Verizon announced fixed wireless access (FWA) subscribers for the first time Wednesday, revealing that the company added 55,000 FWA subs in the third quarter of 2021, for a grand total of 150,000.
Verizon's 55,000 FWA subscriber adds in Q3 represented about 42% of the 129,000 total broadband net adds generated in the period.
Verizon, which has been in the fixed wireless business for the better part of three years, did not provide much granularity on its initial batch of FWA subscriber figures.
Execs on today's Q3 2021 earnings call noted that the FWA subscriber base is a mix of customers getting service from its 4G/LTE network and via Verizon's 5G millimeter wave (mmWave) network. Verizon execs said the company's FWA base currently is a mix of residential and business customers, but did not break out that ratio. But they did note that there's about a rough 50/50 split between FWA customers that are coming from Verizon's existing base and from other service providers.
CFO Matt Ellis said Verizon's FWA customers aren't solely focused on rural areas, as Verizon is also seeing "good traction" with the product in urban and suburban areas.
While it's a bit early to do apple-to-apple competitive comparisons with respect to FWA, it appears that T-Mobile currently has a subscriber edge. T-Mobile hasn't revealed the exact size of its FWA customer base, but has previously said it has signed on 100,000 pilot customers this year, a milestone along the way to an anticipated 500,000 by the end of 2021.
Hans Vestberg, Verizon's chairman and CEO, said the company is on track to expand coverage of FWA services to 15 million homes by the end of the year using a mix of 4G and 5G, including initial access to new C-band spectrum. Verizon ended Q3 with about 11.6 million homes passed with FWA.
Verizon's 5G Home product, which currently uses mmWave spectrum, is in 67 markets, providing coverage to about 2 million households. Verizon's LTE flavor of FWA is now in 200 markets across all 50 US states.
"We are we are building momentum, and our pre-C-band success in Q3 demonstrates there is demand for the product from consumers and businesses," Ellis said.
Vestberg said usage on Verizon's 5G Home product is "very similar to Fios," noting that total usage of the company's mmWave network has more than doubled on a sequential basis. "They are even using more gigabytes on the fixed wireless access on 5G than they do on Fios," he said.
Recent data shows that overall usage of 5G mmWave is still a drop in the bucket in terms of smartphone traffic. OpenSignal reported in July that Verizon's smartphone customers connect to a mmWave 5G network 0.7% of the time, while T-Mobile customers do the same just 0.2% of the time.
Piecing together a national broadband puzzle
Going forward, Verizon plans to augment its FWA capabilities with the coveted C-band spectrum it won at auction. That newly activated midband spectrum, which combines capacity with reach, will give Verizon's FWA products a "turbo boost" in the coming weeks, Ellis said. He pointed out that customers taking the current LTE-powered FWA product in the first 46 C-band markets coming online will also get a router with C-band capabilities, enabling them to ramp up to faster speeds.
Adding C-band to the mix "means we can accelerate and amplify our business case for 5G," Vestberg said.
All of that activity fits into a grander plan at Verizon to provide FWA-based in-home broadband to about 50 million households by 2024 using a blend of LTE, mmWave and C-band spectrum. That reach will be combined with the broadband services delivered on Verizon's wired broadband networks.
"Ultimately, the vision is clear for Verizon. We're going to be a national broadband provider," Vestberg said.
The 55,000 FWA subs Verizon added in Q3 2021 compared to the 74,000 wireline broadband customers (Fios and DSL) added in the period.
Verizon added 98,000 Fios Internet customers in Q3 2021, down from additions of 139,000 in the year-ago period, ending the quarter with 6.49 million. Light Reading estimates that Verizon lost about 23,000 DSL customers in the quarter.
Fios video losses continued to mount, as Verizon lost 68,000 in Q3 2021, roughly in line with the 61,000 it lost in the year-ago period. Verizon ended the quarter with 3.64 million Fios video customers.
With a loss of 71,000 Fios digital voice customers, Verizon ended Q3 with 13.22 million total Fios digital connections, down 1.4%.
However, Fios revenues climbed 4.3%, to $2.89 billion, driven in part to an expansion of the network to about 400,000 locations over the past year, the migration of broadband customers to faster speed tiers, and the company's continued use of a broadband-led "Mix & Match" program that provides access to various video options, including Fios pay-TV packages and YouTube TV.
"We still see room for additional growth within Fios," Ellis said.
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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading