U.S. Cellular said it will launch 5G service in parts of Iowa and Wisconsin in the first quarter of 2020. U.S. Cellular 5G plans include “building a portfolio of 5G smartphones, connected devices and IoT solutions. The company also plans to use 600 MHz spectrum for these initial deployments.
“Iowa and Wisconsin are two of our largest markets and we’re excited to introduce 5G technology to customers in both urban and rural communities, where other carriers have not,” said U.S. Cellular Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer Michael S. Irizarry, in a press release.
U.S. Cellular 5G
The nation’s four major national carriers all have made limited 5G deployments. Eventually, most carriers plan to use a mixture of spectrum bands to support 5G service, but initially different carriers are emphasizing different bands.
AT&T and Verizon are using millimeter wave spectrum, which supports the highest data speeds but over relatively short distances. T-Mobile, like U.S. Cellular, plans to use the 600 MHz band, which offers the greatest range, but which supports somewhat lower data speeds. Sprint is using mid-band spectrum, which provides performance in between lower and higher bands with regard to speed and coverage distance.
Even though 600 MHz spectrum supports lower 5G speeds in comparison with higher frequency bands, 5G at 600 MHz should, nevertheless offer a substantial speed boost over today’s LTE networks. U.S. Cellular also noted in its press release that 5G will provide the ability to connect more devices to the network at the same time and will support a “more responsive mobile experience.” Faster responsiveness results from the lower-latency that 5G networks provide in comparison with earlier generation technology.
U.S. Cellular offered some technical details about its 5G deployment plans, including:
- The company is replacing existing base stations with “software-upgradable basebands, meaning new 5G features can be incorporated by adding new software rather than from a hardware replacement.”
- The company is moving the radios higher on the cell tower, which improves coverage in rural communities.
- Customers in 5G markets with 4G devices will begin to see improved network performance as cell towers are upgraded with new technology that also supports 5G.
- The company will augment the network with mid- and high-band spectrum over time as technology and use cases evolve.
- Network equipment vendors include Ericsson and Nokia.
U.S. Cellular previously did limited fixed 5G deployments using millimeter wave spectrum.
The company indicated that mobile 5G plans were imminent last month, when it included 5G as part of its new marketing campaign emphasizing “fairness.”