With some of the best Android smartphones now supporting 5G, it makes sense to consider investing in the new wireless standard. Today’s 5G networks are based on sub-6GHz (sub-6) or millimeter-wave (mmWave), and both have different purposes. For example, sub-6GHz can travel long distances with speeds slightly higher than 4G. On the other hand, millimeter-wave has a shorter range versus sub-6Ghz with higher overall network speeds than 4G. Neither can combine speed and distance into one package deal, so we need C-Band to effectively bridge that gap as a good middle ground.
What do C-Band and sub-6Ghz mean?
When talking about 5G networks, C-Band refers to the radio frequency with a wireless spectrum range between 4GHz and 8GHz. Interestingly, C-Band also falls within the sub-6GHz category, which is any radio frequency between 1GHz and 6GHz. C-Band and sub-6GHz each have properties in the mid-range wireless spectrum for 5G U.S. networks, with some lower-level frequency crossover. Mid-range bands, in particular, are crucial for 5G because they offer great wireless coverage overall, which is necessary for mass deployment. Since C-Band is part of the mid-wave frequency, it has the appeal of providing a balance for distance, speed, and stability.
Currently, C-Band in the U.S. falls between 3.7GHz to 4.2GHz frequencies as defined by the FCC. Other parts of the world use anywhere from 4GHz to 8GHz. Most of the 5G companies in the U.S. have honed in on a specific C-Band spectrum between 3.7GHz to 3.98GHz. Why this particular range? Because the FCC auctioned off that unused spectrum in 2020 to the top U.S. wireless carriers, including Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile. Verizon was the biggest spender, but these carriers bid upwards of $80 billion to grab this set of C-Band frequencies for their 5G networks.
What about the difference between C-Band and millimeter-wave?
Millimeter-wave can be defined as a frequency range of 24GHz to 40GHz, placing it in the high-band wireless spectrum. Verizon, for example, has been actively pushing millimeter-wave since the early days of its 5G network. At that frequency level, smartphones and other networking devices can operate at extreme speeds with as little latency as possible. However, millimeter-wave can’t carry that kind of wireless power over long distances, which is its ultimate downside. With a more balanced range of mid-range frequencies, C-Band will finally allow us to achieve higher speeds compared to 4G with a distance greater than a millimeter-wave.
Millimeter-wave was designed to be a high-speed 5G solution with low latency for insane data transfer speeds. We’re talking 5Gbps and beyond. This is at the height of millimeter-wave technology when everything has been perfected in the future. To achieve these multi-gigabit speeds over millimeter-wave 5G, you typically need a clear shot of the 5G antenna or tower. Even the slightest obstruction can turn a solid 5G experience into a mediocre one, even on the best 5G phones. This is why more wireless carriers have prioritized sub-6GHz over millimeter-wave since the launch of 5G.
What makes C-Band a necessity in today’s 5G wireless networks?
Sub-6GHz and millimeter-wave 5G networks have their benefits and downsides, with neither being a perfect choice for every situation. Sub-6GHz gives great coverage offering speeds similar to 4G, but that doesn’t represent a true generational leap. Millimeter-wave offers blazing-fast next-gen speeds. However, the shorter distance issue makes it difficult to deploy on a massive scale. For 5G to be considered a success, speed and coverage need to be unified under a single wireless standard. C-Band is designed to do that, achieving the 5G experience we’ve been waiting years for.
The easiest way to portray how C-Band will take our 5G to the next level is to look at our current home Wi-Fi networks. In a traditional dual-band Wi-Fi setup that uses 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, the 2.4GHz signal gives the most wireless range with decent speeds overall. Alternatively, 5GHz can push higher speeds at a lower latency. However, it has a considerably shorter distance than 2.4GHz. This is similar to what we’ve dealt with in the 5G wireless networking space when comparing sub-6GHz to millimeter-wave.
C-Band and Wi-Fi 6E will shape how we use our wireless devices
Starting with the Wi-Fi 6E standard, we’re now seeing tri-band wireless routers supporting 2.4GHz, 5GHz, and 6GHz frequencies in our home networks. The same 6GHz frequency that sub-6Ghz uses for 5G connectivity, we have access to this in our homes today. In terms of Wi-Fi, the 6GHz band allows for higher wireless speeds with far less interference, perfect for a smart home environment. 6GHz will have a shorter wireless distance than 2.4GHz or 5Ghz. However, the range issue is no longer a concern if you have a proper Wi-Fi mesh network.
What Wi-Fi 6E is currently doing to revolutionize our home networks, C-Band will do for our 5G wireless experience. Although not a like-for-like comparison, they share a similar goal: To bring the best wireless experience possible to the general consumer. Both technologies will shape how we use our wireless devices inside and outside the home. Wi-Fi 6E and a mesh networking system will give you maximum coverage with high speeds and low latency. C-Band should bring a much-needed boost to 5G’s wireless range and an increased speed over what 4G offers. A true generational leap forward.
C-Band also plays a key role in our 5G home wireless networks
5G isn’t only essential for our smartphones. We’ve also started to see this technology make its way into our home networks. Rather than dealing with physical network cables, opt for a 5G-capable modem instead. Once you activate the SIM card, you’ll be surfing the web using a wireless 5G signal from your home in no time. C-Band plays another significant role here. It allows for higher average internet speeds with better coverage and reliability. We’ll finally be able to consider 5G home wireless networks a genuine replacement for traditional internet service providers.
It’s also no secret that some locations are ruled by an internet service provider monopoly where only one company services an area. As we’ve seen before, this tends to hurt consumer choice in the long run. With C-Band delivering a better balance between speed and coverage, internet providers can offer new 5G home services to more markets. Giving that choice back to the consumer allows us to choose what works best, not the other way around. Utilizing C-Band for 5G home wireless networks should benefit our future and help improve our experience.