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C-band deployment delay will have 'no impact' on Verizon's business, CEO says

Verizon Communications CEO Hans Vestberg says an expected brief delay in the company's C-band deployment will have "no impact" on the company's business, or on its ultimate plans involving the coveted midband spectrum.

"The answer is, 'no.' There is no impact," he said Monday at the UBS Global TMT Virtual Conference, when asked to assess how the delay might impact Verizon. "To make it clear, we have the spectrum [and] we'll launch where we want."

The question came up roughly a month after both AT&T and Verizon voluntarily put their C-band plans on the backburner to help the Federal Aviation Administration review and address concerns about potential interference issues in the band. The voluntary pause on the commercial launch of C-band services will push things out to at least January 5, 2022, and possibly further should the FAA need more time.

"We thought [the voluntary delay] was a good, fair thing to do to offer them [the FAA] more time to look into this," Vestberg said, noting that Verizon was keen to be a "good citizen."

"There are very small and minor tweaks that have to be done. The reason is, there are very few towers close to an airport," Vestberg explained.

Verizon, he added, has made no changes to its plans to launch C-band spectrum widely for its mobile and fixed wireless access services.

Vestberg's confidence echoes that of his AT&T counterparts. Speaking at an investor conference last week, Jeff McElfresh, CEO of AT&T Communications, said concerns about the C-band delay are "somewhat overblown ... I have a lot of confidence we will work through this."

Bullish on FWA

Verizon, meanwhile, is counting on C-band spectrum to play a big role in the company's ability to offer fixed wireless access (FWA) services on a national basis.

FWA represents "a big growth opportunity for us," Vestberg said.

Ahead of a future national offering that's expected to reach an addressable market of 50 million to 70 million households over time, FWA today (offered via 4G and 5G millimeter wave) represents a small but growing piece of Verizon's business. Verizon added about 50,000 FWA subs in Q3 2021, ending the period with a grand total of 150,000.

About half of those customers are new broadband customers and half of that group are completely new to Verizon. "It's a great subset of customers getting in there," Vestberg said. When C-band is added to the mix, Verizon can target the service to more households and turn up its "marketing machine," he added.

Vestberg also downplayed the mobile competition posed by US cable operators that are becoming more aggressive with bundles that combine mobile services with home broadband. The two most aggressive of the bunch – Comcast and Charter Communications – have MVNO deals with Verizon.

"We see that this is good for us in many senses," Vestberg said of the emergence of mobile competition from cable operators. "It's an add-on to our plans and [to] our long-term financial guidance."

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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