US 5G Mobile Market Hits an Interesting Acceleration Point

The US 5G market has hit an interesting stage with tons of action. On the mobile operator side, T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon have all amassed 5G coverage for over 200 million Americans with low-band spectrum. Verizon and AT&T are rapidly deploying mmWave in major metros, stadiums, arenas and businesses. T-Mobile and US Cellular are also committed to mmWave. All these carriers are testing stand-alone 5G and will begin rolling it out in earnest in 2021. Handset OEMs supporting 5G include Samsung, LG, OnePlus, Motorola, TCL, and now Apple. Chip players such as Qualcomm and MediaTek have 5G chipsets for smartphones as low as $150 – lower cost smartphones are en route. The entire telecom ecosystem is scaling up for 5G.

Here are some other highlights of the US 5G market:

  • The CBRS spectrum auction ended with bids of $4.6 billion. Verizon and the cable players were the most aggressive. Many universities and private/public companies participated and won spectrum. 5G private networks will be a big opportunity. AT&T and T-Mobile waiting on C-band auction.
  • AT&T has been very busy with its network rollouts. It has 1.6 million subscribers on its first responder network called FirstNet, which runs on 700MHz spectrum. It is live in over 35 cities with mmWave. Its sub-6 spectrum now covers over 200 million POPs.
  • T-Mobile has the lead in 5G POPs, having over 250 million subscribers covered. This is mainly with its 600MHz spectrum, but it also is adding cities with its 2.5GHz spectrum. There is some mmWave spectrum too, but T-Mobile is behind Verizon and AT&T in rolling out mmWave.
  • Verizon remains the most aggressive and committed to mmWave. It offers mmWave ‘5G Ultra Wideband’ services within stadiums. Currently, mmWave is in 55 cities, 43 stadiums/arenas and 7 airports.
  • The biggest 5G news for Verizon is that it turned on low-band 5G for over 200 million POPs on the day of the iPhone 12 announcement. Verizon will use Band 5, 850MHz for 5G via dynamic spectrum sharing (DSS). This technology from Verizon, Qualcomm and Ericsson allows both 4G and 5G signals within the same spectrum. This will allow Verizon to have a nationwide low-band option and lessen the marketing advantages held by T-Mobile.
  • Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and US Cellular are all testing and beginning to roll out stand-alone (SA) 5G in 2020, with more earnest rollouts in 2021. All carriers are looking to use its low latency and other speed attributes for new services.
  • Handset OEMs now have chipsets that allow for lower priced smartphones. More OEMs are being ranged by US carriers to help hit the lower price points.

For complete analysis, see US Operator, Services and Spectrum Auction Update.