If you’ve been reading the news or scrolling through social media for the past few days, you must have noticed that 5G is back in vogue. 5G, US Airlines and C-Band have all made headlines for the past few days. Understandably, you must have many questions. Wondering what C-band 5G is? Which carriers support it? Which smartphones support it? Is it available in your city? Why are US airports and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) concerned about this? Here you will get answers to all your questions!
What is C-Band 5G?
5G is nothing new, it’s been around for a while. It is the next generation of cellular connectivity after 4G LTE. However, a new term called C-band 5G is being thrown around these days. To find out more about the new bands, we have to switch back to 2020.
In 2020, the United States FCC (Federal Communications Commission) auctioned off some of the unused network bands. The bands they auctioned ranged from 3.7GHz to 4.2GHz and these bands were previously used for satellite TV but were no longer used.
AT&T and Verizon acted quickly, spending over $68 billion together to take advantage of these bands, dubbed C-bands. T-Mobile also spent money to hoard some of the C tapes, but was only able to pledge $9 billion. As a result, AT&T and Verizon got a large chunk of the C-Bands.
The two companies planned to launch 5G services using the C-band frequency in December 2021. However, a month before the release, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) intervened and delayed the launch. It’s a long story, explained in a separate section below.
After a slight delay, AT&T and Verizon flipped the switch and the two carriers went live on January 19, 2022 with C-band 5G.
Essentially, with C-Band, these carriers will be able to use more bands than ever before, allowing them to offer more reliable, faster, and better 5G services. It could also solve one of 5G’s big problems – no availability in densely populated areas. Of course, since more bands are available for each carrier, this also translates into better speeds (and lower latency).
how fast is it
Based on many early tests, we can safely say that the C-band 5G is much faster than T-Mobile’s low-band 5G. Most early users and adopters report speeds about 400 Mbit/s, which is nearly twice as fast as T-Mobile’s low-band 5G, but slower than Verizon’s ultra-wide-band 5G (it can reach up to 1 Gbps). Some have even seen speeds of 800Mbps on their C-band 5G, but that’s a rare opportunity.
Why are US Airlines making a “mess” over C-band 5G?
Source: Unsplash, Jan Rosolino
So yeah, let’s talk about why FAA and US Airlines are opposed to 5G C-Band. In 2021, as AT&T and Verizon were getting their C-band 5G ready, the FAA filed a request to halt operations because the FAA claimed C-band 5G could affect aircraft safety equipment.
The FAA said cell towers near airports using C-band for 5G are interfering with radio altimeters used on airplanes. Radio altimeters provide the pilot with data on how far the aircraft is above the ground. This data is especially important when visibility is low. This posed a safety risk and therefore both airlines decided to postpone the launch.
When AT&T and Verizon flipped the switch on January 19, 2022, they decided not to broadcast 5G C-band spectrum from towers near airports. But cell towers that aren’t close to airports are clearly in favor of using C-bands for 5G.
In fact, the 5G C-band does not affect all aircraft with radio altimeters. In addition, the FAA is also making strides in providing airlines with clearances on which aircraft are permitted to fly near the 5G C-band towers. The government has currently approved 62% of the US commercial fleet to fly near the 5G C-band towers.
The FAA knows that C-band 5G has been live in Europe without issue for quite some time. But it’s also worth noting that flight safety standards are higher in the United States. The administration has published a detailed report highlighting the progress on this matter.
Which network operators have introduced C-band 5G?
On January 19, 2022, Verizon and AT&T activated C-Band 5G across the United States. These are the specifics you need to know about:
AT&T refers to its C-band 5G as 5G+. It is currently only available in 8 metro areas. The company plans to expand to more cities throughout 2022, with plans to cover over 200 million people by the end of 2023. AT&T users will see 5G+ on their supported phones when connected to AT&T’s C-band 5G. The 8 major cities where AT&T C-band 5G is available are:
- Dallas/Fort Worth
Verizon introduced C-band 5G as an extension of its 5G UWB. The company says over 100 million people in 1700 cities can currently use its C-band spectrum. You can use the company’s official coverage map to check if Verizon’s 5G C-band is available in your area. Verizon users will see 5G UW on their supported phones when connected to the carrier’s C-band 5G.
What about T Mobile?
T-Mobile has acquired a small amount of spectrum for C-band 5G. It’s not part of the initial rollout, although it plans to roll out C-band 5G in late 2023. Until then, T-Mobile will continue to focus on promoting its low-band 5G. “T-Mobile also has C-band licenses, but we plan to have them up and running by the end of 2023, by which time we’re confident there will be issues [FAA and Airlines’] be resolved,” the company said in a statement.
Does your phone support it?
If you own one of these smartphones, you can use C-Band 5G:
- Samsung Galaxy S21
- Samsung Galaxy S21+
- Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
- Samsung Galaxy S21 FE
- Samsung Galaxy ZFlip3
- Samsung Galaxy Z Fold3
- Samsung Galaxy A13
- iPhone 12 series
- iPhone 13 series
Do you notice something strange? Yes, where is the new Google Pixel 6 and Google Pixel 6 Pro? Well, it’s a bit different for both carriers. Google Pixel 6 and 6 Pro supports AT&T C-Band 5G. However, Verizon has yet to be activated C-band 5G support on Google Pixel 6 and 6 Pro.
Although Verizon has yet to add C-band 5G support to the Google Pixel 6 series, it supports more Apple devices compared to AT&T, including iPad Pro 12.9-inch (5th Gen), iPad Pro 11-inch (3rd Gen ). , and iPad mini (6th generation).
Do you need to buy a new data plan to access C-band 5G?
If you’re using Do More, Play More, and Get More Unlimited at Verizon, you can access C-Band 5G today (provided you’re in a supported region and close to the C-Band capable 5G tower). In addition to these plans, the Above and Beyond Unlimited, 5G Do More, 5G Play More, and 5G Get More plans also get access to Verizon’s UWB 5G. However, it’s worth noting that Verizon’s entry-level plan is Start Unlimited does not include 5G ultra-wideband support.
AT&T’s C-band 5G is available on most of its unlimited plans. These plans also include Unlimited Starter, Extra, and Elite plans. You can check all supported Unlimited plans here.