Verizon’s Ed Chan is optimistic about deploying C-band in 2022

Last week Verizon and AT&T said they would reduce C-band power, especially around airports, to give the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) more time to ensure that the use of C-band spectrum for 5G won’t cause any safety problems for air travel.

This week Verizon Chief Network Engineering Officer Ed Chan provided a bit more detail on Verizon's C-band plans.

Speaking at the Wells Fargo TMT Summit, Chan expressed confidence about Verizon’s ultimate deployment of its C-band spectrum. “Chan pointed to precedent that similar spectrum is used in 40+ countries globally where airplanes travel currently, with smaller guard bands,” wrote Well Fargo analyst Eric Luebchow in a note to investors.

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In the United States, the C-band spectrum in the 3.7-3.98 GHz is separated from spectrum that FAA altimeters use by a guard band that is more than 200 MHz.

“Two hundred megahertz is huge,” said Dennis Roberson, who spoke with Fierce recently. Roberson has been chairman of the FCC's Technological Advisory Council for the past eight years.

In comparison, the guard band for C-band spectrum in Japan is only 100 MHz, and there have not been any air safety problems related to altimeters.

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Both Verizon and AT&T spent billions for C-band spectrum in 2021, and they’re anxious to start using it. Chan indicated at the Wells Fargo event that he believes once the FAA has a better sense of the data, it will be more comfortable, and the C-band build will resume as planned.

Chan also said Verizon would start deploying C-band on small cells in 2022, according to the Wells Fargo note.

While Verizon’s initial build plan for C-band focused on macros, Verizon is testing the spectrum on small cells today. “Chan anticipates that virtually all ~70K macro sites will have C-Band on them over time, but will let customer data usage drive demand on locations of deployments,” wrote Luebchow. "There might be rural areas today where the demand doesn't exist, but VZ will let the customer demand drive that."

Chan also said that Verizon had planned on hiring third parties to deploy most of its small cells, but it had to pivot to in-house deployments because it wanted to go faster than vendors were able to go. Moving forward, he expects Verizon's partnerships with CCI and ExteNet to increase as they gain scale and ability.