Keeping Up With 5G News: The Stories You Need To Know

From the battle over spectrum and airwave auctions, to carriers lighting up new cities, CRN rounded up five of the biggest 5G news stories happening right now.

5G In The Limelight

Fifth-generation wireless technology is one of the biggest buzzwords in IT right now, especially as carriers race each other to be first to market with a service, first to offer a 5G-capable smartphone, and first to roll their services out nationwide.

It can be hard to keep up with the influx of daily 5G announcements, but that's because with ultra-reliable speeds as much as 1,000 times faster than 4G, better capacity and lower latency, 5G promises to be a game-changer for consumers and business customers alike. The wireless giants are all trying to gather up all the spectrum they can get their hands on, and the government is actively working to free up and auction off airwaves to help ensure that the U.S. snags a leadership position in 5G. Here's five of the biggest stories happening in the 5G realm right now.

U.S. Carriers Fight Over Airwaves

U.S. officials have been slow at freeing up mid-band airwaves available to carriers, which are thought to be the nation’s most valuable airwaves for 5G. However, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said on July 10 it will vote on reallocating and auctioning a block of 2.5GHz spectrum that has been reserved for educational TV.

Mid-band airwaves are considered prime for 5G wireless because carriers can more easily deploy these frequencies using existing cell towers instead of rolling out thousands of new antennas. Mid-band is also better at traveling longer distances and penetrating walls.

FCC Auctions High-Band Spectrum For $2.7 Billion

Speaking of Spectrum, the FCC in May concluded its first set of auctions, Auction 102, for 5G-capable High-Band Spectrum in the 24 GHz and 28 GHz Bands. The airwaves were auctioned for a total of $2.7 Billion, according to the FCC.

The high-band airwaves can be used for 5G wireless, as well as IoT and other spectrum-based services. Participants included AT&T, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, Verizon, and Windstream. The FCC is slated to conduct Auction 103 -- the largest spectrum auction in U.S. history Dec. 10 it will cover the upper 37 GHz, 39 GHz, and 47 GHz bands.

Potential Sprint/T-Mobile Merger Impact On Nationwide 5G

Notoriously outspoken T-Mobile CEO John Legere said that a merger between the third- and fourth-largest wireless carriers in the U.S. would mean true, nationwide 5G.

The carrier competition -- namely, AT&T and Verizon -- have largely limited their 5G efforts to select areas in large cities. However, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said that as a condition to approving the $26.5 billion merger, T-Mobile and Sprint must build 5G out in rural areas.

"It's so important to deliver 5G across the entire country," Legere said in a blog post in June. "There are brilliant people in every corner of the US, from small towns to big cities, and we'll only benefit from their ideas if they have access to the right tools."

What AT&T Is Up To

As of this month, AT&T Business customers can get the 5G-capable Samsung Galaxy S10 5G through the AT&T Developer Program. Unlike many of its carrier competitors, AT&T also has made 5G available to business users as opposed to only consumers.

AT&T is currently offering 5G services to mobile customers in parts of 19 cities across the U.S., including Austin, Texas; Nashville, Tennessee; Orlando, Florida; and California cities Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, and San Jose.

What Verizon Is Doing In 5G

Verizon in May became the first U.S. carrier to sell one of the first smartphones capable of 5G, the Samsung S10 5G. In June, Verizon began selling LG's first 5G-capable smartphone, the V50 ThinQ, which is the second device capable of supporting 5G networks.

Verizon said it will roll out its 5G Ultra Wideband service this year to 20 new cities, including: Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dallas, Des Moines, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Little Rock, Memphis, Phoenix, Providence, San Diego, Salt Lake City and Washington DC. Verizon said it plans to have 5G connectivity in 30 cities by the end of the year.