Skip to main content

Verizon plans to speed up rural 5G service later this year

Verizon plans to speed up rural 5G service later this year


The results of the 2021 C-band auction are starting to bear fruit.

Share this story

If you buy something from a Verge link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

The Verizon logo against a red and black backdrop.
Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Rural customers subscribed to Verizon’s 5G network could see a jump in their speeds later this year. The telecommunications giant revealed plans during its quarterly earnings call this week to extend its C-band 5G network — which uses a radio spectrum that enables faster speeds on a wide scale — to more rural and suburban areas by December 2023.

We don’t know specifically which areas the expansion will cover. During the earnings call, Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg mentioned that the company’s C-band 5G coverage has so far been deployed to 70 out of the 406 available markets, mostly in urban and suburban areas. “It’s 330 markets left, we will get the C-band,” said Vestberg. He didn’t clarify how many of these markets would be covered by the network expansion later this year but confirmed that the majority of the deployments coming will concentrate on suburban and rural areas.

The wide range coverage of C-band 5G is crucial to expand Verizon's rural portfolio

C-band spectrum is a crucial part of Verizon’s plans for rural expansion. It can’t match the extreme speed of millimeter wave spectrum (mmWave), but C-band can work over a far greater range with fewer cell towers. It also doesn’t have as many issues penetrating through buildings as mmWave and should be noticeably faster than Verizon’s standard 5G deployments.

Verizon spent $45.4 billion to acquire C-band spectrum licenses at a Federal Communications Commission auction back in 2021, winning between 140 and 200MHz of C-band spectrum across all 406 US markets — 158 of which are considered “mostly rural.” Rollout has been incremental as most of the spectrum licensed was already in use and requires clearing before it can be reallocated, though the purchase primed Verizon to eventually serve over 250 million people with C-band spectrum by “2024 and beyond” via its 5G service.