5G and Beyond

For Verizon's consumer business, it's 'back to basics'

A top Verizon executive said the company's consumer-focused strategy this year will involve a return to the basics.

"I think it's being focused on a few key things rather than trying to do too many things, and then a focus on execution," Verizon CFO Matt Ellis said Tuesday at an investor conference, in response to a question about Verizon's new leadership structure. "I think there have been times when we've got distracted by trying to do too many things at once."

Specifically, Ellis said Verizon intends to apply "a focus on the detail" in its vast consumer business during 2023. He hinted that would include more regional promotional offerings, rather than a centralized, nationwide approach to Verizon's sales tactics. And he said the company plans to rework its compensation structure, though he didn't provide details. Presumably such an effort would involve rewarding the company's retail sales force for new customer signups.

Ellis' comments come just days after Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg named Sowmyanarayan Sampath as head of Verizon's consumer business, the company's biggest unit. Sampath just last year was named CEO of Verizon Business, taking over the position from Tami Erwin. Sampath is the third executive chosen by Vestberg to head up Verizon's struggling consumer business after Ronan Dunne (2016 to 2021) and Manon Brouillette (2021-2022).

Sowmyanarayan Sampath.  (Source: Verizon)
Sowmyanarayan Sampath.
(Source: Verizon)

"I think you'll see Sampath very much getting back to the basics," Ellis said (Ellis himself is leaving Verizon later this year).

Ellis said he expects Verizon's consumer business to begin posting more gains as its strategy takes hold throughout the course of this year.

Consumer biz concerns

To be clear, Verizon's consumer business has been struggling for months now. The company posted a historic loss of customers during the first part of last year, but finally managed to reverse the tide in the fourth quarter of 2022. Verizon's CEO briefly took over direct control of the company's consumer business from Brouillette last year, but last week he named Sampath as the new, permanent head of that division.

The move sparked concerns among analysts, considering Sampath previously focused on Verizon's business operations. But Ellis argued that Sampath is a longtime Verizon executive who has worked in a number of different positions. He said Sampath can return Verizon's consumer business to growth.

To do so, Sampath will also need to oversee Verizon's entry into the prepaid industry. The company closed its acquisition of prepaid provider TracFone in 2021, but Ellis said Verizon hasn't yet finished integrating TracFone into its operations. Verizon "has a little bit more to do than we expected" in the integration process, Ellis said, but he added that Verizon's full prepaid strategy ought to take shape in the second half of 2023.

A big part of Verizon's overall roadmap involves the deployment of its C-band midband spectrum for 5G. Indeed, Verizon on Tuesday announced it now covers around 200 million people with that spectrum across the US.

Ellis explained that Verizon started its C-band deployment with just 60MHz of spectrum in 46 markets. However, as satellite operators fully shift off that spectrum by the end of this year, Verizon's deployment will increase to roughly 160MHz across around 400 markets. That's important, Ellis explained, because Verizon's 5G speeds are much faster via its C-band spectrum holdings, and therefore the company can gain and keep more customers as a result.

"We feel good about the opportunities that will give," he said of Verizon's C-band deployment.

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Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

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