5G is More Than Just the C-Band

5G is the latest and greatest in wireless technology and poised to change the world, but lately, it seems all the glory of 5G is losing its luster in part of all the issues surrounding the C-band. You’ve likely heard a lot of fuss surrounding 5G and the airline industry, and 5G has likely left a sour taste in everyone’s mouth, but we’re here to help dispel any misinformation you’ve seen about 5G and what’s really going on. 

5G uses multiple spectrums to deliver wireless connectivity, commonly broken down into three spectrum bands: low, mid, and high-band spectrum. Right now, the entire 5G market is getting a bad name because of what’s going on in the C-band spectrum, also known as the low-band. 

C-band spectrum is highly desirable among wireless carriers because it can provide coverage to a wide area while also delivering improved speeds about the 4G we use today in some cases. All the carriers, T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon, have spent billions of dollars amassing real estate on the coveted C-band spectrum. Verizon owns the largest number of C-band licenses. 

AT&T and Verizon were well on their way at the end of 2021 to launch their low-band 5G services nationwide until the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) raised alarm bells about 5G and the potential interference with sensitive airplane electronics. Airlines went as far as to cancel flights amid FAA concerns, blaming 5G as the culprit. AT&T and Verizon agreed to delay their C-band rollouts until 2022 so that the FAA could address their concerns with the proper research and solutions. The news even warranted a statement from President Biden saying, “I want to thank Verizon and AT&T for agreeing to delay 5G deployment around key airports and to continue working with the Department of Transportation on safe 5G deployment at this limited set of locations.”

However, there has been continued uproar from both the public and industry workers that mixing 5G and airline travel isn’t safe. The big issue? 5G isn’t singular to the C-band. The C-band is a portion of 5G; more specifically, a specific part of the low-band (C-band) spectrum is what’s causing all the issues. 

The need for clarification was so strong that Johan Bjorklund, a former Ericsson executive and current CEO of Betacom (a company that deploys 5G at airports), published a blog article in January noting at the end, “Bottom line: this is a spectrum issue, not a 5G issue,” he wrote. 

Bjorklund told Fierce Wireless, “The people that we’re dealing with at the airports – the ones who are closest to it, they understand that private wireless and CBRS is 500 megahertz removed from the 4.2 GHz spectrum where the airline communication equipment starts.” He also said that people who don’t work closely on the wireless side don’t always fully grasp the actual issue and just chop it all up to 5G in its entirety when that isn’t the case. 

“We just want to set the record straight that this is not a 5G issue,” he said. “This is a specific spectrum issue that needs to be resolved between the airline industry and the telecommunications industry.”

Wireless carriers like AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and even DISH Wireless will need to work hard over the next few months to dispel any conflating of 5G and C-band-based 5G because they are two separate things. Right now, the public sees C-band 5G and 5G as one entity; therefore, any airplane issues are all because of 5G outright. When again, it’s a specific piece of spectrum that’s causing the problems at airports, not all of 5G. 

Though these concerns are short-lived for the time being, as carriers, news publishers, and other industry leaders work to publish more content that educates the general public on 5G.