5G signal

UScellular said last week that it will roll out 5G service using mid-band spectrum by the end of 2023.

The company previously rolled out 5G service in some areas using millimeter wave spectrum, which supports the highest speeds but over relatively short distances, and in low-band spectrum, which provides excellent coverage but relatively low speeds. Mid-band spectrum is widely considered to provide the optimum mixture of coverage and speed for 5G.

As a press release explains, “By adding mid-band spectrum to its low and mmWave 5G networks, UScellular can offer its customers increased speeds, expanded coverage and reliable service at home and on the go.”

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UScellular’s mid-band holdings include spectrum in the C-band, which it won in an auction that closed in February 2021 and in the 3.45 GHz band auction, which closed earlier this year.

The company said it will use Nokia AirScale equipment for its mid-band 5G deployments. As today’s press release notes, the deployment “builds on Nokia’s existing support for UScellular’s 5G standalone (SA) core network and RAN for both low-band and mmWave 5G.”

Standalone 5G has a dedicated core not shared with earlier-generation services and is designed to provide lower latency and to support advanced services such as network slicing.

Specific Nokia equipment that will underlie the UScellular mid-band deployment includes massive MIMO radios, macro remote radio heads and AirScale baseband equipment.

UScellular Mid-Band Spectrum

UScellular won 254 licenses in the C-band auction, spending $1.2 billion. In the 3.45 GHz auction, the company successfully bid $580 million to win 380 licenses covering 97% of its subscribers.

The company has used 5G in the mmWave band to support fixed wireless service in parts of 10 markets, but today’s news is focused on mobile service.

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