UScellular lights up 3.45 GHz in parts of 10 states

UScellular today announced the launch of its 5G mid-band network using the 3.45 GHz spectrum that it acquired through the FCC’s 2021 auction.

The Chicago-based company said that by the end of June, its 5G mid-band network will be available mainly in parts of Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin, including sections of Rockford, Ill., Des Moines, Iowa and Milwaukee.

Communities in Maine, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oregon, Virginia and Washington are also included in the initial rollout. By the end of the year, UScelluar plans to cover more than 1 million households in its operating footprint with its 5G mid-band network.

“We view mid-band as the sweet spot of 5G because it provides broad coverage, low latency and fast speeds – enabling more people to connect to what matters most at home or on-the-go,” said UScellular Chief Technology Officer Mike Irizarry in a statement. “As we approach serving 100,000 High-Speed Internet customers later this summer, mid-band will play an important role in furthering the reach and enhancement of that product. We’ve made it a priority to expand the technology to more communities in the coming years.”

UScellular was among the top five bidders in the 3.45 GHz Auction 110, where it spent over $579 million. It also acquired C-band spectrum for about $1.46 billion in 2021; that spectrum starts to become available later this year.

UScellular did not need to coordinate with the Department of Defense (DoD) for the 3.45 GHz sites that are part of this launch, but DoD coordination is needed for some sites that are to be deployed in the future, according to a company spokesperson. 

Speaking at the Wireless Infrastructure Association’s Connect(X) conference in New Orleans last month, Irizarry said the company expects a “rapid acceleration” of its mid-band spectrum 5G deployment to occur in 2024. 

The company is using infrastructure gear from Nokia and Ericsson.

As for consumer devices, the spokesperson said there are a number of devices today that support the mid-band technology deployment and more will be enabled in the future. It also has a mid-band enabled router for high-speed internet.

The company expects nearly 3 million households in its operating footprint will have access to 5G mid-band connectivity by the end of 2024.