AT&T buys spectrum for 5G service with its $1.6 billion deal to buy Straight Path Communications
Both AT&T and industry leader Verizon have been purchasing companies with millimeter wave spectrum, which will be used when 5G networks are built. AT&T previously purchased Fiber Tower, a private company that owned rights to millimeter wave spectrum. Verizon has closed on its $1.8 billion purchase of the fiber optics business belonging to XO Communications. That transaction gives Verizon access to millimeter wave spectrum.
After the deal was announced, other companies in the cellular industry saw their stock rise. Sprint rose 1.5% (although it has lost all that and more) and Dish Network also started the day 2.3% higher before giving back about half those gains.
As high-frequency airwaves, the millimeter wave spectrum has limited reach, is easily blocked by buildings, and is vulnerable to rain and humidity. But using short transmission paths and strong antennas, the signals can go farther. The bands being considered for 5G use include 57 GHz to 64 GHz, 28 GHz/38 GHz, and the 71 GHz/81 GHz/92 GHz bands.
5G service most likely won't be available on a widespread basis until 2020.