Verizon today announced that it has begun installation of C-band radio access network (RAN) equipment from Ericsson and Samsung on its tower infrastructure for the purposes of deploying mid-band 5G spectrum. In turn, these C-band RAN equipment deployments will improve both Verizon’s 5G network for mobility and fixed wireless access (FWA).
Overall, C-band spectrum (3.7 GHz to 3.98 GHz frequencies) provides an important balance between coverage and capacity for 5G networks.
Verizon’s C-band 5G Spectrum Holdings
Verizon secured an average of 161 MHz of C-band spectrum nationwide in the recent FCC auction. Importantly, the company acquired 60 MHz of spectrum depth in the early clearing A-Block, (i.e., initial 46 markets), which Verizon targets using by the end of 2021.
Initial C-band spending by Verizon will be put towards upgrading a portion of its existing 67k towers. Indeed, in 2021, Verizon anticipates that it will equip 7k to 8k towers with new C-band network equipment. Specifically, deploying C-band 5G spectrum requires placing network equipment including basebands, radios, and antennas on Verizon’s existing towers.
Verizon’s C-band 5G Network Build-Out Plans
Verizon is maintaining the C-band build-out plan which it set-out at its 2021 Investor Day in March 2021. Firstly, by March 2022, Verizon targets having 5G service on C-band deployed to 100 million customers in 46 markets across the United States.
Subsequently, over 2022 and 2023, coverage will increase to 175+ million people. Finally, by 2024 and beyond, the remaining C-band spectrum (i.e., B-Block and C-Block) will be cleared. At this time, 250+ million people will have access to Verizon’s 5G service on C-band spectrum.
Crown Castle and SBA Communications – Agreements
Verizon’s ability to deploy C-band expeditiously is aided by agreements that Verizon signed with its tower partners, Crown Castle and SBA Communications in early-April 2021. Both agreements establish standardized frameworks and terms for leasing space on Verizon’s existing towers for C-band equipment deployments.
Radio Access Network (RAN) Equipment
Verizon is using Ericsson and Samsung to supply the radio access network (RAN) equipment for its C-band 5G spectrum deployment.
Ericsson is providing Verizon with its antenna-integrated radio (AIR) product to support Verizon’s network C-band deployment. Specifically, Ericsson’s AIR product combines the 5G radio and C-band antenna into a single enclosure, which reduces the space they occupy on a tower, as compared to having both pieces of equipment separately.
Ericsson’s AIR product uses Massive Multiple Input Multiple Output (MIMO) network architecture. In turn, Massive MIMO offers better performance through enhanced uplink and beamforming technology, which provides a better user experience.
Recent performance tests have demonstrated C-band spectrum’s noteworthy data rates in both uplink (315 megabits per second) and downlink (5+ gigabits per second) on a single user device.
Samsung is supplying Verizon’s C-band 5G network with Massive MIMO radios and fully virtualized RAN (vRAN) solutions. Similarly, Samsung’s Massive MIMO radios support high-capacity and throughput, while leveraging beamforming technology.
Additionally, Samsung’s new C-band Massive MIMO radios utilize software-driven management and commissioning in Verizon’s virtualized network architecture. Therefore, Verizon can deploy these radios faster and more efficiently.