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AT&T begins C-band 5G rollout today amid ongoing controversy

Anyone using AT&T’s 5G network in parts of seven U.S. cities can expect a welcome boost in their mobile internet speed this year as the carrier begins the rollout of 5G C-band coverage today despite ongoing issues with airlines. Markets where the new coverage will be available include Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston, Austin, Chicago, Detroit, Jacksonville, Orlando, and Miami.

By moving into the C-band, AT&T is able to expand the availability of truly high speed 5G that has previously only been accessible on the millimeter wavelength in very limited portions of major cities. AT&T intends to make what they’re calling 5G+ accessible to 200 million people by the end of 2023.

Currently, only a limited range of devices are compatible with the service, so you’ll need an iPhone 13, a Samsung Galaxy A13 5G or S21 series, or one of Google’s latest Pixel 6 phones in order to use higher speed 5G service. While that leaves out a lot of older devices, as well as phones from other manufacturers, Apple, Samsung, and Google, are certainly the most popular and widely used. If you’ve been considering an upgrade, and live within the footprint of C-band 5G coverage, picking up a new phone just got a lot more tempting.

While it’s great to see wider availability of faster mobile internet service, unless you live in a major city, it still seems like a far-off dream. I myself live in a rural area where consistent 4G service is still a scarce commodity. C-band will gradually reduce the digital divide, but it’s questionable whether people such as myself will ever see a benefit from its implementation.

Meanwhile, C-band internet is causing chaos at airports, as airlines fear that these wavelengths could interfere with their instrumentation. Last year both AT&T and Verizon agreed to postpone C-band rollout until Wednesday, January 19, in order to allow the FAA time to investigate the matter. Much of the controversy stems from a disagreement between the aviation community and wireless carriers over the proximity of C-band towers to airports. Concerns that travelers overseas might be stranded arose as international airlines canceled flights, though as of this writing those flights have been reinstated.

It remains to be seen if the airline’s fears of C-band interference are justified, or if this controversy will turn out to be a mere tempest in a tea kettle. As Verizon rolls out its own C-band 5G coverage and wireless home internet, the high speeds such a connection offers to provide an alternative to cable and fiber service. Such competition is very welcome, as it forces a higher degree of competition within a market often rife with defacto local monopolies many Americans are locked into.

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Andy Zahn
Andy Zahn is a freelance writer and photographer living on a small farm in the shadow of Mt. St. Helens. He currently writes…
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