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Verizon says it’s weeks away from a major upgrade to rural 5G


Expanded C-band access for Verizon means faster 5G service is coming to nearly 40 million rural customers in the ‘next few days and weeks.’

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A picture of the Verizon name logo with an overlapping pattern of the red checkmark logo in the background.

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Verizon says its up to 200MHz C-band 5G spectrum has been cleared for use four months ahead of schedule — an upgrade it says will bring more bandwidth and faster throughput to its customers, particularly those in rural areas. The company will use the new spectrum to expand its 5G-based home and business internet business in addition to improving its wireless phone service. The spectrum is available after the FCC validated the moves by satellite communications companies SES and Intelsat to switch to higher C-band frequencies, clearing the lower ones for commercial cell phone use.

On X (formerly Twitter), people have recently reported seeing 100MHz of spectrum for its 5G Ultra Wideband (UW) service in rural places like Intercourse, Pennsylvania, and Bristol, Virginia, showing Ookla Speedtest screenshots of wireless throughput normally only seen in small sections of large cities. Verizon says it has made its new C-band spectrum available to 359 markets so far — we’ve asked for a full list and will update if the company responds.

The wireless company says it’s rolling out up to 200MHz of C-band spectrum to almost 40 million people in 158 “mostly rural” markets, while the rest of its network will see a “minimum” 140MHz, with available spectrum averaging 161MHz across the country.

Phones will need to support its 5G UW service, so older devices may not benefit, but for phones like the Samsung Galaxy S21 5G or the iPhone 12 and up, Verizon claimed peak throughput of up to 1.4Gbps using just 100MHz of spectrum last month when near a tower, with 500Mbps speeds farther away. Verizon lists other compatible phones on its website.

The company says the now-available spectrum will bolster its so-called 5G Ultra Wideband network — the blanket term it uses for both C-band and mmWave 5G — by “more than doubling and, in some markets, tripling the 5G bandwidth” it offers.

Verizon massively outspent its rivals in the 2021 C-band auction, dropping $45.4 billion to beef up its 5G network with additional spectrum. It then began deploying the 60MHz part of its new spectrum in 2022 and says it has been expanding to other markets as the spectrum has been cleared in additional markets.

Update August 14th, 2023, 2:55PM ET: Added that Intelsat’s move to higher C-band frequencies was also reported this month.


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