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Verizon's big fixed wireless gains mask slowing wireline broadband growth

Better-than-expected subscriber gains at Verizon's blossoming fixed wireless access (FWA) business in the first quarter of 2022 concealed some of the slowdown the telco is seeing in its wireline broadband business.

Verizon added a whopping 194,000 FWA subs in Q1 2022, up from 17,000 in the year-ago quarter and up from a gain of 78,000 in Q4 2021.

Verizon's FWA gains in the quarter handily beat analyst estimates that the company would add about 138,000. Those gains also beat a more bullish view from New Street Research that Verizon would rake in 167,000 FWA subs in the quarter.

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)

Verizon's Q1 results shed some additional light on where it's sourcing FWA subscribers. Verizon added 112,000 consumer FWA subs, for a total of 216,000; and 82,000 business subs, for a total of 217,000, in the period.

C-band assistance

Speaking on Friday's earnings call, Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg said the company's fixed wireless business started to benefit from Verizon's deployment of C-band spectrum in the quarter, which is being backed by the company's "5G Ultra" campaign.

Verizon expects its C-band deployment to reach at least 175 million PoPs by the end of 2022, and to cover 50 million households and businesses with FWA coverage by the end of 2025. With respect to FWA, Verizon is using C-band in urban and suburban markets, millimeter wave spectrum in urban areas, and is largely using LTE to reach rural areas.

Verizon's C-band rollout is "helping to amplify our national broadband strategy and deliver our highest broadband net adds [+229,000 in Q1 2022] in over a decade," Vestberg said. "This is not a one-off. You can see from the current broadband trends that the demand for fixed wireless is extremely high and growing."

"Consumers continue to see the benefit of the speed, reliability and simplicity of installation of the FWA product," added Matt Ellis, Verizon's chief financial officer. "And businesses continue to recognize that FWA can be a primary broadband access solution for all of their needs."

Wireline broadband slowdown

Verizon's solid FWA results gave its overall broadband business a nice boost but also hid some of the weakness the company is seeing on the wireline side.

Verizon added 55,000 residential Fios Internet customers in the quarter, down from a gain of 98,000 in the year-ago quarter, giving it a grand total in the category of 6.59 million. Fios Internet gains in the period were a bit soft, as analysts were expecting Verizon to add 61,000 in the quarter.

With an implied loss of 18,000 DSL subscribers, Verizon added 37,000 residential wireline broadband subs in Q1 2022, compared to a gain of 66,000 in the year-ago quarter. Verizon ended the quarter with 7.14 million residential wireline broadband customers.

Verizon's loss of 78,000 residential Fios video subs – in line with analyst expectations – lowered that total to 3.49 million.

Residential Fios revenues ticked up 1.8%, to $2.91 billion in Q1 2022.

Verizon added 115,000 residential and business passings to its Fios network in Q1 2022, a step toward a plan to add 550,000 new Fios locations for the full year. Vestberg said Verizon would look for additional opportunities to expand the network in its ILEC service areas but didn't alter current guidance.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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