Does C-Band Mean the 5G Revolution is Finally Here?

The other day while driving around town, I looked at my phone and noticed a new little icon in the upper right-hand corner. “What’s UW?” I asked my husband, who shrugged. So of course, I Googled and discovered it stood for Ultra Wideband, and was the name Verizon was giving its deployment of the C-band network (Verizon also wraps its mmWave services into that designation, but this piece focuses on C-band). “Oh,” I said, “it’s that thing that’s been in the news about the airlines.” Here’s what I learned:

Introducing C-Band Spectrum

C-band is a spectrum of communication frequencies in the microwave range, from 4 to 8 MHz, although the FCC has designated the range to be between 3.7 and 4.2 GHz. The C-band spectrum has been mostly unused for some time and was used to provide satellite television and voice services. However, it’s now being repurposed to help serve customers with high bandwidth needs like video streaming and online gaming.

The “5G revolution,” many of us can agree, was a bit of a disappointment. Looking back at my Ookla history, there has never been a big difference in speeds between LTE and 5G, and 5G connections remained unimpressive. C-band changes that, and I’m not going by press releases here, but empirical evidence (the screenshot below was from inside my house, which typically doesn’t get a great signal ).

5GUW

C-band is more than just a consumer benefit, though. The benefits of C-band spectrum are priceless for businesses looking to improve their wireless communications. Mobile networks will be able to increase their capacity by 10 times once this technology is in place. This means that not only will users get significantly faster data speeds on their phones and tablets, it means more efficient downloads on Wi-Fi connections such as at home or in the office.

Simply put, 5G C-band networks offer more bandwidth than 4G and Wi-Fi combined. When combined with technologies such as network function virtualization (NFV) and software-defined networking (SDN), this expanded bandwidth can be allocated to meet demand at any given time.

The Importance of 5G Networks to Businesses

The benefits of 5G networks for businesses abound. With 5G, data can be moved at a rate of 10 gigabits per second (Gbps), which is 10 times faster than 4G. All this bandwidth means that businesses can transfer large files more efficiently and would be able to offer more video content to users without having to worry about slow connections.

The implementation of NFV and SDN technologies adds to the benefits businesses can derive from C-band. Virtualization offers greater flexibility in allocating the C-band spectrum based on traffic conditions, meaning businesses won’t have to wait in a long line to use a limited resource. SDN means that all 5G networks can be virtualized. This will also allow for bandwidth to be allocated based on the needs of each customer. The result? You’ll receive better digital services since you’ll have more bandwidth available to use.

According to AT&T’s white paper on 5G, “SDN and NFV unbind network services that were once bound. The ability to divide these services into smaller, software-driven functions lets businesses, operators, and cloud providers deploy and configure these services where and how they need them. They also enable businesses to expand and contract network bandwidth based on need.”

Optimizing Bandwidth with SDN

One of the key benefits of SDN is that it helps networks allocate bandwidth to meet demand at any given time. This means you spend less money on acquiring bandwidth or paying for unused bandwidth.

For instance, in a cloud-based environment, when one area experiences high traffic and needs more bandwidth, it will receive the needed resources from the other areas (this is true for more than just 5G, of course, and becomes more and more important as it appears the hybrid work trend is here to stay). On the other hand, if an area has low traffic and doesn’t need as much bandwidth, it will share what it’s not using with other areas. With this method, networks can keep costs low and provide better connectivity without sacrificing speed or performance.

So, as it turns out, that little UW symbol (5G+, if you’re on AT&T) means more than just being able to stream your baseball game from anywhere without lag (assuming baseball ever makes it back, which is the subject of another blog that doesn’t belong here). C-band spectrum plays an important role in finally bringing us into the 5G era, and is just another step forward into the office of the future.

is BPO Media and Research’s editorial director. As a writer and editor, she has specialized in the office technology industry for more than 20 years, focusing on areas including print and imaging hardware and supplies, workflow automation, software, digital transformation, document management and cybersecurity.