US Cellular has announced plans to start offering 5G technology for its customers in Iowa and Wisconsin in the first quarter of 2020.
The company said in a release that this initial 5G deployment, which will rely on its 600 MHz spectrum, represents the first phase of the a planned multi-year network expansion for 5G and is a result of previous network technology investments to modernize equipment and software.
“Iowa and Wisconsin are two of our largest markets and we’re excited to introduce 5G technology to customers in both urban and rural communities where other carriers have not,” said Michael Irizarry, executive vice president and chief technology officer of US Cellular. “Broader 5G coverage will provide our customers with even faster data connection speeds for a better experience when they do the things they love on their devices.”
The telco said that customers in these two states with 4G devices will begin to see increased network quality as cell towers are updated with new technology, which also supports 5G. US Cellular is also building a portfolio of 5G smartphones, connected devices and IoT solutions that will be available throughout 2020.
Some of the communities in Iowa where the company plans to provide 5G coverage are parts of Cedar Rapids, Davenport, Des Moines, Dubuque and Waterloo. In Wisconsin, some of the communities that will receive 5G coverage include parts of Green Bay, Madison, Milwaukee, Oshkosh and Racine.
European vendors Ericsson and Nokia have deployed hardware and software capabilities for the deployment of US Cellular’s 5G network.
The company highlighted that it is currently replacing the base stations with software-upgradable basebands, meaning new 5G features can be incorporated by adding new software rather than from a hardware replacement. As part of the telco’s 5G deployment plan, As part of its 5G work, US Cellular has also been moving radios to the top of towers to improve coverage in rural communities.
“We are rapidly moving across our footprint to bring 5G to as many of our customers as possible over the coming years. We expect to augment the network with mid- and high-band spectrum over time as the technology and use cases continue to evolve,” Irizarry said.
In a recent conference call with investors, Irizarry said that the telco is committed to a multi-year project to ready itself for a 2020 commercial 5G launch, beginning with deployments in the company’s largest markets. “The modernization project will use various technologies including 4×4 MIMO, License Assisted Access (LAA), 256 QAM and LTE-M to bring LTE Advanced features to our customers,” he said on the earnings call.
The carrier acquired new licenses at recent millimeter wave auctions, giving it access to high-frequency spectrum required to deliver high speed and low latency capabilities of 5G to customers, providing at least 300 megahertz of spectrum in markets that serve 97% of its customer base.
The telco spent around $129 million on 28 GHz licenses in 362 markets and around $126 million for 282 24 GHz licenses.
During the recent earnings call, the carrier’s President and CEO Ken Meyers asked the FCC to bring as much mid-band spectrum to the market as soon as possible.
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