us cellularU.S. Cellular said today that it has begun building out 5G service using millimeter wave spectrum in the 24, 28 and 39 GHz millimeter wave (mmWave) bands and expects to launch service in those bands in 2021. The U.S. Cellular millimeter wave 5G deployment will use equipment from Ericsson and Nokia.

A U.S. Cellular spokesperson said the company plans to offer mobile and fixed 5G in the millimeter wave band. Both Ericsson and Nokia will provide equipment to support both types of services, she said.

An Ericsson press release notes that 5G deployed in mmWave spectrum bands “enhances . . . mobile broadband services to phones and tablets” and “allows for fiber-like speeds for fixed wireless access, FWA, in areas with limited high-speed broadband options.”

A Nokia press release about U.S. Cellular millimeter wave 5G plans notes that Nokia will work with U.S. Cellular to deliver “new 5G services that require lightning performance with no discernable latency.” The news represents “a big leap forward in the provision of fast, secure and reliable networks in the Western, Mid-West and Mid-Atlantic regions,” Nokia said.

U.S. Cellular Millimeter Wave 5G
Millimeter wave spectrum is high-frequency, also known as high-band, spectrum, which can support the highest wireless network speeds, albeit over relatively short distances. U.S. Cellular was one of the bigger winners in Auctions 101 and 102 of mmWave spectrum in the 24 GHz and 28 GHz bands. Those auctions were completed in 2019. The company also was one of the larger winners in Auction 103 of spectrum in the 37 GHz, 39 GHz and 47 GHz bands.

U.S. Cellular already has experience with 5G, as the company already offers mobile 5G service in parts of Iowa and Wisconsin. Initial deployments used low-band spectrum in the 600 MHz band, which supports lower speeds but offers better range in comparison with mmWave 5G. The company spokesperson noted that U.S. Cellular will expand 600 MHz 5G to more states this year.

As part of today’s news, Ericsson noted that it will provide U.S. Cellular with 4G equipment for operation in the CBRS band. That band includes both licensed and unlicensed spectrum. The auction for CBRS licenses began last week, and U.S. Cellular is one of the qualified bidders in that auction.

The Ericsson press release about U.S. Cellular millimeter wave 5G doesn’t detail the specific 5G millimeter wave equipment and services the company will provide to U.S. Cellular. The Nokia press release notes that Nokia will supply its AirScale portfolio with Cloud RAN capabilities, along with the Nokia AirFrame open edge solution for Cloud RAN and Nokia’s Worldwide !0T Network Grid.

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