C-band spectrum is proving to be a powerful weapon – and potentially an important weapon — for AT&T and Verizon as they attempt to meet T-Mobile data speed, according to Opensignal. The C-band includes spectrum at 3.7 GHz.
AT&T and Verizon are closing the gap as an increasing percentage of their respective footprints use the C-band for 5G delivery. AT&T’s 5G download speed has increased by 34.6% since March. During that time, the portion of its footprint that uses the C-band has risen from 4.6% to more than 30%.
The story is much the same for Verizon. Its average 5G download speed has increased by 15.8% and the share of 5G readings has grown from 16.2% to almost 50%.
AT&T has transitioned a good deal of its footprint. In March, the carrier relied on the 850 MHz band for 92.7% of its 5G service. There was limited use of the 3.7 GHz band.
That has changed. C-band’s share of AT&T’s sub-6 GHz 5G readings rose to 5.9% in April, almost 10% in May, and almost 20% in July. In September, more than 30% of AT&T 5G readings were on the 3.7 GHz band, with the share of 5G readings on 850 MHz dropping to 65.5%.
Verizon began rolling out 5G mid-band in January. The C-band share in the sub-6 GHz readings rose from 16.2% in March to more than a quarter in June and more than a third in July. In September, the C-band rose to almost half and overtook the 850 MHz band for the first time.
AT&T’s saw its fastest average 5G download speeds — almost 113 Mbps — in the 3.7 GHz band. Verizon speeds also were fastest in the 3.7 GHz band, averaging 160.7 Mbps.
Opensignal says that low band spectrum still is relied upon by AT&T more than by T-Mobile or Verizon.
In June, Ookla’s Speedtest Intelligence found that mobile data speed results from the first quarter of the year suggested that the C-band had the potential to upset the status quo in the not-too-distant future. At the time, T-Mobile still enjoyed a significant speed advantage.