Verizon announced today that an additional 24 million customers now have access to its nationwide 5G network, which it launched back in October using dynamic spectrum sharing (DSS) technology.
The service has now expanded to serve customers throughout central Texas, as well as Tulsa, Oklahoma, upstate New York and the New England area. It means 230 million people now are able to access Verizon’s 5G service, up from 200 million in October.
The DSS-enabled nationwide service uses lower spectrum bands, which are shared between 5G and 4G LTE. Plans call for moving to the standalone (SA) version of 5G, where LTE is not in the core, but that’s a multi-year effort.
Meanwhile, Verizon said it expanded access to its 5G Ultra Wideband service, which uses millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum, to customers in parts of Tampa and St Petersburg, Florida; Albuquerque, New Mexico; and Durham, North Carolina. That brings its total Ultra Wideband cities to 61, living up to its promise of being in at least 60 cities by year’s end.
The service using mmWave spectrum, typically either 28 GHz or 39 GHz, offers the fastest speeds, so customers can download and stream movies and TV shows in seconds, as well as videoconference and collaborate remotely in near real time.
The problem is – and rival T-Mobile points this out at every opportunity – the mmWave spectrum has well-known and poor propagation characteristics, so signals don’t travel far or efficiently through buildings. Verizon has been adopting newer technologies that address the deficiencies, but for its nationwide layer, it’s using DSS, which it says works as advertised, but some analysts say using lower bands and DSS lead to service that is not that much different than LTE.
In its announcement today, Verizon noted that its underlying network architecture is built on cloud-native containerized architecture, similar to the IP-based architectures used by “the most notable global tech companies,” which can allow for “unprecedented levels of operational automation, flexibility and adaptability.”
It also noted that DSS allows 5G to run simultaneously with 4G LTE on multiple spectrum bands. In previous migrations to new standards, carriers had to undergo the process of refarming spectrum, which takes time and means switching access off for the previous generation in a spectrum band. With DSS, Verizon can use the same spectrum bands for 5G and 4G, making more efficient use of resources.
Verizon said it’s also using carrier aggregation (CA) in its Ultra Wideband markets and reaching 4 Gbps peak speeds in some locations. The CA technology combines multiple channels of spectrum to achieve greater efficiency for data sessions transmitting over its wireless network.
Specifically, Verizon combined eight separate channels of mmWave spectrum to reach multi-gigabit speeds in parts of some cities. “Using this technology, customers can see double the download speeds they have historically experienced on 5G Ultra Wideband, with peak speeds up to 4 Gbps possible in some locations,” the operator said.
Customers also will see a boost in speeds with two carrier aggregation now available for uploads. “Combined with Verizon’s vast quantity of available spectrum in mmWave, carrier aggregation allows customers on 5G Ultra Wideband to achieve unprecedented mobile speeds and brings the massive bandwidth available with mmWave spectrum to life,” the company stated.
T-Mobile’s Extended Range 5G on 600 MHz covers more than 270 million people, and it’s waiting for carrier aggregation technology to aggregate its low and mid-band spectrum bands for 5G. That feature is coming in 2021.
While T-Mobile has set its sights on leading the U.S. wireless industry with the best 5G network, Verizon continues to point out its dominant position with its 4G LTE network. The company says its 5G network designs share many commonalities with its LTE Advanced network. The underlying small cell, fiber and radio wave infrastructure of LTE created the technical foundation for its 5G networks.
Granted, Verizon has received a good amount of knocks for its mmWave strategy, but analysts point out that 5G in lower band spectrum isn’t much different than an LTE experience. It’s worth noting that Verizon’s Nationwide 5G service is being made available at no additional cost on Verizon unlimited plans.
The big advantage that T-Mobile is aggressively working on lies with its 2.5 GHz spectrum acquired via Sprint, which it says can deliver average download speeds of 300 Mbps and peak speeds up to 1 Gbps. T-Mobile plans to have 2.5 GHz lit up over a population of 100 million by the end of this year and 200 million by the end of 2021.
The current C-band auction, which raised over $16 billion in gross proceeds as of Thursday morning, is where Verizon is expected to get its workhorse mid-band 5G spectrum. Due to timelines associated with clearing that spectrum, T-Mobile could have a lead of 18 to 24 months in the mid-band 5G arena over Verizon and AT&T.