Verizon pays $3.1 billion for spectrum it needs to deploy 5G, outbidding AT&T

duraxv lte
Jonathan Weiss/123RF
Verizon’s plans for next-gen wireless are finally coming together. On Thursday, Big Red reportedly outbid rival AT&T for the chunk of frequencies — or spectrum — it will use to deploy 5G. It spent $3.1 billion on Straight Path Communications, a wireless holding company, and agreed to pay an additional $38 million if the deal doesn’t go through.

Straight Path, which acquired — but failed to make use of — spectrum it purchased 15 years ago, was expected to close a deal with AT&T. Ma Bell announced a bid of $1.6 billion for Straight Path in April, but folded its hand when Verizon offered more.

Verizon ponied up for good reason. Straight Path maintains a valuable portfolio of millimeter wave spectrum — frequencies with narrower-than-average lengths ideal for 5G deployment. And it has them in a lot of places, including all of the top 40 markets in the U.S.

Millimeter wave isn’t perfect — it can’t penetrate physical objects like walls and trees, and it has a limited range. But it’s plentiful compared to the low-frequency bands in use by 4G networks, and can be used in conjunction with other spectrum where available. T-Mobile, for example, has said it will use a combination of low-band 600MHz spectrum and high-band millimeter waves for its 5G network.

5G can reach speeds far surpassing 1Gbps, and features improved latency, coverage, and efficiency compared to 4G. Verizon’s finalized 5G spec, which it published in July of last year, is theoretically capable of “several gigabits per second throughputs and single-millisecond latencies.”

In a 5G test last year, Verizon demonstrated multiple 4K TVs streaming video at once — enough bandwidth to download Guardians of the Galaxy in 15 seconds, compared to the 6 minutes it takes on current 4G LTE networks.

The Straight Path acquisition is part of Verizon’s broader 5G rollout.

In February, the carrier announced that it would begin customer trials of 5G technology in ten U.S. cities — Ann Arbor, Michigan; Atlanta, Georgia; Bernardsville, New Jersey; Brockton, Massachusetts; Denver, Colorado; Miami, Florida; Seattle, Washington; Washington DC; and Dallas and Houston in Texas. In partnership with Samsung, Ericsson, Intel, and Qualcomm, it installed 5G Access Points in homes capable of delivering gigabit speeds to connected devices.

Verizon isn’t the only one pursuing 5G trials. This year, AT&T will begin streaming DirecTV to residential customers, reportedly as part of a “quad play” bundle of television service, 5G internet, wireless phone, and home phone.

That could be good news for your cable bill. According to the Federal Communications Commission’s 2015 Broadband Progress Report, 51 percent of Americans only have one option for 25Mbps or higher home internet service.

Most carriers are targeting 2020 for widespread launch, after the ITU finalizes 5G’s technical specifications. But others are confident they can deploy it sooner.

AT&T, for example, plans to expand residential and small business trials in the second half of this year, ahead of a “standards-based” rollout as soon as 2018. And Sprint is shooting to launch its 5G network by “late 2019.”

Mobile

OnePlus 6T vs. Honor View 20: We compare the cameras in these ‘flagship killers’

For less than $600, you can buy either the OnePlus 6T or the Honor View 20, two extremely capable smartphones with plenty of exciting features. But which one has the best camera? We found out on a recent trip to France.
Mobile

Verizon wants you to lobby the government for 5G deployment

Verizon is in the midst of a massive 5G rollout. In addition to fixed 5G service, it will also begin deploying mobile 5G in the coming months. Here's everything you need to know about Verizon's 5G network and when it will be in your town.
Mobile

Sprint’s 5G rollout: Everything you need to know about it

Sprint is building its next-gen 5G network in preparation for a 2019 rollout, but it's taking a decidedly different approach than some of its competitors, including Verizon and AT&T. Here's everything you need to know.
Mobile

T-Mobile says Sprint merger will boost 5G speeds by up to 6 times

2019 will be a huge year for T-Mobile. Not only is a merger with Sprint likely, but T-Mobile is also in the midst of building out its next-generation mobile service. Here's everything you need to know about the T-Mobile 5G rollout.
Mobile

AT&T adds Minneapolis and Chicago to its mobile 5G road map for 2019

Ready to experience a radical transformation in mobile communication? AT&T is launching mobile 5G in cities across the country over the next few months. Here's everything you need to know about the AT&T 5G rollout.
Mobile

Save space on your iPhone by turning off Live Photos in the camera app

If you want to save storage space on your iPhone or reduce the size of your backup for iCloud, then you should think about turning off Live Photos in the camera app. Find out exactly how to do it with our easy guide.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Grow veggies indoors and shower more efficiently

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Mobile

The best Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus cases to keep your titanic phone safe

The new Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus is a gorgeous device, with one of the best dual-lens cameras we've ever seen. Keep your titanic device safe and scratch-free with the best Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus cases.
Deals

Amazon slashes prices on Fitbit Versa smartwatches for Presidents’ Day

Amazon is offering a solid $30 discount on this great fitness tracking smartwatch right now. So if you're looking for a wearable that can help you track steps, sleep, and activity, now is a great time to pick one up for less.
Mobile

How to perform a reverse image search in Android or iOS

You can quickly use Google to search, and reverse search, images on a PC or laptop, but did you know it's almost as easy to do in Android and iOS? We explain how to do it here, whether you want to use Chrome or a third-party app.
Mobile

The best Honor View 20 cases to keep your midrange beauty intact

With power to rival flagships, great looks, and a stunning camera, the Honor View 20 is an excellent phone -- but it still needs protection from hazards. Here are some of the best Honor View 20 cases.
Mobile

Be careful who you bokeh, jokes Apple’s latest iPhone ad

With iPhone sales under pressure, you'd think there wouldn't be much to laugh about at Apple HQ. But the company has seen fit to inject some humor into its latest handset ad, which highlights the camera's Depth Control feature.
Mobile

Samsung's Unpacked draws near. Here's what we know about the Galaxy S10 so far

It won't be long now. With 2019 underway, the Samsung Galaxy S10 is almost here. Before it arrives, here's absolutely everything you need to know about all three of Samsung's next flagships.
Mobile

Gorilla Glass 6 will cover the Xiaomi Mi 9's AMOLED screen

Xiaomi's next major smartphone release will be the Mi 9, and the company hasn't held back in giving us a good look at the phone, revealing the design, the camera, and a stunning color.