5G wireless behind AT&T, Verizon’s big buys


5G technology, despite some fairly breathless hype, is still in the embryonic stages of development, but the pace is quickening. The major U.S. carriers are racing to buy up critical spectrum that will be necessary for the realization of 5G’s potential, which could include support for speeds up to 1Gbps and support for the ever-expanding Internet of Things.

AT&T has made two major purchases with that end in mind – January saw the company announce the acquisition, for an undisclosed sum, of bankrupt wireless backhaul provider FiberTower, and just this week AT&T said that it would spend about $1.6 billion in an all-stock deal to acquire Straight Path Communications (Note: A Reuters report overnight cited sources as saying Verizon might try to top AT&T’s bid).

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What both of those companies have in common is their extensive spectrum license holdings, particularly in the lower end of the millimeter-wave range between about 30GHz and 40GHz. Those frequencies are valuable for the high-frequency, high-density component of 5G technology, which will provide a large amount of bandwidth for areas of particularly stiff demand, both in terms of throughput and client density.

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