Mobile Broadband Speed

New research from Ookla illustrates the power of mid-band spectrum to boost 5G speeds and coverage and suggests that T-Mobile could lose its 5G speed lead as AT&T and Verizon deploy the C-band spectrum that they won in last year’s auction.

Researchers compared the three major carriers’ speeds for the weeks of January 12 and January 19.  The first week represented the status quo before AT&T made “selective” C-band rollouts and Verizon rolled out C-band more broadly. The following week measured the impact of those rollouts.

During the same period, T-Mobile didn’t add any new spectrum, although it did launch 5G carrier aggregation at the same time the other carriers did the C-band rollouts, Ookla says.

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Verizon’s average speeds increased 50% as a result of its C-band rollout, according to Ookla, while AT&T and T-Mobile saw only slight increases.

“This massive improvement in speed shows the power of Verizon’s widespread deployment of C-band spectrum and C-band’s ability to deliver fast speeds,” an Ookla blog post says.

T-Mobile has been the leader in recent Ookla 5G speed tests thanks to the 2.5 GHz mid-band spectrum it gained when it merged with Sprint. But according to Ookla, that could change.

“If the trend in increased speed continues, Verizon… could challenge T-Mobile for fastest download speed in our next Speedtest Global Index Market Analysis.”

AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon all won spectrum in the C-band auction, but Verizon’s winnings were the largest and T-Mobile’s the smallest of the three. And both AT&T and Verizon won spectrum in markets where the satellite operators who have traditionally used the spectrum and who shared in the auction proceeds, agreed to early clearing. T-Mobile won’t be able to deploy its C-band spectrum until later.

SpeedTest C-Band Rollout
Source: Ookla Speed Tests

Another Future 5G Speed Leader?

AT&T, however, was the biggest winner in a more recent mid-band spectrum auction – Auction 110 of spectrum in the 3.45-3.55 GHz band. And according to Ookla, the company expects to deploy additional C-band spectrum at the same time that it undertakes its deployments in the 3.45-3.55 GHz band.

Verizon didn’t win any spectrum in the 3.45-3.55 GHz band, and T-Mobile won a relatively small amount.

The additional spectrum that AT&T gained could “revolutionize” that company’s speeds in the second half of 2022, Ookla’s analysis suggests, potentially creating another shakeup in 5G speed leadership at that time.

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3 thoughts on “Ookla: C-Band Deployments Threaten T-Mobile’s 5G Speed Lead

  1. C-Band deployment is a HUGE threat to T-Mobile’s 5G crown. The fact that AT&T and Verizon have a far greater site density than T-Mobile will allow those two carriers to pretty much blanket the country with contiguous mid-band service. T-Mobile’s sites are generally placed in a 20-mile spacing grid. Their mid-band spectrum has a useful radius of coverage of 2-3 miles, which leaves large gaps between sites where that signal cannot reach, and T-Mobile currently has no way to fill in those gaps withough constructing tens of thousands of new sites.

    AT&T and Verizon on the other hand, have a site spacing of 6-7 miles across the country, so if they deploy C-Band to every single site, that signal from two adjacent sites can easily reach all of the land area between them.

    T-Mobile’s Chief of Technology Neville Ray, has recently announced a new program that will add new sites to their grid in an effort to address the problem they have. This is absolutely necessary for them or they will lose the 5G coverage crown in short order.

    1. I am not sure where you get you info from but you are sooo wrong! Tmobile built their network on B2 untill they acquired B12 from AT&T while Verizon and AT&T have their towers spaced based on low band spectrum. Tmobile are on more towers in cities because of that.

      1. T-Mobile has 4 sites in our county. Not one of them is located IN the city or town it is supposed to serve. Each is located at least 6 miles from a city or town, halfway between two cities for example, meaning that if they install mid-band on each and every tower, no city or town will be covered. Great for rural customers but useless in the cities and towns. This type of situation exists all over the country for T-Mobile.

        AT&T and Verizon on the other hand, each have 9 sites in the county, with at least one located IN the city or town it serves, and they also have sites located in completely rural areas to provide blanket service.

        Of course, T-Mobile could fix this problem by locating new sites on those towers that AT&T and Verizon have sites on that are located in the cities and towns, and that is the subject of the program that Neville Ray announced recently, to add thousands of new sites to fix coverage gaps and enable widespread 5G UC service. All good for their customers.

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