Verizon casts wide net with C-band tests as it preps for launch

Verizon ramped C-band (3.7-4.2 GHz) testing as it worked toward the launch of newly acquired mid-band spectrum assets later this year, filing to conduct trials in more than 50 cities across seven states over the past six weeks.

The operator received approval for experiments in more than three dozen cities in California, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Texas in March. This month, it asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for permission to add 12 new locations in California, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Texas to its trial list.

As in its earlier applications, Verizon requested a nine-month test period for its latest batch of sites and noted the spectrum it wants to use for testing "ultimately will be part of Verizon Wireless’ post clearing assignments."

While the testing details are notable given the operator’s plan to begin lighting up C-band airwaves as they become available starting in December 2021, it is unclear whether the test sites will be among the operator's initial launch markets.

Verizon did not respond to Fierce's requests for comment.

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Kyung Mun, principal analyst at Mobile Experts, told Fierce that based on the list of test sites “it appears to me that the tests are concentrated in the Dallas-Forth Worth and Boston metros with many suburban locations near those two metros.”

He added he expects Verizon and its rivals to concentrate C-Band deployments around population centers, including urban locations and their surrounding suburbs “where the data traffic demand is the greatest.”

Brian Goemmer, president of Allnet Insights, agreed in comments to Fierce that Verizon appears to have homed in on Dallas-Fort Worth and Boston for mid-band launches. Though the operator is also testing in a handful of locations south of Los Angeles, he noted activity there isn't yet robust enough “to consider a full market launch early in that market.”

Both Boston and Dallas were among the first 18 markets where Verizon launched its mmWave 5G service.

Generally speaking, Mun noted, testing is a key step in the deployment process, and will provide operators with insight into “realistic C-band (massive MIMO) performance as they expand 5G network coverage (and capacity) over the next few years.”

Last week, Verizon said it had begun installing C-Band network equipment from Ericsson and Samsung, setting itself up to quickly roll out its mid-band spectrum once it becomes available. The operator previously indicated it expects to have between 7,000 and 8,000 C-band sites installed this year.