The rollout of 5G networks in the United States has been slow-moving, especially for Verizon and AT&T. However, Verizon is now testing a new network feature that should improve coverage in some areas.
Even though you might think of 5G as a single technology or feature, there are three main implementations that provide wildly different experiences. Millimeter-wave 5G (also known as mmWave) can offer gigabit-like speeds, but only works at short ranges, so mmWave coverage is only common in busy downtown areas or large public venues. Low-band 5G is the most common, since it can travel the farthest, but only offers minimal speed improvements over 4G and LTE. Finally, there’s mid-band, which is a sweet spot between the two — offering noticeably faster performance than LTE (most of the time) at a decent range. Verizon and AT&T started rolling out C-Band 5G earlier this year, which is in the mid-band spectrum and noticeably improved speeds for many customers.
Verizon announced today that it just completed a 5G data test using the CBRS General Authorized Access (GAA) spectrum, another mid-band frequency in the United States (3.5-3.7 GHz). Some CBRS spectrum is reserved for federal agencies, like military communications, but some is available for companies like Verizon to use as well. Verizon already uses CBRS for 4G access, sometimes referred to as Band 48, and other carriers have tested 4G on CBRS in the past.
It’s not clear yet how CBRS-powered 5G would perform in real-world use, especially compared to C-Band, but CBRS has noticeably improved Verizon’s 4G coverage over the years. OpenSignal reported in December that Verizon’s 4G download speeds in urban areas were nearly 80% faster when using CBRS. C-Band has already been a significant boost to AT&T and Verizon’s 5G coverage, and given that CBRS is a similar area of spectrum, it could improve 5G even more for Verizon customers.
Verizon doesn’t yet have a timeline on when it will roll out 5G access on CBRS.