AT&T 5G spectrum holdings in the millimeter wave band have reached a nationwide average of 630 MHz, the company said yesterday. The boost came from the recently concluded auction of millimeter wave spectrum in the 24 GHz band.
The company spent about $980 million to win an average of 254 MHz of 24 GHz spectrum in 383 out of about 400 total partial economic areas (PEAs) nationwide. The winnings supplement the company’s previous millimeter wave spectrum holdings in the 39 GHz band.
The key appeal of millimeter wave spectrum is that large swaths of it are available, enabling the spectrum to support the highest speeds – although service deployed in the millimeter wave band has less range than service deployed in lower-frequency bands. AT&T’s initial 5G deployments have been in the millimeter wave band, but the company eventually expects to use a combination of millimeter wave and lower frequency spectrum to support 5G.
AT&T 5G Spectrum
The average 630 MHz of millimeter wave spectrum that AT&T now holds in key markets would appear to position the company well to support high speeds, as the company previously achieved speeds of 1.2 Gbps in trials using a 400 MHz channel over a distance of 150 meters.
The company also has said that it has seen speeds as high as 400 Mbps on its commercial 5G network, although it cautioned that average speeds are lower.
AT&T also noted in today’s press release that the licenses it won in the 24 GHz band were in the “valuable” upper 500 MHz of the 24 GHz band and that the licenses cover all top 50 PEAs and 99 of the top 100 PEAs.
Late last year, AT&T was the first U.S. carrier to launch mobile 5G service, although the company did not have a smartphone available for use with the network until last week. Customers initially used 5G-capable Wi-Fi hotspots that work with virtually any smartphone to access the network, which now covers parts of 19 cities. AT&T plans to expand to parts of 10 more cities by the end of 2019 and to launch nationwide service in the first half of 2020.
The company’s initial target for 5G service is business customers – a decision that enabled the company to plan its initial 5G millimeter wave deployments for areas in which key business customers were located. The company also has said that it hopes to command a premium for 5G service in comparison with what it charges for earlier-generation services – a strategy that U.S. wireless carriers have not used previously.