Windstream today confirmed plans to use the 5G spectrum it won in the recent millimeter wave auctions to support fixed wireless service at speeds up to a gigabit per second (Gbps). The company also said its 5G spectrum winnings will support gigabit service to five million households, including approximately two million outside its local service footprint.
At one time providers of local service avoided one another’s territories, but with the advent of fixed wireless, that dynamic has changed. Verizon, for example, has targeted areas outside its home turf for its fixed 5G launches.
Windstream 5G Spectrum Plans
Windstream won 5G spectrum in both the 24 GHz and 28 GHz auctions, bidding a total of $26.6 million for spectrum in 14 states. As we previously reported, the company was one of the six biggest winners in the auctions.
The 24 GHz and 28 GHz spectrum bands are considered millimeter wave bands. Broad swaths of spectrum capable of supporting some of the highest broadband speeds were available in those bands. The downside of using those spectrum bands is that the distances covered are shorter than with lower-frequency spectrum – so low that some industry observers initially expected the spectrum to be used for fixed wireless in suburban rather than rural areas.
In today’s press release, however, Jeff Small, president of Windstream’s Kinetic business segment, referenced homes and businesses in “thinly populated” rural communities as the target for 5G fixed wireless in the millimeter wave band. The company noted previously that parts of its serving area have flat terrain, enabling signals to travel further than they can over hillier terrain.
Today’s press release also notes that Windstream 5G spectrum and associated electronics and equipment will be wholly owned by Windstream, indicating that unlike some of the company’s other network infrastructure, it won’t be offloaded to Uniti Group and leased back from Uniti.
Uniti is the telecom real estate investment trust (REIT) that was spun off from Windstream several years ago as a means of raising capital for network investment. But the long-term viability of telecom REITs came into question earlier this year when Windstream was driven into bankruptcy when a court ruled that certain aspects of the spinoff were illegal.
Windstream has insisted that its bankruptcy filing won’t disrupt its ongoing operations, however, and the company’s spectrum winnings are an example of the company moving ahead with key initiatives, despite the bankruptcy filing.