Prior to this yr, 5G service AT&T had already positioned a big guess on the 39GHz millimeter wave radio band, buying FiberTower’s sizable 379MHz blocks of spectrum. Today, AT&T confirmed that it has greater than doubled its nationwide 39GHz spectrum holdings to 786MHz, on common, a improvement that ought to allow the service to supply a minimum of 3Gbps obtain speeds throughout the nation — assuming it has the wherewithal to really construct towers to help the short-distance mmWave holdings.

The significantly quicker switch speeds promised by 5G networks rely upon empty spectrums — radio frequencies that aren’t already getting used for different functions. To hasten U.S. 5G improvement, the FCC has been auctioning blocks of millimeter wave spectrums, and AT&T swapped its FiberTower holdings for public sale vouchers, enabling it to focus on contiguous spectrum blocks throughout the nation. After bidding $2.four billion, half from vouchers, AT&T received the 786MHz of nationwide 39GHz spectrum, bringing its nationwide mmWave common to 1,040MHz, together with separate 24GHz holdings.

Last April, AT&T stated its Netgear Nighthawk 5G hotspot hit a 2Gbps peak on its enterprise-focused 5G mmWave community, surpassing the service’s preliminary guarantees of 1Gbps peaks. But AT&T’s shopper 5G community has been disappointingly slower, providing 4G-like speeds utilizing low band spectrum. Like rival T-Mobile, AT&T has centered its shopper 5G launch on masking giant swaths of land moderately than on final efficiency.

Doubling down on 39GHz means AT&T may have 800MHz bandwidth in some markets, sufficient for eight 100MHz channels. The service has beforehand stated it might ship as much as 400Mbps of obtain velocity per 100MHz channel, reaching 1.5Gbps across four channels, suggesting that 3Gbps must be simply attainable via all eight channels. Moreover, if a 5G gadget can concurrently entry AT&T’s 39GHz and 24GHz spectrums, or the 39GHz spectrum plus low or mid band channels, the speeds may very well be even larger.

While AT&T now has the spectrum to help a nationwide 39GHz 5G community, its capability to construct out the supporting tower {hardware} stays a query mark. Like different millimeter wave frequencies, a 39GHz sign’s capability to journey is measured in ft moderately than miles, requiring vital “small cell” radio {hardware} deployments to supply service. As such, AT&T has signaled that it’s going to initially use mmWave to supply peak velocity “5G+” in dense city environments, with no particular timeline for wider rollouts elsewhere.

AT&T’s 39GHz spectrum win sets stage for national 3Gbps 5G service

By comparability, rival Verizon has centered virtually solely on millimeter wave for its preliminary 5G rollout and has hit peaks within the 2Gbps vary. Most of its real-world service has peaked at below 1.5Gbps, nonetheless, and the service has sometimes promised very best efficiency of 1Gbps with extra frequent speeds within the 600Mbps vary.

Today’s announcement notes that AT&T’s 5G+ community is now out there in elements of 35 cities and is initially being densified to supply cellular service at “arenas, campuses, and more,” with mounted (residence broadband) service doubtlessly to comply with. AT&T presently sells solely a handful of telephones with 5G+ help, together with the Samsung Galaxy S20+ and S20 Ultra 5G, however the service is predicted to broaden its choice later this yr.