The ‘beachfront’ spectrum: ADRF on C-band

The C-band auctions raised a staggering $81.17 billion in 2021

On the back of two important product releases — the ADXV DAS C-band solution and the SDRX C-band repeater — Advanced RF Technologies’ Chief Operating Officer Arnold Kim caught up with RCR Wireless News to discuss the importance of midband spectrum for North America’s 5G future.

Kim explained the ADXV DAS C-band modules’ support of C-band frequencies ranging from 3.7 GHz to 3.98 GHz is particularly exciting because “everybody” participated in the upper C-band auction, indicating it’s importance to the 5G ecosystem. “They all participated in this auction,” he is said, referring to the top U.S. carriers. “That’s not exclusive, but it is unique. Everybody, especially the big three, spent an enormous amount of capital expenditure.”

In additional to C-band support, the ADXV DAS solution also supports power sharing of multiple carriers’ signals via configurable grouped POI units and can be deployed standalone or added seamlessly to an existing ADXV DAS chassis to allow for an upgrade from 4G/LTE systems.

The C-band repeater, which also supports frequency ranges from 3.75 GHz to 3.98 GHz, boasts 2×2 MIMO capability and 5G NR support with two 60~100MHz channel filters and can mounted on a rooftop, sidewall or pole to bring 5G coverage for small to medium size buildings in dense urban or isolated rural areas.

Kim added that the industry now has much more spectrum and much more of the higher spectrum than it used to. “Now the industry knows that it’s not just about the amount, but it’s about where the spectrum is [and] how large or small these waves are,” he added. “The government cleared almost 300 megahertz straight from the beginning of pure C-band. Each of these carriers — AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile — can have a dedicated 100-megahertz channel for applications like AR and VR. That’s why C-band is so empowering — it’s the applications that the carriers are going to be able to support that they could not before.”

C-band deployments shake up North America’s 5G landscape

As Kim alluded to previously, the C-band auctions were incredibly popular, raising a gross total of $81.17 billion, far surpassing the previous auction record of $44 billion raised in the AWS-3 auction that ran in 2014-2015. Verizon, alone, spent $52.9 billion on C-band spectrum. That amount of money got Verizon 3,511 licenses in all of the 406 geographic Partial Economic Areas (PEA) that make up the United States. AT&T spent $23.4 billion for 1,621 licenses in 406 PEAs, T-Mobile US bought 142 licenses in 72 PEAs for $9.3 billion.

When Verizon and AT&T activated their C-band 5G networks on January 19th 2022, the pair finally shook up the dynamic in which T-Mobile was the only U.S. carrier using large swaths of mid-band spectrum for 5G in the form of the 2.5 GHz spectrum that is got its hands on following the April 2020 acquisition of Sprint.

In fact, a recent Opensignal report showed that 5G download speeds on both AT&T and Verizon networks have increased as a direct result of their C-band deployments. Specifically, download speeds on AT&T’s network have increased by 34.6%, and the share of its customers using C-band has increased from 4.6% to over 30%. Verizon users experienced an average 5G download speed increase of 15.8%, with the share of C-band readings growing from 16.2% to nearly 50%.

When asked if the U.S. needs more midband spectrum, Kim responded: “Is there too much Malibu beachfront?”

Basically, you can never have too much spectrum, especially when that spectrum offers the goldilocks-like compromise of better coverage compared to mmWave, while getting enough allocated spectrum to achieve some of the speeds promised by 5G. “We should free up more unused or under-utilized spectrum to enable all the applications for the American population,” he concluded.

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