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5G

Verizon tops mmWave cell site goal for 2021, touts C-band speed tests

Verizon said it has exceeded its goal to deploy 14,000 new mmWave 5G Ultra Wideband cell sites by the end of 2021, and now provides phone services via that network to parts of 87 US cities and its 5G Home broadband service to portions of 65 cities.

Verizon said its mmWave deployment also delivers its 5G Business Internet service to parts of 62 cities, touting launches today in Athens, Georgia; Knoxville, Tennessee; and Tacoma, Washington.

Tied in this ramp-up, the company noted that 2021 5G mmWave cell site deployments have nearly doubled versus the prior two years combined. Meanwhile, data usage on the mmWave network is up 750% year-over-year, with the average data use per customer on the 5G Home service matching that of Fios, Verizon's fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP)-based platform, the company added.

Speaking at the UBS Global TMT Virtual Conference earlier this week, Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg said the company's overall base of fixed wireless access (FWA) customers – including those on the 4G and 5G network – are actually using more data than Fios customers. But that comes from a small but growing sample of the company's broadband base, as Verizon added 55,000 FWA subs in Q3 2021, ending the period with about 150,000. By comparison, Verizon has about 6.49 million Fios Internet subs.

C-band update

Verizon's mmWave expansion comes ahead of its anticipated deployment of C-band spectrum, slated to cover 100 million additional customers before the end of March 2022.

The early phases of Verizon's C-band deployment plan hinges on the result of a situation with the Federal Aviation Administration. Both AT&T and Verizon voluntarily put their near-term C-band plan on ice to help the FAA review concerns about potential interference in the band. That has paused the commercial launch of C-band until at least January 5, 2022. Vestberg said this week that Verizon expects to see "no impact" to its business from the delay.

But there's still no telling how this will shake out. The FAA issued a statement this week that it "believes the expansion of 5G and aviation will safely co-exist." But it paired that with directives designed to provide a framework and to gather more information to avoid potential effects on aviation safety equipment.

"The FAA is issuing this AD [airworthiness directive] to address the unsafe condition on these products," the FAA explained. The AD, the agency added, "was prompted by a determination that radio altimeters cannot be relied upon to perform their intended function if they experience interference from wireless broadband operations in the 3.7-3.98 GHz frequency band (5G C-Band) … These limitations could prevent dispatch of flights to certain locations with low visibility and could also result in flight diversions."

Amid that review, Verizon said recent tests using 100MHz and 200MHz of C-band spectrum delivered speeds of 1.5 Gbit/s and 3 Gbit/s, respectively. Additionally, a lab trial using carrier aggregation (for 800MHz of mmWave and 100MHz of C-band) and a test device powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon X65 5G Modem-RF system reached download speeds of 7.92 Gbit/s, Verizon said.

Verizon noted that its engineers have completed and approved plans for small cell equipment that will be deployed in 2022 that will enhance access to and the capacity of 5G using C-band spectrum.

"This year our team has nearly doubled its 5G deployment versus the past two years and exceeded the aggressive targets we set at the beginning of the year, even in the face of global supply chain issues, and we're not stopping," Kyle Malady, Verizon's CTO, said in a statement.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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