April 20, 2022
C Spire, one of the largest regional wireless network operators in the US, is staying on the 5G course it set almost two years ago, and so far the company isn't offering any hints that it might expand its ambitions.
One of the only fresh 5G updates from C Spire is a new marketing campaign that touts "best-in-class 5G." First spotted by Wave7 Research, a firm that closely tracks marketing and promotions among US wireless network operators, C Spire's new "Welcome to C Spire Country" branding campaign focuses on 5G and fiber offerings across parts of Mississippi, Alabama and elsewhere. Like many small operators, C Spire focuses mostly on rural areas unserved by larger operators.
Figure 1: (Source: Timothy Swope/Alamy Stock Photo)
C Spire's initial 5G network stretches across 250 cell sites, working in the operator's PCS, 700MHz and 600MHz spectrum bands. It uses the non-standalone (NSA) flavor of the technology via equipment supplied by Nokia.
Alan Jones, the operator's chief network officer, told Light Reading in an email that C Spire's 5G speeds represent a "modest improvement" over its LTE offerings. He added that the operator is focused on evaluating and acquiring additional 5G-capable radio heads, and expects to test 5G standalone (SA) technology in its 28GHz spectrum holdings sometime this year.
"We believe this will ultimately enhance the 5G potential that we want to provide our customers and that some customers have been anticipating," Jones explained.
On its website, C Spire touts nationwide 5G coverage but doesn't provide any information about which nationwide network operator it might have a roaming agreement with in order to provide that kind of coverage.
No 5G fanfare
C Spire's 5G buildout trajectory hasn't changed much since the operator first disclosed its plans in the middle of 2020. The carrier made no mention of the $50 million it spent on midband C-band spectrum licenses for 5G during an FCC auction that ended in 2021. And C Spire does not appear to be among the companies that participated in the FCC's recent Auction 110 of midband spectrum.
C Spire's 5G strategy looks similar to that of UScellular, another regional wireless network operator in the US. UScellular officials recently told Light Reading that the company plans to wait to deploy its midband spectrum licenses until market conditions warrant such an expense – meaning, there are no drivers to deploy that spectrum now.
C Spire and UScellular are among several smaller wireless network operators in the US that are launching 5G without much fanfare. While Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile race to deploy speedy 5G networks on their midband spectrum holdings amid noisy 5G marketing campaigns, smaller carriers are working to ensure they too can offer 5G-branded services. They simply aren't emphasizing their 5G efforts.
"If you're on any of our current plans, you'll be able to access nationwide 5G where available at no extra cost," C Spire noted on its website. "Even older plans are able to access C Spire 5G, meaning every customer can enjoy access to the latest network technology."
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