Network Managers Should Become Familiar With C-Band 5G Sooner than Later

With the FAA issues largely resolved, the top mobile networks continue to expand their C-band 5G coverage. That's good news for the channel.

July 25, 2022

5 Min Read
Network Managers Should Become Familiar With C-Band 5G Sooner than Later

By Eric Purcell


Eric Purcell

The scores of headlines generated by the minor dustup between the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and mobile carriers late last year rapidly came and went.

Apparently with few people noticing, most of the news in recent months regarding the rollout of C-band 5G has been positive — especially for the enterprise market.

Verizon told investors in March that managers expect private 5G networks, enterprise solutions and mobile edge computing (MEC) to represent a potentially big payday by the year 2025. The telecommunications company illustrated the expected growth with a slide that showed how private networks, enterprise solutions and MEC may be worth $30 billion.

T-Mobile, traditionally not one of the top players in enterprise, now has its sights on competing for customers in edge computing and private networks, according to comments made earlier this year by CFO Peter Osvaldik.

It’s no surprise that T-Mobile would vie for a share of the enterprise market and leverage all those mid-band 2.5-GHz spectrum licenses obtained in the 2020 Sprint acquisition. Additionally, T-Mobile supplemented those licenses with the purchase of some of the much sought-after mid-band spectrum auctioned off by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last year.

T-Mobile certainly wasn’t the only bidder. AT&T and Verizon dominated the FCC auction by plunking down enormous sums to acquire 3.7-3.98 GHz spectrum licenses. Still, the group that stands to benefit much from this white-hot competitive environment is enterprise customers. Increased competition among vendors typically produces more choice, lower prices and better service.

What’s In It for Channel Partners?

Though 5G isn’t new, coupling it to the C-band improves performance. C-Band refers to the radio airwaves operating in a midband spectrum (between 2- and 7-GHz). C-band provides the unique combination of wider coverage and greater bandwidth, making it superior to 4G and LTE.

Low-spectrum frequencies offer better propagation — meaning they can go through walls and the like. Higher-band spectrum equips IT managers with more capacity and is better for delivering bandwidth-intensive applications, such as video and virtual reality.

For IT managers who have higher bandwidth needs and hope to one day replace their fiber or wirelines, C-band 5G places them one giant leap closer. They don’t call C-band the goldilocks spectrum for nothing. For scores of business applications, C-band is just right.

C-band 5G offers lower lag time, enabling self-driving cars or surgical-tool arms with the low latency and high bandwidth necessary to process data and respond more rapidly, presumably leading to greater safety. Robotic arms will be more precise and drone aircraft may not need line-of-sight operators anymore. Two of the country’s largest retail pharmacies have already begun leveraging C-band 5G to help ensure the performance of point-of-sale terminals.

As the frontrunners in mobile networks continue to expand their offering of C-band 5G, now is a good time to become familiar with the technology, the benefits and to distinguish fact from fiction about what’s been written.

Why The C-Band Rollout Dragged on

For a variety of reasons, the FAA caused the most notable delay.

Last fall, the agency issued an 11th-hour claim that airplane altimeters were negatively impacted by 5G transmissions. As many have pointed out, numerous other nations have …

… implemented 5G wireless technology within the C-band and no problems were reported.

The problem dragged on for a few months, but mobile operators Verizon and AT&T have created a technical solution that included the upgrading of radio altimeters in aircraft.

Meanwhile, in areas not in proximity to airports, the carriers continued to roll out C-band 5G.

How Do IT Managers Acquire C-Band 5G?

The first step is to check with your carrier to find out the company’s C-band availability in the area. C-band coverage expands daily, so network managers should meet with telecom partners to learn when leverage 5G is available to them.

If C-band is available or coming soon, then the next move is to conduct a site survey of your facilities.

Service providers and select (5G) certified enterprise networking partners will conduct what’s known as a Radio Frequency site survey to help determine the best plan for providing wireless coverage, including roaming capability and network capacity. They might test for interference and identify optimum locations for installing access points.

They’ll verify that the equipment within your building is receiving the strongest possible signal.

A couple of key facts to remember is that it’s always easier to bring the router or adapter to the signal as opposed to bringing the signal to the router or adapter. That means it’s wise to avoid burying your equipment in the basement.

If you can get line of sight at a tower, that’s a big win.

Performance Considerations

While C-band 5G will produce better performance, determining which is better among the top three networks isn’t a snap. When choosing a carrier, consider the question of coverage before anything else.

All of them claim they operate the most reliable and fastest network. But depending on where you’re located and the company’s experience with C-band, your experience with a provider may differ.

Another smart move for the near term would be to invest in gear that supports different carriers. This way, enterprise managers who oversee different locations can tap into the best carrier available in each of those areas. It’s likely going to be necessary to rely on multiple carriers to obtain the best results, including failover scenarios for mission-critical applications.

Eric Purcell is senior vice president of global partner sales (Channel, Technology Alliances and Distribution) for Cradlepoint. He brings more than 20 years of technical sales and strategic partner management experience. Prior experience includes Box, a cloud content management platform, where he led the global service provider channel sales team for more than five years and Cisco, where he supported its borderless network architecture in the Americas. You may follow him on LinkedIn or @cradlepoint on Twitter.

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