AT&T ramps up 5G mid-band buildout

AT&T said today that it’s ahead of its 2022 5G buildout schedule, ramping up to pass the 70 million population mark six months ahead of schedule and on pace to approach 100 million by the end of this year.

“We’re six months ahead of our 2022 mid-band schedule. Our mid-band build momentum ramped up quickly passing 70M POPs. We’re now on pace to approach 100M POPs by EOY,” said Chris Sambar, EVP, Network at AT&T, in a statement. “Our deployment plan is focused on growth and meeting the needs and capacity demand of our customers.”

AT&T started its mid-band 5G deployment in January with the turn-up of the first 40 MHz of C-band spectrum it acquired in the FCC’s C-band auction; that was done in select parts of major metro areas due in part to aviation concerns about C-band’s potential impact on air safety.

AT&T said it’s also started deploying some of the 40 MHz of nationwide 3.45 GHz spectrum, which it acquired in the FCC’s Auction 110. AT&T was the biggest winner in that auction, acquiring 1,624 licenses for $9.1 billion.

In total, AT&T has 120 MHz of mid-band spectrum that it plans to deploy over the next two to three years.

Mid-band spectrum is considered especially essential in the rollout of 5G as it offers both capacity and coverage benefits.

In the case of AT&T and Verizon, they’re both playing catch-up to T-Mobile in the mid-band department.  T-Mobile acquired a bounty of 2.5 GHz spectrum through the Sprint merger, and that’s buoyed its 5G coverage and capacity to enviable levels.

Earlier this year, AT&T said it would use just one tower climb to light up its C-band spectrum as well as the spectrum obtained at 3.45 GHz.