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    HomeTechVerizon and AT&T's C-Band 5G upgrade: Everything you need to know

    Verizon and AT&T’s C-Band 5G upgrade: Everything you need to know

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    5G graphic

    Screenshot by Sarah Tew/CNET

    Should you’ve been listening to the spat pitting carriers AT&T and Verizon towards the Federal Aviation Administration over questions of safety tied to 5G, you may’ve heard a time period thrown round within the forwards and backwards: C-band. 

    It is greater than only a wonky designation for a swath of radio airwaves. This extra spectrum might considerably change your 5G expertise, which for a lot of has been an incremental improve — if that — over 4G. C-band is predicted to provide each AT&T and Verizon 5G prospects wider protection and better speeds. 

    This is all the pieces you might want to find out about C-band and the way the carriers plan to make use of it to improve their cellular web service.

    What’s C-band, and why ought to I care? 

    Samsung Galaxy S21 5G connected to Verizon's C-band test network

    A Samsung Galaxy S21 5G linked to Verizon’s C-band take a look at community in downtown Los Angeles, operating a pace take a look at inside an elevator.


    David Lumb / CNET

    Let’s first clarify what C-band is. It is a set of radio airwaves working at a frequency vary between 3.7 and three.98GHz. That frequency falls below what is called midband spectrum. 

    Whereas AT&T and Verizon (in addition to T-Mobile) have had 5G networks for a few years now, the previous two have largely been restricted to deploying next-generation networks utilizing what’s often known as low-band spectrum or high-band millimeter wave. 

    Low-band has glorious protection, however its speeds are sometimes equal to these of 4G LTE. Most individuals on AT&T and Verizon are experiencing this type of 5G, which is why the distinction has been minimal for a lot of. 

    Millimeter-wave has glorious efficiency, however its protection is usually restricted to only a handful of blocks in sure cities or in elements of an area, stadium or airport. However not everybody goes to indicate as much as Instances Sq. or SoFi Stadium for that form of enhanced 5G. 

    With midband spectrum, a service can provide 5G that is not solely considerably quicker however works in additional locations. 

    OK, however how briskly are we speaking about?

    Verizon has already mentioned that it expects peak obtain speeds on C-band to be 1 gigabit per second, or 10x quicker than 4G LTE. That is corresponding to the quickest house web service, though the notice the time period “peak” because the best-case situation for connectivity. The efficiency enhancements are why carriers spent over $80 billion – with the majority of that bidding coming from Verizon and AT&T – to amass C-band spectrum when the Federal Communications Fee put it up for public sale. 

    Learn extra: Our first look at Verizon’s C-band network

    It is also price noting that whereas T-Cellular did buy C-band to be used beginning on the finish of 2023, it is not anyplace close to as determined to deploy that now due to the massive quantity of midband spectrum it acquired in its merger with Dash. T-Cellular’s midband 5G community already reaches 200 million people, with the corporate beforehand focusing on common obtain speeds of 400 Mbps. 

    Verizon and AT&T will use C-band to plug protection gaps of their 5G networks that fall between millimeter-wave, which offers excessive speeds in small areas inside cities, and low bands, which supply higher vary however aren’t all the time quicker than 4G LTE. 

    Will I would like particular units to connect with this? 

    Pixel 6 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro

    The Pixel 6 Professional, left, and iPhone 13 Professional might be getting C-band assist.


    Andrew Hoyle/CNET

    Earlier than you get enthusiastic about these incoming quicker speeds, know that only some phones have the {hardware} to connect with C-band. These are Apple’s iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 strains; Samsung’s Galaxy S21 line, Z Flip 3 and Z Fold 3; and Google’s Pixel 6 and 6 Professional. Verizon has additionally confirmed that Apple’s 5G iPads (the iPad Professional and iPad Mini) will even work with its new service. 

    Some older telephones and units might get software program updates, however precisely which units and when these updates will roll out is not but clear. New flagship telephones offered by Verizon and AT&T in 2022 and past are anticipated to assist the brand new taste of 5G.

    Will I would like a particular plan? 

    Relying in your service, you may. AT&T is providing C-band, which it’s going to name 5G Plus, with most of its limitless plans. This consists of the Limitless Starter, Further and Elite supplied right now in addition to a large number of its older unlimited plans from recent years.

    Verizon, which is able to provide C-band below its Extremely Wideband (or UW) branding, might be limiting entry simply to a handful of its limitless choices. This consists of the Do Extra, Play Extra or Get Extra plans offered right now in addition to the older Above and Past limitless choices from just a few years in the past. 

    If you do not have certainly one of these plans, you will not have the ability to reap the benefits of the quicker community even when you have a telephone that helps it. 

    When is C-band being turned on? 

    Each Verizon and AT&T are planning to activate their C-band service on Jan. 19 after delays round considerations raised by the FAA and the airways. 

    Verizon crew working on a cell tower

    A Verizon crew works on a cell tower in Orem, Utah, in December 2019 to get it prepared for 5G. 


    George Frey/AFP through Getty Photographs

    What’s the concern for the FAA? 

    Airways and aviation officers have argued that the frequencies lined by C-band have the potential to intervene with devices utilized in plane and contend that deployments of 5G close to airports might endanger takeoff and touchdown operations. 

    The carriers, the FCC and the FAA have disagreed on whether or not C-band 5G indicators that use the three.7 to three.98GHz frequency vary might intervene with devices like altimeters that measure within the 4.2 to 4.4GHz spectrum. Wi-fi business lobbying group CTIA argues that just about 40 nations – together with Australia, China, France, Japan, South Korea and the UK – have already got 5G deployed over C-band with no points involving plane. 

    After most lately planning to activate C-band on Jan. 5, Verizon and AT&T conceded to a ultimate two-week delay so that every one events might take mandatory precautions, which incorporates exclusion zones that ban C-band service for just a few miles round airports.

    So no 5G in airports?

    Low-band and mmWave 5G service will nonetheless proceed round airports, and Verizon will bolster its non-C-band protection in these areas as a part of its broader 5G rollout efforts this 12 months. 

    However as soon as C-band service begins going stay on Jan. 19, Verizon and AT&T prospects ought to see broader 5G service with increased speeds that fall between 4G and mmWave 5G. As a result of the brand new C-band service might be built-in into current protection, nevertheless, prospects might not even notice they’re connecting to the brand new frequencies.

    Regardless of launching two weeks later in January than initially meant, Verizon says its C-band service will cowl 100 million individuals within the US this month, a purpose the service initially set for March. The preliminary rollout might be in massive metropolitan areas like New York Metropolis, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, and Miami the place Verizon already has 5G service, however will prolong to different areas all year long.

    AT&T is equally bundling its C-band service with current mmWave 5G. Clients seeing a “5G+” indicator on their telephone are linked to both of the high-speed 5G bands. AT&T beforehand introduced that it deliberate to cover 70 million to 75 million individuals within the US by the tip of 2022 and 200 million by 2023. 

    And T-Cellular?

    Verizon and AT&T nonetheless lag behind T-Cellular, which announced in November that 80% of its prospects inside its 200 million-person 5G protection can entry its midband 5G service (which it calls “Extremely Capability”). 

    Along with protection, the service competitors will even come down to hurry. T-Cellular says its midband community targets common obtain speeds of 400Mbps. By comparability, our first Verizon C-band testing discovered speeds starting from 400Mbps as much as 1.4 gigabits per second proper under the 5G emitter. Distance is not the one metric, as we nonetheless received over 400Mbps inside elevators and almost 100Mbps in underground parking constructions. The take a look at, nevertheless, was extremely managed utilizing Verizon telephones and a restricted space. 

    In the end, C-band will fill an important hole in Verizon’s and AT&T’s respective networks, however the Jan. 19 launch day is just the start of a broader rollout. We’ll need to see how prospects react to this supplemental service, which might fulfill the 5G promise to carry excessive speeds to shoppers past main cities – or simply be one other small step within the sluggish community evolution after 4G.

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