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.
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.
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.