UScellular 5G Spectrum Strategy Takes the Cake

5G is not just a nationwide carrier play. UScellular Corporation has its slice of the three-layer spectrum cake, too, and it’s on its way to the 5G party. The carrier announced yesterday that, after successfully bidding in the mid-band spectrum auctions, it has enough spectrum to forge a 5G strategy. Spectrum purchased at the recent Auction 110 (3.45 GHz) will be combined CBRS spectrum bought in Auction 105 and C-band in Auction 107 to cover the  majority of its operating footprint with more than 80 percent of subscribers being covered with mid-band spectrum depths of 100 MHz or more.

“Now we have ample mid-band spectrum that will provide capacity and coverage to support 5G use cases with competitive speeds for both mobile and fixed wireless users,” said Michael S. Irizarry, Executive Vice President, Chief Technology Officer and Head of Engineering and Information Technology. 

In Auction 110, UScellular purchased 380 licenses covering 97 percent of its subscribers for an estimated total cost of $580 million. The total cost, including gross bids as well as estimated relocation costs, results in an average price of $0.48 / MHz-pop versus the auction overall at $0.72 / MHz-pop.

  • C-band Auction 107: UScellular purchased 254 licenses covering 94 percent of its subscribers for an estimated total cost of $1.46 billion
  • CBRS Auction 105: UScellular purchased 243 licenses covering 80 counties for $13.5 million.

“We know that to offer an exceptional 5G experience, we need all three layers of the 5G spectrum cake – low, mid and high band. And now with our successful participation in Auctions 105, 107 and 110, UScellular has achieved its mid-band position objectives,” said Laurent Therivel, UScellular President and CEO.

UScellular plans to use the spectrum, in part, to work with the states to offer wireless 5G broadband deployment in underserved rural areas, in coverage related to the Biden Infrastructure Bill.

“As we continue our multi-year network modernization and 5G deployment, we currently have low-band 5G coverage in portions of all our markets,” Irizarry said. 

By J. Sharpe Smith, Inside Towers Technology Editor

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