C Spire may use 28 GHz spectrum to extend fiber services to users' homes

NASHVILLE -- C Spire Wireless, which provides wireless service to roughly 1 million customers across Mississippi, Alabama and elsewhere, is considering using its 28 GHz spectrum holdings to connect its growing fiber network with nearby homes.

"We're extremely interested in that," explained Stephen Bye, C Spire's CTO.

The notion is notable considering spectrum above 6 GHz -- including 28 GHz -- is being considered as part of the pending 5G standard for wireless networks. Those in the industry have lauded high-band spectrum like 28 GHz as ideal for handling heavy data payloads and transmitting data at 1 Gbps speeds and above. But Bye said that C Spire, which is building out a fiber network, could use its own 28 GHz holdings to transmit high-speed Internet signals 300-400 feet, thereby allowing the carrier to offer fiber-style Internet services to residents in its fiber network footprint without actually connecting that fiber network to a user's house.

C Spire's 1 Gbps Internet access is available to existing customers for $70 a month, $90 a month for combined Internet and home phone, $130 for Internet and super HD TV, and $150 a month for the three-service package. New C Spire customers will be required to pay an additional $10 a month on all packages. The company has deployed 1 Gbps fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) service in Jackson, Miss., Clinton, Miss., and elsewhere.

Bye joined C Spire in September as the company's CTO; Bye previously was Sprint's CTO.

Bye said that C Spire continues to see high demand for the company's fiber-based services. "We have a backlog" on fiber services, he said here on the sidelines of the Mobile Carriers Show. The show, held by the Competitive Carriers Association, is geared toward Sprint, T-Mobile and other smaller carriers.

C Spire is joining AT&T, Verizon, Google and a range of smaller players in deploying FTTH services. However, such efforts are typically time-consuming and expensive because technicians must install the fiber into users' homes. Thus, a high-speed wireless connection between a fiber node and a user's home could eliminate that cost while still supporting the 1 Gbps services available through a fiber connection.

C Spire isn't the only carrier playing with wireless transmissions in the higher spectrum bands, like 28 GHz. AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile have all filed applications with the FCC to test transmissions in bands including the 28 GHz band and the 38 GHz band. Those tests have generally been described as paving the way for the deployment of 5G network technology.

Indeed, such spectrum bands appear to becoming increasingly important. Under terms of Verizon's $1.8 billion acquisition of XO Communications, Verizon will also lease XO's LMDS spectrum with an option to buy it before the end of 2018. XO has 102 LMDS licenses in 28 GHz and 39 GHz bands. Verizon said that XO's spectrum covers bands it can use to conduct 5G testing.

Related articles:
C Spire touts new 'combo' plans that tie together service and device costs in a single price point
C Spire moves to help customers avoid data overage charges
C Spire says Clinton and Madison, Miss. qualify for 1 Gbps FTTH service
Former Sprint executive Stephen Bye will become C Spire CTO

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