putting its millimeter wave licenses to use for mobile near-term, the spokesperson said C Spire is working on plans for 28 GHz but didn’t have additional details to share at this time.