Iowa and Wisconsin will soon be joined by 11 additional states as U.S. Cellular is expanding its 5G operations throughout the country to new markets. The idea is similar to other major carriers with U.S. Cellular looking to move to markets in which many consumers are likely to use the network and 5G technology. The CTO, Michael Irizarry, is calling these markets “clusters” which will be a concerted effort within urban, and non-urban areas across a variety of states including California, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia.
The company will be looking at “traffic patterns” to determine where these select markets will be deployed during this expansion period. “There’s a concentration in urban areas, but we also look at small and medium towns. That’s very important to us to look at,” said Irizarry. There is evidence that U.S. Cellular has been preparing for this moment as it will look to introduce consumers to its 600 MHz spectrum that will not involve dynamic spectrum sharing. When speaking on the matter, Michael Irizarry stated, “We had strategically reserved 600 MHz in anticipation for 5G, unlike other carriers who have to share.” Consumers will have a few top-rated options to use on U.S. Cellular’s 5G network when it arrives at their market including, the LG V60 ThinQ 5G, Samsung Galaxy A71 5G, and Samsung Galaxy S20.
These 5G applications and upgrades for consumers will also be accompanied by support for current devices including the upgrade “LTE Advanced” which will benefit customers who “aren’t 5G capable but are LTE-Advanced capable.” This upgrade will consist of both 256 QAM and carrier aggregation which will assist in enabling more silver of spectrum through higher modulation levels and an increase in data speeds by combining contagious and non-contagious spectrum blocks respectively.
Committing these resources to its customer-base shows U.S. Cellular’s willingness to evolve with the times as further evident in its desire to purchase additional 5G spectrum through FCC auction. Mike Irizarry said, “We view 5G as a technology that depends on low-band, mid-band, and high-band spectrum.” Comprehensive approaches to 5G are the ultimate goal with many providers opting to begin with low-band networks and build out the additional tiers over the next several years. U.S. Cellular’s 600 MHz network seems to follow this trend as it is the low-band spectrum within its network with hopes to win the rights to CBRS and C-Band spectrum which will allow subscribers access to mid-band spectrum.
5G will need this period of transition across the industry as network providers and customers adjust to having the necessary equipment and devices to access 5G networks; however, the goal for many is to achieve a standalone 5G network that is capable of delivering speeds that we have never seen before in wireless. U.S. Cellular continues its pursuit of these endeavors by requesting information and proposals from vendors on the maturity of their standalone technology. U.S. Cellular has opened the floor to existing vendors such as Ericsson and Nokia but is also open to working with new vendors as well.
Source: Fierce Wireless