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FWA is not a short-term play, Verizon CFO says

Verizon CFO Matt Ellis isn't buying into the thesis that fixed wireless access (FWA) is a short-term product that can't keep pace with capacity needs. On the contrary, Verizon can continue to apply spectrum and capacity to ensure that FWA performance suits the needs of both residential and business customers, he says.

But the question tends to come up as Verizon delivers north of 300 Mbit/s via its growing C-band network, while much of the wired broadband world, including Verizon's own Fios service, pushes toward multi-gigabit speeds.

Verizon added 112,000 consumer FWA subs and 82,000 business FWA subs in Q1 2022. Pictured is a Verizon 5G Home Internet service router.
 
(Source: Verizon)
Verizon added 112,000 consumer FWA subs and 82,000 business FWA subs in Q1 2022. Pictured is a Verizon 5G Home Internet service router.
(Source: Verizon)

"We absolutely think there is a path to continue to add" spectrum to FWA, Ellis said Tuesday at the J.P. Morgan Global Technology, Media and Communications Conference. "This is a product that we think will be part of our relationship with customers for many years to come into the future."

Today, Verizon is enhancing its 5G-based FWA product with C-band spectrum, and still has the opportunity to add millimeter wave spectrum to the mix in certain areas as well, he said.

Verizon started to supplement its FWA platform with C-band spectrum in mid-January. After getting access to 60MHz of capacity in that band, Verizon expects to push that up to 160MHz in the coming year.

The company has opened up access to the C-band in 46 markets, with 30 more expected to be added sometime in the fourth quarter of this year. Much of that C-band activity, including gross subscriber additions, has come from urban and suburban areas, Ellis said.

Ellis noted that Verizon is providing access to 5G-based FWA to more than 10 million homes today, and reiterated that the company expects to increase that figure to 50 million locations in 2025. "Certainly, I think there's opportunity for that number to become even larger," he added.

Ellis also expects the pace of FWA subscriber growth to rise higher during the balance of 2022 as Verizon deploys more C-band sites and broadens the marketing of those services. Verizon added a record 194,000 FWA subs in Q1 2022, up from a gain of 78,000 in the prior quarter. Q2 2022 will be Verizon's first full quarter of having C-band (it started to turn on C-band on January 19).

Ellis said Verizon is sourcing FWA subs from multiple areas of the market. But he added that most of them are existing broadband customers, including some on DSL, that are open to a switch.

Speaking at a different investor conference last week, Verizon Business EVP and CEO Tami Erwin noted that 80% of the company's FWA business service customers are using the technology as their "primary use case," and not as a secondary backup connection.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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