Verizon CEO Proclaims Company on 'Good Path' With 5G Spectrum

Dan Jones
8/1/2019
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Verizon is promising to restart its fixed wireless 5G Home program in the second half of this year, while worries about the millimeter wave spectrum that the operator currently has for deploying mobile 5G are becoming more evident as the operator reported its Q2 2019 numbers.

"We are on track for the 30 [mobile 5G] markets we said we said we are going to do this year," CEO Hans Vestberg said Thursday on the company's earnings call. Verizon currently has mobile 5G up in parts of nine cities in the US.

The company will also relaunch its 5G Home fixed-wireless product using millimeter wave in the second half of 2019, as it receives 5G New Radio-compatible chipsets for customer premises equipment (CPE). Verizon had stopped its 5G Home program at four markets in the US -- Los Angeles, Houston, Indianapolis and Sacramento -- while waiting for 5G NR-compatible chipsets. Verizon originally used its own 5G Technical Forum (5GTF) spec for its initial deployment in 2018, not the 3GPP 5G New Radio (5G NR).

Vestberg says that 2020 will be a buildout year for the fixed 5G technology. "It's going to have significant impact on our revenues" in 2021, the CEO said on the call.

Striking up the 5G bands
Meanwhile, on the mobile 5G side of the house, more analysts are worried about Verizon's mobile 5G, which is currently solely focused on high-band millimeter wave spectrum, which has gigabit download capabilities but doesn't offer the nationwide coverage range of low-band 5G.

AT&T and T-Mobile will use low-band spectrum to switch on nationwide 5G in 2020. With the Sprint/T-Mobile merger getting closer to completion, analysts on the call worried about Verizon's spectrum position for 5G compared to major rivals.

"Ultimately, 5G is going to be on all bands," Vestberg says.

"I'm confident we're on a good path here," Vestberg said of Verizon's spectrum positioning for 5G, talking up the "transformative experience" of the speed of 5G millimeter wave.

The company will launch dynamic spectrum sharing (DSS) for 5G sharing next year, although it won't say exactly when. DSS is a technology that allows carriers to use the same spectrum for both 4G and 5G devices, but requires 5G-ready radios on the network and compatible handsets to really make its impact felt. Verizon's 5G millimeter wave frequency doesn't support 4G LTE, so it can't be used with DSS.

"We're going to turn it on when we see it is a benefit to our customers," Vestberg said of dynamic spectrum sharing on the call.

The operator posted 451,000 retail postpaid (monthly contract) net additions for the quarter, including 420,000 postpaid smartphone net additions, and 245,000 phone net additions. Revenue was $32.1 billion, down 0.4% on the same period last year,

Verizon shares were up 1.24% (69 cents) to $55.90 each Thursday morning following the company's Q2 results.

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

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