5G and Beyond

UScellular's C-band testing tripped up by vendor's delays

UScellular, the nation's fourth-largest wireless network operator, had planned to conduct 5G tests in C-band spectrum, but delays involving an unnamed vendor have temporarily botched those efforts.

"Owing to unforeseen delays relating to equipment vendor software updates which are necessary to support the required testing, UScellular seeks a regular nine month experimental authorization which will allow the testing to be finalized," the operator told the FCC.

UScellular agreed to spend close to $1.3 billion on C-band spectrum licenses during the FCC's spectrum auction earlier this year. The company had hoped to test 5G operations in the C-band with equipment from Ericsson and Nokia, but citing delays involving an unnamed vendor, said those tests have been pushed out.

As a result, UScellular is asking the FCC for permission to conduct those tests through January 14, 2022.

The tests "will help assess C-band products for wireless 5G deployment," the operator said. UScellular officials declined to answer questions from Light Reading about the delay.

The dance between network operators and their vendors is rarely smooth. Indeed, shortcomings in Nokia's 5G equipment tripped up Sprint's 5G efforts prior to T-Mobile's acquisition of the operator. More recently, Verizon acknowledged it is moving forward with a C-band buildout with vendors Ericsson and Samsung – Nokia is conspicuously absent.

UScellular said it is conducting C-band tests with equipment from Ericsson and Nokia. The operator last year added Samsung to its vendor lineup.

To be clear, UScellular isn't the only US network operator asking the FCC for permission to conduct tests in the C-band. Just this week for example, RCR Wireless reported that AT&T is looking to conduct similar tests, while FierceWireless reported that Verizon is planning extensive C-band testing of its own.

Word of these test plans arrive after US operators collectively bid roughly $80 billion on C-band spectrum licenses. The reason? Such spectrum presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for operators to build vast, speedy 5G networks. Those networks would represent a dramatic upgrade from much of the mostly slow or small-scale 5G offerings of today.

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Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

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