What you need to know
- AT&T's current nationwide 5G network uses low-band spectrum to cover 250M people.
- AT&T has 80MHz of C-band spectrum that it plans to begin lighting up later this year with a planned December launch.
- By the end of 2022, AT&T expects to cover 70-75 million people with C-band 5G. Up to 200 million by the end of 2023.
AT&T has unveiled its plans for the next phase of its 5G+ expansion. The moniker refers to the carrier's mmWave 5G, but the company announced that its upcoming C-band spectrum would fall under 5G+ as well.
C-band spectrum sits between mmWave and low-band 5G and provides much better coverage and speeds than mmWave and low-band spectrum, respectively.
Back in February of 2021, AT&T purchased 80MHz of C-band spectrum in an FCC auction to be used for 5G. Since then, AT&T has been aggressively testing C-band deployment so it could be ready to go as soon as the spectrum became available for deployment.
This spectrum, also known as mid-band, is between 3.7GHz and 4GHz and is an efficient middle-ground between mmWave and low-band 5G. This spectrum also benefits from being new to cell networks meaning that AT&T will not need to pull spectrum from the rest of its network to deploy it.
C-band 5G will allow AT&T to cover suburban and urban areas with enough capacity to deliver high speeds without needing a 5G mast on every street corner. Its existing low-band 5G coverage will still be helpful to fill in the gaps as well as perfect for low-density environments that need to make the most of fewer 5G towers. If you live in the country, you'll likely be using the low-band network primarily, but due to the lower population, you should still have plenty of speed.
While AT&T still lags behind T-Mobile when it comes to coverage, it's set to make a quick comeback. Currently, T-Mobile covers an impressive 308 million people with its low-band 5G network and 186 million with its 2.5GHz mid-band 5G. AT&T plans to cover 70-75 million people with C-band 5G by the end of 2022, with up to 200 million covered by the end of 2023. With one of the fastest LTE networks around and mmWave coverage that's still growing, AT&T is still an excellent option for many.
AT&T also includes access to 5G with all of its unlimited plans now, meaning that you'll only need one of the best Android phones with 5G support on AT&T's network to get the best out of the network.
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When Samuel is not writing about networking or 5G at Android Central, he spends most of his time researching computer components and obsessing over what CPU goes into the ultimate Windows 98 computer. It's the Pentium 3.