What is C-Band,
and what does
it mean for 5G?

Author: Rose de Fremery

C-Band spectrum stands to significantly expand the availability of higher-performance 5G connectivity around the country, providing fast speeds to more areas of the country than was previously possible. As C-Band continues to roll out, it should enable innovative business use cases across multiple sectors and deliver a faster internet experience to consumers. So, what is C-Band, what might it be used for and what does it mean for the future of 5G?

What is C-band, and what does it mean for 5G?

To answer these questions, it's necessary to first explain an important aspect of how 5G works. As most business leaders know by now, 5G is the fifth-generation technology cellular broadband network currently being rolled out in the United States. 5G uses three key spectrum ranges: low-band, mid-band and high-band. Each band allows for different capacities and speeds, offering different choices depending on the situation.

While the low-band spectrum offers maximum coverage, for example, its speeds are lower than the other bands. From a user experience perspective, low-band 5G speeds aren't appreciably faster than 4G LTE speeds. Meanwhile, high-band spectrum offers blazing fast speeds, but it has a limited range and can't easily penetrate structures like buildings.

So, what is C-Band? It's the happy medium between the high and low bands. C-Band sits on the mid-band spectrum of cellular broadband network frequencies, specifically between 3.7 GHz and 3.98 GHz.

C-Band offers a transformative mix of performance and coverage, allowing it to offer significantly broader range and penetration than high-band spectrum–so it can be accessed from within buildings–while offering speeds significantly greater than low-band 5G. As a result, it's expected to deliver a wide range of benefits for businesses and consumers alike across a broad geographic area.

How does C-Band benefit businesses and consumers?

What can C-Band be used for when it comes to business innovations? With 5G that uses C-Band spectrum, businesses should be able to boost workforce productivity, obtain insightful business intelligence and access in-depth status monitoring. For example, in the realm of 5G workforce productivity, architecture and construction firms could leverage C-Band spectrum access to enable augmented reality (AR) collaboration among teams, reducing the time required to perform certain tasks, get alignment with architects or customers and generally, enhance job satisfaction in the process.

Utilities and energy companies, meanwhile, could use 5G connectivity over C-Band to gain crucial visibility into infrastructure performance and operations using Internet of Things (IoT) technology, potentially reducing unplanned outages and improving the customer experience in the process. Businesses in the automotive and assembly industry could tap the benefits of C-Band 5G and IoT sensors to enable end-to-end visibility across the supply chain and minimize supply chain disruptions. Ultimately, businesses across multiple sectors should be able to pursue a vast variety of innovative use cases with 5G connected to C-Band.

What is C-Band's use for consumers? Consumers also stand to benefit from C-Band, whether they're individual mobile internet users or they access the internet using fixed 5G broadband connections in their homes. The incorporation of C-Band into a 5G network means more people will be able to experience the lightning-fast 5G speeds they've heard so much about in recent years. This means, for example, that consumers with 5G-capable phones should be able to stream learning modules or webinars at a higher resolution or download large files faster than before. Low latencies, meanwhile, mean they should be able to have smoother video calls, download operating system updates more quickly and enjoy 5G gaming with fewer glitches or interruptions.

What are the FAA concerns over 5G and C-Band?

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) concerns over the use of C-Band received some news coverage in early 2022, possibly prompting some members of the business community to ask themselves, "What is C-Band's impact on aircraft, and will this affect my business?" As carriers were preparing to roll out C-Band earlier this year, airlines and the FAA voiced some concern that transmissions on the C-Band spectrum might cause difficulties for some of the airplane radio altimeters that use other frequencies. If those altimeters weren't able to perform correctly as a result, the FAA and airlines argued, that conflict could have potentially caused safety issues.

Rest assured that 5G using C-Band and aviation can and do safely coexist.  The FCC put in place technical measures p that were among the most conservative in the world to protect other frequencies, and there have been no safety issues in the dozens of other countries where 5G is already deployed over C-Band. Nonetheless, Verizon and AT&T have been working very closely and constructively with the FAA in recent months and are operating under a framework that addresses the FAA concerns while allowing robust deployment and operation of the C-Band. Specifically, the carriers have shared information about deployment plans around some airport runways and have agreed on some temporary limitations around those runways. The FAA is also working with airlines, airplane manufacturers, and radio altimeter manufacturers on the installation of filters or other steps to improve the ability of older models of altimeters to avoid interference from the operation in other spectrum bands. In the meantime, as the remaining concerns are being addressed, carriers can safely proceed to roll out more than 90% of their planned C-Band spectrum services nationwide and that number will continue to grow as the FAA and the carriers continue to work together on mutually agreeable solutions.

What is C-Band for your business?

Practically speaking, C-Band promises to give more businesses and consumers access to higher-performing 5G. C-Band spectrum occupies a sweet spot in the mid-band that can offer an attractive blend of coverage and performance that could be right for many. Businesses can use the C-Band spectrum to tap 5G's potential—for example, by enabling AR collaboration or unlocking IoT-enabled business intelligence. By maximizing the benefits of 5G in this way, businesses can transform their operations and provide a higher standard of service to their customers.

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The author of this content is a paid contributor for Verizon.