UScellular announced this week that its 5G network is expanding in several states thanks to a software update that enhances the 5G coordination between its cell sites.

The operator said the software update means 1.4 million more people now have access to the company’s 5G network.

UScellular called out a technique known as X2 coordination, which allows it to extend existing 5G service into neighboring sites, making 5G available to more customers.

A spokesman for the company said the states receiving the additional coverage are the following: Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oregon, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and California, with the highest volume being in Iowa, Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Missouri.

In addition to extending 5G, UScellular said it is relying on automation capabilities to accelerate the deployment of these services with greater autonomy, improved real time network updates and greater accuracy with a feature called Automatic Neighbor Relations (ANR).

The operator said this automation complements the work of UScellular engineers and allows them to focus on “other high value” efforts that contribute to the quality and reliability of the network. It’s just one element of the company’s use of Artificial Intelligence technology to make sure its network is running at peak performance.

“These updates allow us to get more out of our investment and enhance our customers’ experience whether they are accessing our 5G network on their smartphone, tablet or for home internet,” said Robert Jakubek, vice president of engineering and network operations at UScellular, in a statement. “Our local network teams have been busy turning this technology on for customers from coast to coast, and we look forward to more customers taking advantage of our fast, high-quality network.”

Both X2 and ANR features are defined in the 3GPP specifications, the company spokesman said. UScellular’s current network implementations are based on 3GPP Release 16 standards. 

UScellular said this expansion is part of its long-term network modernization plan and represents a 5% increase in the company’s 5G coverage, which now spans more than 50% of its footprint.

UScellular plans to implement ANR on future tower builds and upgrades as it deploys 5G to more of its markets.

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