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US Cellular (USM) & Ericsson Test 5G Drone Connectivity

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United States Cellular Corporation (USM - Free Report) has collaborated with Ericsson (ERIC - Free Report) to test the efficacy of 5G network connectivity in drones at higher altitudes. The first-of-its-kind trial is likely to sow the seeds for future uses of drone technology in diverse sectors by leveraging an ultra-fast 5G network for real-time image and data sharing.

The initial trial was conducted between two commercial 5G towers of US Cellular in Beloit, WI, by retrofitting a 5G smartphone and RF measurement equipment. This enabled to capture key performance metrics such as signal strength and quality, upload and download speeds and latency throughout the duration of the flight at various altitudes. The trial offered essential data using both low and high band spectrum, which helped analyze network connectivity and data speed in the air. This, in turn, made it easy to compare it to the data speed at ground level and gauge the underlying factors affecting 5G connectivity in connected drones.

Drones connected with 5G network will make it relatively easier to reach areas beyond the visual line of sight and offer real-time footage to be live-streamed over US Cellular's network, making on-site inspections in hard-to-reach areas more efficient and cost-effective. The trials are likely to help devise appropriate steps to improve 5G network connectivity through hardware support and nodes to better capture signals and transmit the same to receptors at the ground level.

Last month, US Cellular strengthened its long-term relationship with Nokia Corporation (NOK - Free Report) and Ericsson by extending its multi-year 5G expansion deals with the telecommunications equipment vendors. The contracts are likely to fast-track the deployment of US Cellular’s C-Band spectrum for faster network speed with low latency and wider coverage across the country.

The airwaves in the 3.7 gigahertz-to-4.2 gigahertz area of the spectrum — widely known as the C-band —  offer significant bandwidth with better propagation characteristics compared with mmWave, which has a short range and requires a high density of sites to achieve coverage. It is deemed a prized asset for carriers that lack considerable mid-band spectrum holdings. US Cellular aims to deploy the recently acquired C-band and 3.45GHz spectrum to improve its 5G footprint.

Nokia will provide 5G RAN (radio access network) solutions from its leading AirScale portfolio for extensive dense urban area coverage. The AirScale Radio Access products deliver low-latency, high-capacity mobile connectivity with a low cost of ownership. These can be easily upgraded through a software update, reducing network complexity. Deploying its industry-leading software, 5G RAN and IP-Backhaul solutions for this project, Nokia will help US Cellular tap the enormous potential of 5G. The carrier also seeks to deploy an intelligent Antenna Integrated Radio unit and an Uplink Booster from Ericsson for minimal fronthaul consumption.

With the help of such state-of-the-art equipment, US Cellular aims to offer superior 5G service by the end of 2023 and strengthen its position as a leading service provider in the country.

The stock has lost 21% over the past year against the industry’s decline of 17%. Nevertheless, we remain impressed with the inherent growth potential of this Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) stock.

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A better-ranked stock in the broader industry is Clearfield, Inc. (CLFD - Free Report) , sporting a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.

Clearfield delivered an earnings surprise of 37.5%, on average, in the trailing four quarters. Earnings estimates for the current year for the stock have moved up 114.7% since June 2021. Over the past year, Clearfield has gained a solid 58.5%.

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