In mid-January 2021, the US completed an auction of valuable wireless spectrum for 5G, raising an astonishing $81B in the process for C-band licenses. The process raised nearly two times any previous FCC auction because of the value of the 3.7GHz mid-band frequencies. The mid-band has faster data speeds compared with the first wave of nationwide 5G low-band deployments and it has better coverage than the complicated 5G high-band deployments attempted by AT&T and Verizon.
Fast Enough for Fixed Wireless
The C-band spectrum is fast enough to replace wired lines into homes and businesses by providing equivalent data speeds using wireless instead. The bidders in the C-band auction are well aware of this point. In addition to the incumbent wireless carriers (AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon), there were many aspiring wireless carriers involved in the bidding, including cable companies like Comcast and Charter and satellite companies like Dish Networks. The future is wireless and these companies understand that owning spectrum is critical to survival.
It’s time for fixed wireless into homes and businesses. It’s time for competition. It’s time to remove monopolies and drive down the price of Internet access for our multitude of devices that are accessing the Internet at home. There should be no excuses now. We just need the networks to support the new 5G frequency bands.
Solving Coverage with Small Cells
Networks will need to be modified for the new C-band. Due to higher frequencies than most low-band cellular networks, adding equipment to existing towers is not ideal. There would be coverage issues because these C-band frequencies do not have the same reach and penetration as the original frequencies when networks were designed. New, smaller cells need to be created at shorter ranges than previous generations of wireless. This requires new locations to host wireless radio equipment. Millions of new locations. But the good news is that these are not ugly 200-foot towers with antennas. The new small cell equipment can be placed on homes and buildings and its appearance should be similar to satellite dish receivers that currently reside on rooftops.
Networks can be quickly created using small cells. The faster they are built, the faster that consumers have choices and competition for the Internet services. Ultimately, fixed wireless will prevail and it will be good for consumer pocketbooks.