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5G

Verizon lays out its three-year, $10B plan for 5G

During an investor event held at the exact minute the FCC's quiet period ended for its C-band spectrum auction, Verizon outlined exactly how it plans to expand and extend its 5G network with its C-band holdings – and how it expects to profit from the endeavor.

Verizon said it expects to offer up to 1Gbit/s peak speeds to 250 million Americans by 2024 by spending an extra $10 billion on its network over the course of those three years. However, the operator confirmed that it will not levy an extra charge for access to its speedy 5G network; instead, the operator will continue to position 5G access alongside other goodies like a Disney+ subscription in its more expensive "premium unlimited" rate plans.

Verizon added that the network upgrade will allow it to offer in-home broadband services to up to 50 million households by 2024, or around 41% of the entire US. That's a significant increase over Verizon's earlier promises of eventually reaching 30 million households with its fixed wireless Internet service. It also represents a significant expansion of the company's battle with the nation's cable Internet providers.

Verizon executives said the operator's fixed wireless Internet services will be priced "competitively," and that Verizon's network will have the capacity to handle millions of customers' home Internet traffic. That's noteworthy considering the average smartphone user consumes around 12GB of data per month, according to Ericsson, while OpenVault estimates the average household consumes around 500GB of data per month.

"We feel really good about the capacity," said Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg.

Cable companies "will probably have more capacity challenges than I will," said Verizon's Ronan Dunne. Dunne added that Verizon expects to attract up to 20% or more of home Internet customers in markets where it launches its fixed wireless Internet service.

Taken together, Verizon expects its 5G efforts to help grow its overall corporate revenues by 4% or more by 2024, up from the 2% growth it expects this year. The operator added that it will continue to pay out dividends to its shareholders during that period.

"When we launched 4G, the market could not see what was coming around the corner. Or that in a matter of years, stepping out from the curb and hailing a cab would become obsolete," explained Verizon's Vestberg in a nod to companies like Uber and Lyft, which developed their services for 4G connections. "We're about to turn that corner again. And there will be the next generation of unicorns ready to innovate on what we are building. That's not a prediction; it's a promise."

Here's the timeline of Verizon's 5G upgrade plans:

End of 2021

  • Verizon plans to upgrade 7,000 to 8,000 of its estimated 64,000 cell towers with C-band radios supplied by vendors Samsung, Ericsson and Nokia. That work ought to cover around 100 million Americans with Verizon's "5G Ultra Wideband" service by March of 2022. (Verizon is applying its "Ultra Wideband" moniker to its 5G network running in its millimeter-wave and C-band spectrum holdings.)

    Perhaps more importantly, Verizon CTO Kyle Malady said the operator does not plan to add more cell sites to its network and will instead use its existing cell tower grid, which he said is already dense enough to handle a C-band network. That's noteworthy considering T-Mobile has questioned the ability of its rivals to build out extensive C-band coverage due to the relatively diminutive propagation characteristic of signals in the C-band spectrum.

  • Verizon said it has already sold 10 million Ultra Wideband smartphones and that 70% of those can already access C-band transmissions.

  • Verizon reiterated it expects to increase the number of its millimeter wave (mmWave) cell sites from 17,000 today to 30,000 by the end of 2021. "We'll keep building after that," CTO Malady said, though he didn't provide any further numbers.

  • Interestingly, Verizon said it expects that fully 5% of its overall network traffic to travel over its mmWave network by the end of 2021, a figure that could hit up to 10% if pandemic travel restrictions ease quickly.

  • Verizon expects to offer fixed wireless Internet services to a total of 15 million households by the end of 2021. Roughly 1-2 million of those will connect to mmWave networks, and the remainder will be split between Verizon's 4G and 5G networks.

  • Verizon said it will expand its fixed wireless Internet service for business users from three markets today to 20 markets by the end of 2021.

  • Verizon expects to reach 2% additional revenue growth.
  • 2022-2023

  • Verizon expects to cover up to 175 million Americans with C-band 5G by the end of 2023.

  • Verizon hopes to connect 50% of its cell towers to its own fiber network, an increase from the 33% that are connected to that network today.

  • The operator said it will cover 30 million households with fixed wireless Internet services – mostly over 5G – and the business overall will generate around $1 billion in revenues.

  • Verizon said it expects 55% of its postpaid phone customers to own a 5G device, up from around 9% today.

  • The operator expects that 50% of its customers will subscribe to its "premium unlimited" plans, up from 21% today.

  • By the end of 2022, Verizon estimates the total addressable market for edge computing in the US to reach $1 billion. The operator is splitting revenues with Amazon for public edge computing and is selling private edge computing services with partner Microsoft.

  • Verizon expects to grow revenue another 3%.
  • 2024 and beyond

  • Verizon intends to cover more than 250 million people with C-band 5G. The delay is partly due to the fact that some of Verizon's C-band spectrum licenses won't be available for commercial use until 2023 because incumbent satellite operators are still working to move their operations off the band.

  • The operator said it will cover 50 million households with fixed wireless Internet services, generating "well over" $1 billion in revenues.

  • Verizon said that it expects up to 50% of its network traffic in urban areas to travel over its mmWave network "over time," though it did not provide a firm timeframe for that goal.

  • Verizon executives said the operator will spend an extra $10 billion on capital expenses to deploy its C-band spectrum from 2021 to 2024 – spending that will be in addition to the operator's typical $18 billion in capex spending. However, executives hinted that Verizon's capex spending could decrease significantly – potentially below $18 billion – after 2024 because the operator's fiber, mmWave and C-band buildouts will be largely complete, and it will have shuttered its aging 3G CDMA network.

  • Verizon said it expects edge computing to create a $10 billion addressable market by 2025.

  • Verizon expects to grow revenues an additional 4%.

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

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