Tom Wang -

The status of 5G rollouts in 2021 and 2022

Major U.S. mobile operators -- AT&T, Dish, T-Mobile and Verizon -- are focused on deploying 5G through 2022. Learn about each provider's timeline.

Major mobile operators AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon are focused on deploying midband 5G through 2021 and into 2022.

AT&T and Verizon will also strengthen their high-band millimeter wave (mmWave) and low-band 5G offerings through 2022. New entrant Dish, meanwhile, plans to commence its initial commercial 5G service early in 2022.

AT&T 5G rollouts

AT&T said it will start deploying 5G service in the midband C-band spectrum by the end of 2021.

"AT&T plans to deploy the first 40 MHz of the 80 MHz C-band spectrum acquired from the last auction by the end of 2021," AT&T spokeswoman Tiffany Heikkila said. "We expect to cover 70 to 75 million people with C-band by the end of 2022 and 200 million by the end of 2023."

The operator already covers 250 million people in nearly 500 markets in the country with 5G via dynamic spectrum sharing (DSS) on its 850 MHz band. DSS enables 5G new radio and 4G LTE to coexist on the same frequency, but it limits 5G download speeds to 4G levels to around 50 Mbps. AT&T said it will expand sub-6 GHz coverage in 2022.

AT&T also intends to extend its 39 GHz mmWave 5G coverage, which the company calls 5G+, through 2021. The service delivers speeds of 1 Gbps or more but can only cover limited areas of cities that are densely networked with high-band 5G.

"We offer mobile 5G over mmWave in parts of 38 cities across the U.S.," Heikkila said. "By the end of 2021, we expect to offer this to parts of more than 40 cities."

Dish 5G rollouts

Dish is the only U.S. operator that is currently building a new greenfield 5G wireless network. The company has hit some timing snags along the way and has fallen behind its promised schedule with the launch.

Now, Dish said it will launch its 90-day beta trial during the fourth quarter of 2021 in Las Vegas. The company plans to launch its initial commercial 5G service in that city in the first quarter of 2022.

T-Mobile 5G rollouts

Neville Ray, T-Mobile's president of technology, announced that the operator's 600 MHz Extended Range 5G covers over 305 million people across 1.7 million square miles in the U.S. Although the 600 MHz service offers low transfer speeds with downloads between 30 Mbps and 75 Mbps, it enables the low-band service to cover almost the entire population of the country.

Ray said that T-Mobile's 2.5 GHz midband 5G service now covers over 165 million people with download speeds averaging 350 Mbps. The operator's plan is to extend the coverage of its midband Ultra Capacity service to over 200 million Americans by the end of the year.

"The average amount of midband 2.5 GHz spectrum we have deployed for 5G is 60-80 MHz right now, but our plan is to expand that to 100 MHz by the end of this year," Ray wrote in a T-Mobile post.

T-Mobile also launched its 5G fixed wireless broadband home internet service commercially in April 2021. It expanded this service across 51 towns and cities in four states in late September. The operator said it now serves "more than 600 places nationwide." The system uses 600 MHz and 2.5 GHz bands for 5G access and offers 4G LTE connectivity.

Verizon 5G rollouts

Verizon secured an average of 161 MHz of C-band spectrum nationwide at a recent Federal Communications Commission auction, making it the big winner of the midband sell-off. "We've previously said we'd cover 100 million people using C-band spectrum by the end of March 2022," Verizon spokeswoman Christina Moon Ashraf said.

Verizon reported that, during a trial run, it achieved download speeds of 4.3 Gbps aggregating C-band and mmWave spectrum. Verizon currently has 82 towns and cities using its 28 GHz mmWave service branded as Ultra Wideband. The operator declined to talk about how many more markets it plans to cover with mmWave in 2022, however, describing that as competitive information.

Its low-band mobile 5G service, using DSS, currently covers 230 million people in the U.S. Verizon said it plans to expand its 5G fixed wireless access (FWA) to more cities in 2022. The FWA service currently covers 57 cities in the U.S.

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