Verizon has said its top priority for 2021 is to prepare its network for its C-band spectrum, and it’s wasting no time doing that. Today, Verizon said it has begun installing C-band equipment from Ericsson and Samsung in its Ultra Wideband network — this is the company’s 5G network built mostly on mmWave spectrum in urban metros.
The carrier is currently deploying basebands, radios and antennas from Ericsson and Samsung in anticipation of the first tranche of its new C-band spectrum that will become available for use in the fourth quarter of this year.
Ericsson is providing Verizon with its antenna-integrated radio (AIR) product, which uses a massive MIMO architecture. Recent C-band performance tests at Ericsson have demonstrated record-breaking data rates in both uplink and downlink on a single user device.
Samsung is also supplying Massive MIMO radios to Verizon, along with Samsung’s virtualized RAN (vRAN).
Verizon was the biggest purchaser of C-band spectrum in the FCC’s auction, which concluded earlier this year. The carrier paid $45.5 billion for C-band licenses, securing an average of 161 MHz of the mid-band spectrum across its entire U.S. footprint. It plans to use the spectrum for its 5G mobile network and also for its home broadband fixed wireless access (FWA) offering.
Verizon is focusing on urban areas first.
“We’re moving fast, with cooperation from our equipment partners, to have everything in place as soon as this C-band spectrum is cleared for use,” said Kyle Malady, Verizon chief technology officer, in a statement today.
Speaking at a recent FierceWireless virtual event last month, Verizon’s EVP and CEO of its consumer group Ronan Dunne said Verizon will not be building new cell sites this year, but it will be upgrading existing cell sites in the first 46 partial economic areas (PEAs) where its newly acquired C-band spectrum will be available. Those 46 PEAs include the main urban areas in the U.S. “We will be upgrading sites, power, antennas and new radio equipment to be ready for C-band,” he said.
It expects to have between 7,000-8,000 C-band equipped sites this year.
And in the first quarter of 2022, Verizon plans to put into service its new C-band spectrum in the initial 46 markets and to provide 5G Ultra Wideband service to 100 million people.
Verizon also recently signed agreements with the tower companies Crown Castle and SBA Communications, establishing terms for leasing space on existing towers for C-band equipment. The agreements also provide for process improvements including standardizing and reducing forms and minimizing legal reviews, allowing Verizon engineers to expedite deployment of C-band equipment.
The bottom line is: Verizon wants to move fast on deploying its C-band treasure trove. And the whole U.S. wireless industry agrees that mid-band spectrum is critical for 5G. In a blog post today, T-Mobile’s President of Technology Neville Ray wrote, “Everyone in the industry is playing the same game – building out optimal mid-band spectrum to deliver the perfect combo of speeds and coverage. Often called the ‘goldilocks’ of spectrum for this reason, mid-band spectrum is clearly the global sweet spot for 5G.”