Upcoming C-Band 5G Networks Will Require New Phones

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Believe it nor not, as much as we’ve been waiting for 5G, it’s still not ready for primetime. They’re still making improvements to it. The worst news, however, is that in order to take advantage of the upcoming C-band 5G networks, we’ll need new phones.

C-Band 5G Networks

Results so far in 5G testing show that it’s not living up to its expectations. The tests show it’s not really any better than existing 4G networks.

However, faster networks, C-band 5G networks, are scheduled to be auctioned in December with the intention of it being ready to be used by late 2021. It utilizes 280MHz of mid-band spectrum between 3.7 and 4GH. This places it below the common 5GHz Wi-Fi band.

However, existing phones won’t be able to get upgrades to make them usable with the C-Band 5G networks, according to T-Mobile’s president of technology, Neville Ray. In a conversation with PCMag, he said C-Band will require new phones as well as new infrastructure.

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Ray should know. T-Mobile currently has the only viable cache of mid-band 5G spectrum at 2.5GHz. Like others, T-Mobile’s 5G wasn’t doing any better than 4G when it was tested in July. Yet, it was mostly using 40MHz of that spectrum for 5G. But Ray said by the end of this year it will get up to 80MHz.

Of course, this leaves phone manufacturers salivating. Everyone wants 5G, but they want the super-fast 5G. And to get that, they’ll require a new handset.

Mobile Service Competition

Of course, this puts T-Mobile at quite an advantage already, even without C-band 5G, but it still wants use of C-band anyway, so its subscribers will also need to buy new phones.

Everyone wants a piece of that spectrum. The amount of available airwaves each carrier has and how high of a frequency it will reach determines the services it can offer.

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Carriers need 50MHz or larger for 5G to be fast enough. On AT&T and T-Mobile’s low-band networks, they are only utilizing 5 to 15MHz blocks. T-Mobile’s mid-band network is 40 to 80MHz. Verizon’s high-band network is 400 to 800MHz, yet it doesn’t get good range.

If the three major carriers split 280MHz of C-band 5G amongst them, they’ll all have great potential. But they’re not the only ones who want a piece of it. Media companies offering satellite dishes and cable want it too. Meanwhile, the three major networks will continue to battle each other to get the auction designed for their needs.

So keep all this under consideration as you make phone-buying decisions as well as mobile service decisions.

For instance, I’m counting down the days until the iPhone 12 is released. My iPhone 7 battery is just about kaput. And while it’s expected the 12s will be 5G-ready, I’m assuming they won’t be C-band 5G-ready. I’m an AT&T customer anyway, and they’re behind with 5G service, so I won’t be getting C-band from my carrier or phone.

Read on if you’d like to learn when 5G will be available in your area.

Laura Tucker Laura Tucker

Laura has spent nearly 20 years writing news, reviews, and op-eds, with more than 10 of those years as an editor as well. She has exclusively used Apple products for the past three decades. In addition to writing and editing at MTE, she also runs the site's sponsored review program.

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