5G Expected to Reach Millions in the U.S. This Year


Last year, the pandemic caused serious roadblocks to 5G rollouts worldwide. Nevertheless, major U.S. telecommunications companies competed to buy highly-sought after mid-band spectrum from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), much of it representing the coveted C-band spectrum. While telecommunications giants AT&T and Verizon hope to release their C-band spectrum to millions of Americans in January 2022, airports fear that 5G mobile phone usage may interfere with their equipment, and this is creating even more delays.

What is C-band?

One of the biggest challenges for 5G rollouts is providing users with the perfect mix of speed and coverage, especially in rural areas. This is because 5G signals are not good at penetrating obstacles, such as buildings and trees, over long distances.

C-band is popular because it provides a good middle ground between high-band (which delivers the fastest speeds but at narrow geographic coverage) and low-band (which delivers wider geographic coverage but at speeds not much faster than 4G.) C-band, which falls under the mid band category, operates at frequencies between 4 and 8GHz. As such, it provides a perfect balance of speed with geographic reach.

While this could help deliver 5G to millions of users across the U.S., it could also spell trouble for airlines if 5G mobile phone usage does cause interference. While the FCC has taken steps to prevent this, it is still unclear how exactly C-band may affect airline equipment once turned on. Reported by the Verge, one major concern is how potential interferences might affect radar altimeters, which are devices that bounce radio waves off the ground for accurate altitude readings. Over these concerns, AT&T and Verizon have agreed to postpone rollouts at some airports, according to the New York Times, though these delays may only be temporary. 

5G Expected To Reach Millions in the U.S. this Year

When C-band is unleashed in the U.S., it is expected to deliver 5G to millions of users who have the technology already equipped on their phones. According to CNet, Verizon aims to cover 100 million users with C-band signals this month, and AT&T hopes to cover 70 to 75 millions with C-band by the end of the year. T-Mobile, which already reaches 210 million people, plans to reach an additional 250 million by the end of this year. Additional plans include reaching 90% of people in the U.S. by the end of 2023, with hopes of achieving average download speeds of more than 400 megabits-per-second. Because the company owns a separate mid-band frequency– 2.2GHz, which is not C-band– it is unaffected by the airline industry, according to The Verge. However, CNet reports that the company aims to include C-band to its network by the end of 2023.

Where Will 5G Start To Make An Impact in 2022?

Avi Greengart, an analyst at the research firm Techsponential, told CNet that home broadband will be a “major battleground” in 2022. Experts told the same publication last year that 5G would start to have an impact on industry sectors like healthcare in 2022.

“As happened on (4G) LTE, we’re gonna see a lot of innovation come into the space because folks now have a very, very capable network, a multi-lane kind of freeway highway,” said Neville Ray, president of technology at T-Mobile. 

Some technologies where 5G will start to have an impact this year include wearables, augmented and virtual reality headsets, and 5G-enabled smart glasses, according to these experts.

While postponements to 5G continue to slow its spread, it’s only a matter of time before it becomes the standard for cellular networks across the world. Organizations must be prepared to integrate it. 

5G Networks

As technology continues to evolve toward 5G, it’s vital for technical professionals and industry leaders to understand how to deliver on the 5G vision while meeting consumer demand for higher communication speeds. Is your organization ready? Consider training your team with 5G Networks, a three-course program from IEEE and Nokia.

Connect with an IEEE Content Specialist today to learn more about the program.

Interested in learning more about 5G for yourself? Visit the IEEE Learning Network today!


Chokshi, Niraj and McCabe, David. (18 January 2022). AT&T and Verizon Delay 5G Service Near Some Airports. NYTimes.

Blumenthal, Eli. (15 January 2022). 5G’s next big launch could make its improved speed promises a reality. CNet. 

Brandom, Russell. (4 January 2022). Why AT&T and Verizon Are Feuding With the US Government Over a Last-Minute Delay to 5G. The Verge. 

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