Verizon fetes C-band trials using 200 MHz

Verizon announced today that it has successfully completed lab trials using 200 MHz of C-band spectrum to provide “remarkable” 5G speeds and performance. 

With the trial now completed, Verizon can begin commercial deployment “in the near future,” according to a spokesperson. The company is still on track to cover 175 million people with C-band by the end of this year.

Last month, Verizon announced it was beginning to deploy 5G over 100  MHz of spectrum, marking a significant increase from the 60 MHz of spectrum it deployed in 5G markets to date. This next move will more than triple the spectrum available for 5G Ultra Wideband in many markets, according to the carrier.

“Imagine adding several more lanes to a highway,” said Adam Koeppe, SVP of Technology and Planning at Verizon in a statement. “The more lanes, the more cars can get on and off the interstate and the faster they can drive. In the same way, the more spectrum we open up on our network, the more data can move across our network faster and more efficiently.”

Verizon spent more than $45 billion, before clearing costs, on C-band spectrum and after some high-profile fits and starts, was able to start rolling it out earlier this year. In total, the company won C-band licenses for between 140-200 MHz in all available markets and began deploying up to 60 MHz in the first 46 markets.

As additional spectrum gets cleared by satellite companies, Verizon will be able to deploy C-band on all available bandwidth that it has licensed, up to 200 MHz. Verizon said every piece of equipment being deployed today is capable of the full 200 MHz of bandwidth.

‘Strongest spectrum portfolio’

In today’s press release, Verizon also said its acquisition of C-band spectrum puts it in the industry lead for the strongest spectrum portfolio across low, mid and high band spectrum. Verizon holds a total of 2,035 MHz of spectrum – 294 MHz in sub 6 GHz spectrum (low and mid band) and 1,741 MHz of millimeter wave, or high-band, spectrum.

The quiet period for the 2.5 GHz auction is still in effect, so the big winner of that auction – T-Mobile – isn’t yet talking about what those additional holdings are going to do for its mid-band 5G spectrum position. But T-Mobile long has touted its 2.5 GHz holdings, the prize it received when it acquired Sprint, as the best for mid-band 5G.

It’s worth noting that analysts at New Street Research (NSR) think Verizon made a mistake when it picked up $1.5 million worth of spectrum in the 2.5 GHz auction. In a note shortly after the winners were announced, the NSR analysts said the 2.5 GHz spectrum “will be useless” to Verizon. In trying to drive up the price for T-Mobile in Auction 108, Verizon got stuck as the final bidder for the licenses it won, they said.

At last check, Verizon was considered about a year behind T-Mobile in mid-band 5G spectrum deployments.

‘Best network’ messaging in 5G

So what’s Verizon up to with this latest material claiming it’s got the best spectrum in all the land?

“It sends a credibility message,” said Bill Ho, principal of 556 Ventures. “They’ve always been knocked, throughout the years, that they didn’t have enough spectrum” in the right places.

T-Mobile has been on a relentless attack, going back to the days of former CEO John Legere, to acquire customers from Verizon, which boasted the most postpaid subscribers. This gives Verizon something to fight back with, sending a message to enterprise and consumer customers alike that it does have a strong spectrum portfolio and it’s getting deployed, he said.

While T-Mobile has taken the network crown in many third-party reports, perceptions last a long time, and Verizon hammered home its “best network” message for years.

In a lot of circles, Verizon still enjoys the reputation of having the best network, according to Roger Entner of Recon Analytics. That's driven largely by Verizon customers who haven’t changed their carriers in ages, he added.

Based on his firm’s most recent surveys, which included 2,800 respondents, people in the 18-29 age group gave T-Mobile slightly better net promoter scores in the areas of coverage and blocked calls. “Younger people have a more positive experience with T-Mobile than older people,” he said.

That said, Verizon still beats T-Mobile in net promoter scores in both rural areas and big cities, according to Recon Analytics' data. 

Meanwhile, Verizon’s consumer group has been losing customers the past two quarters and Entner said the same is probably continuing into the current quarter.  

“The Welcome Unlimited is not that welcoming,” he said, noting that it doesn’t include mid-and higher spectrum bands C-band and the speeds that come with that.  

“They downscaled that product too much,” he said. “Based on our research, that plan is about $10 too high.”