Technalysis Research
Previous Forbes Columns

December 15, 2021
Samsung Networks Looking to Enable Private 5G

November 30, 2021
Qualcomm Pushes Smartphone Tech Forward with Latest Snapdragon Line

October 13, 2021
Is Neuromorphic Computing the Answer for Autonomous Driving and Personal Robotics?

October 8, 2021
Is Neuromorphic Computing the Answer for Autonomous Driving and Personal Robotics?

September 15, 2021
GlobalFoundries Advancements, Qualcomm Partnership Push 5G Ahead

September 8, 2021
Google and Cisco Partner to Drive Collaboration Forward

August 17, 2021
Moving 5G Forward Requires Big Picture Thinking

July 14, 2021
Samsung Working with US Military on 5G AR Testing

June 29, 2021
Nvidia’s Aerial Brings GPUs to AI on 5G

June 23, 2021
Samsung Networks, Intel And Ericsson Driving 5G Network Transformation Efforts

June 17, 2021
IoT for 5G Could Be Next Opportunity

May 19, 2021
Qualcomm Extends 5G Efforts With New Modems

May 10, 2021
Amazon’s Sidewalk Unmasks Hidden Value of Mesh Networks

April 6, 2021
Intel Strengthens 5G Network Infrastructure Offerings

March 31, 2021
Arm Lays Out Vision for Next Decade of Chips

March 18, 2021
Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T Lay Out Vision for Future of 5G in US

March 4, 2021
Qualcomm Highlights Mobile Audio with Snapdragon Sound

February 23, 2021
New T-Mobile Plan Highlights the 5G Service to Come

February 11, 2021
Latest Modems from Qualcomm and MediaTek Highlight 5G Progress

January 27, 2021
C-Band Auction Points to Dramatic Shift in 5G

January 21, 2021
GeForce Now Alliance Growth Shows Opportunity for 5G Gaming

January 21, 2021
Economic Analysis of mmWave 5G Highlights Potential Benefits

January 14, 2021
Latest Samsung Phones Highlight Evolution of 5G

January 12, 2021
5G Makes Waves at CES 2021

2020 Forbes Columns

2019 Forbes Columns


Forbes Column

January 6, 2022
Verizon and AT&T C-Band Launch Portends Future of 5G

By Bob O'Donnell

To say that 2021 was a tumultuous year for 5G is an understatement. Despite huge expectations for the next generation cellular network and all the possibilities it was supposed to enable, the truth is, for most people in the US, 5G had very little real-world impact last year. (A notable exception was T-Mobile 5G customers, who were finally able to start enjoying the company’s speedy mid-band driven network.)

To add insult to injury, the year ended with the debacle of the FAA making scary-sounding, but completely unjustified, claims that the widely anticipated launch of C-band-based 5G networks from AT&T and Verizon would compromise airline safety and lead to near chaos in the skies. The development was absurd on many levels, not the least of which was that any potential concerns had been discussed and seemingly resolved several years ago. But the saddest part is that it highlighted how even intelligent people can’t (or aren’t willing to) understand the basic scientific principles behind RF spectrum and how it works. Ah well….

Thankfully, 2022 looks to be off to a better start for 5G as the FAA, FCC, AT&T and Verizon have all come to an agreement that should allow the critical new C-Band-based, mid-band 5G networks from the two companies to launch on January 19. After the agreement, Verizon publicly announced the details of its new offerings as part of CES. As of now, AT&T has not announced the specific plans for its C-Band-based 5G network, but the company is expected to do so before the anticipated January 19th launch.

What’s interesting about the Verizon news is that it nicely summarizes the capabilities, value, and importance of C-Band-based 5G networks. (For more details on C-Band, see “C-Band Auction Points to Dramatic Shift In 5G.”) First, at a basic level, C-Band will enable the kinds of fast download speeds we’ve been promised for 5G, but generally haven’t seen. While it’s not as fast as the super-speedy millimeter wave (mmWave)-based 5G networks that Verizon has previously touted, it will cover an exponentially larger area, making it significantly more impactful (and more useful). In fact, the company claims that the service will be available to over 100 million US consumers as soon as the network gets turned on, which is several months sooner than was first announced. (Though, to be fair, T-Mobile’s mid-band 5G already reaches 200 million people in the US.)

In real-world terms, it’s likely that most consumers will find C- Band-based 5G fast enough (about 10x faster than what they’re used to—that is, as long as they have a 5G-capable phone and an appropriate data plan). While it’s fun to talk about multi-gigabit download speeds that are possible with mmWave, the truth is that giving people wireless connections that are as fast, or even faster, than high-quality WiFi—but without the hassles of having to constantly log in to new networks—will be appealing to many. Verizon clearly recognizes this as they’ve decided to use the same 5G Ultra Wideband name for its C-band driven service as it does for its mmWave-based 5G service. What this means for how, or even if, the company continues to talk about mmWave remains to be seen.

Technically, Verizon is using 60 MHz of dedicated bandwidth (from 3.70 to 3.76 GHz) to enable its new mid-band 5G network. The company said it is also capable of doing carrier aggregation with some of its existing 4G LTE spectrum to increase speeds even further. It is also using advanced signal modulation techniques to improve performance and promises peak download speeds of over 1 Gbps and average speeds of 90-170 Mbps.

In addition to faster speeds, mid-band 5G opens new possibilities, particularly around fixed wireless access (FWA), otherwise known as wireless broadband. To that end, Verizon launched both greatly expanded 5G Home internet service as well as low-cost offerings for businesses as part of its CES event. (Again, T-Mobile has already launched 5G fixed wireless service, though it did run into a few early glitches with its home receiver/router devices.) While it may not be the sexiest new offering, I believe 5G-based wireless broadband could prove to be one of the first killer applications for 5G, as it can potentially bring broadband service to a number of underserved and rural areas.

Down the road, Verizon is also hoping to leverage the C-band network and its experience with mobile edge computing (MEC) to do even more advanced and interesting applications. Theoretically these would be the kinds of innovative distributed computing applications that many have presumed 5G would enable, but really hasn’t yet.

Finally, in conjunction with AT&T’s upcoming launch and alongside T-Mobile’s existing service, one of the most important aspects of the Verizon news is that it will finally bring “real” 5G service to a large percentage of the US population. By having all three major US carriers using wide chunks of mid-band spectrum to deliver 5G, the US can finally start catching up with China and other countries around the world that have already been using the sweet spot of mid-band spectrum for their 5G networks. Not only is this a nice benefit for US consumers and businesses, it’s also the critical last piece that’s needed to start driving the extended benefits of a 5G economy. With solid networks in place, more device makers will be inspired to integrate 5G modems into their products, application developers will be more motivated to build applications that can leverage the networks, and networking and cloud computing companies can enable the critical infrastructure that will be necessary to move computing, telecommunications, and technology forward. Collectively, that’s when we’ll really start to see the future of 5G come to life.

Disclosure: TECHnalysis Research is a tech industry market research and consulting firm and, like all companies in that field, works with many technology vendors as clients, some of whom may be listed in this article.

Here’s a link to the original column:

Forbes columnist Bob O'Donnell is the president and chief analyst of TECHnalysis Research, a market research and consulting firm that provides strategic consulting and market research services to the technology industry and professional financial community.