Federal Funds, Satellite Rivals Could Expedite Rural 5G Plans

By Jeff Johnston

May 2021

Key Points

  • Over the last several quarters, 5G coverage has increased with T-Mobile leading the pack in urban and rural America.
  • However, rural 5G speeds are quite a bit slower than speeds offered in urban markets. This is largely a function of the low-band spectrum being used in rural America.
  • Tier one operators see 5G fixed wireless as a strategic growth driver as they compete for lucrative broadband customers in urban and suburban markets. Widespread availability of high-speed 5G fixed wireless in rural America is likely a ways off.
  • The potential windfall of federal broadband support represents new opportunities for rural operators by expanding existing networks and/or signing managed services contracts with non-traditional broadband organizations.
  • While true high-speed 5G in rural America will lag urban and suburban coverage, the emergence of LEO satellites as a legitimate broadband alternative could expedite tier one operators’ plans.

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