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5G broadband has finally begun to rollout in the U.S., but for many, there are still significant aspects of this amazing new technology that are not clear.

At the top of that list is band spectrum. The predecessor to 5G, 4G LTE (Long-Term Evolution) pretty much operated in one specific, overcrowded band spectrum.

5G operates on three different spectrum bands.

High-band spectrum is what most people associate with 5G. That’s because the millimeter waves (mmW) of the high-band frequency spectrum offer peak speeds of 10 Gbps and very low latency that is most talked about with 5G.

What a lot of people don’t realize is that the high-band spectrum has a major drawback: Millimeter waves are fast but provide lousy coverage and poor building penetration.

The carriers rolling out high-band spectrum 5G are AT&T and Verizon. 5G coverage for both carriers needs to piggyback off 4G’s LTE technology until nationwide 5G-specific networks can be built out.

Since high-band spectrum trades off penetration and user area for high speed and coverage area, the carriers rely on small cells — low-power base stations that cover small geographic areas. With small cells, carriers using mmWave for 5G can improve overall coverage area. Combined with beamforming, small cells deliver very extremely fast coverage with low latency.

However, not all carriers have access to the faster, high-band spectrum. Sprint, for instance, was granted access to the majority of U.S. unused mid-band spectrum, which can provide 5G peak speeds of up to 1 Gbps.

While the mid-band spectrum produces radio frequency waves with better penetration than millimeter waves, they still need a boost. Sprint gets this boost in the form of Massive MIMO (multiple input, multiple output) antenna technology to improve penetration and coverage area. MIMO groups multiple antennas onto a single box, and at a single cell tower, they create multiple simultaneous beams to different users.

Sprint also uses beamforming to improve 5G service on the mid-band. Beamforming sends a single focused signal to each and every user in the cell, and systems using it monitor each user to make sure they have a consistent signal.

5G also operates in the low-band spectrum with peak data speeds topping out around 100Mbps. This is the sub 1GHz spectrum – the same band used by carriers in the U.S. for LTE. While this band spectrum produces the slowest 5G speeds, it’s also the most stable infrastructure offering great coverage area and penetration.

T-Mobile is the carrier associated  with the 5G low-band spectrum. T-Mobile received a large amount of 600MHz spectrum at an FCC auction back in 2017.

Want to know more about 5G benefits and issues? Tonex offers a 5G Training / 5G System Survey Training course, a 2-day class that covers the basic introduction to 5G technology, architecture and protocols. The course also includes traffic cases and survey of solutions, deployments and products. Both 3GPP and IMT-2020 approaches are discussed.

For more information, questions, comments, contact us.

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