A top Verizon executive said the operator is waiting for new equipment -- scheduled to be released in the second half of 2020 -- before embarking on a wider deployment of its 5G Home fixed wireless Internet service.
The comments are noteworthy considering Verizon first launched its 5G Home service in the fall of 2018. However, it quickly became clear that that initial effort was much more of a market test than an actual, mass-market commercial service.
While the operator is moving deliberately rolling the service out, Verizon's Ronan Dunne reiterated the company's ultimate 5G Home deployment goal of covering roughly 30 million American households with the service. And he confirmed that the company expects to reach that goal in the next five to seven years.
Verizon's initial launch of its 5G Home fixed wireless service in 2018 used the operator's proprietary 5GTF transmission standard and not the official 3GPP-approved 5G NR transmission standard, Dunne explained in comments this week at the Citi 2020 Global TMT West investor conference.
Verizon relaunched its 5G Home service in late 2019 in Chicago with 5G NR equipment and receiver/routers that customers could install themselves. That kind of do-it-yourself installation helps Verizon sidestep the expense of paying a technician to install 5G Home equipment on the inside or outside of a user's home or office.
However, Dunne explained that Verizon's refreshed launch in Chicago isn't part of a wider expansion of 5G Home -- at least, not yet.
He said new, high-powered customer premises equipment (CPE) is scheduled to arrive in the second half of this year, and "that's really the key." He said such CPE will be able to receive 5G signals from transmitters that are much further away, thus significantly expanding Verizon's 5G Home coverage area. He said Verizon's current 5G Home CPE uses a regular smartphone chipset and "as a result the footprint is significantly smaller."
When questioned about Verizon's goal of covering 30 million households -- or roughly 23% of the population of the US -- with 5G Home, Dunne said it would probably take the operator five to seven years to do so. Dunne's comments appear to reiterate Verizon's plans to eventually reach 30 million households with the offering -- that's noteworthy because operator executives appeared to walk back that goal last year. It now appears to be back in the plan.
Dunne said it would take years for Verizon to reach that 30 million deployment goal because the operator is primarily building 5G coverage in dense urban areas that are "low residential." Meaning, Verizon's 5G network today mainly functions in downtown urban areas -- where Verizon sees the bulk of its mobile customer traffic -- instead of the residential and suburban locations where 5G Home makes more sense.
"It's very much a mobility strategy, with a secondary product of Home, rather than us changing our overarching mobility deployment to try to accelerate Home at the expense of the overall 130 million customer base," Dunne said.
Dunne, EVP and group CEO of Verizon's "consumer" business, also addressed other key topics during his appearance at the Citi conference:
- Nationwide 5G. Dunne said Verizon could have followed T-Mobile and AT&T in launching 5G nationwide on lowband spectrum in 2019, but decided not to do so. "All of our spectrum is capable of deploying 5G, so it's not like we can't do what others have been doing in recent weeks," he said. "But on the basis of what we've seen so far, that doesn't provide any differentiation in either speed or coverage relative to Verizon." Both T-Mobile and AT&T have acknowledged that their lowband 5G speeds won't be much faster than 4G speeds. Instead Dunne said Verizon would continue to focus on 5G in its highband, millimeter-wave (mmWave) spectrum, and could also use Dynamic Spectrum Sharing (DSS) later this year to expand 5G into additional spectrum bands.
- 5G average selling prices (ASPs) for phones. Dunne said he expects Verizon to sell mmWave 5G phones for as low as $600 by the end of this year. That would represent a steep discount to the $1,000 price tag that most of its current 5G phones carry.
- 5G uplink speeds. Verizon expects to eventually support 5G uplink speeds of up to 200Mbit/s, which Dunne said would support applications like virtual reality and social media streaming.
- Edge computing. Dunne pointed to Verizon's edge computing agreement with Amazon as a central pillar of the company's overall strategy in the area, and said he expects a wide range of venues, including NFL stadiums specifically, to invest in edge computing. Verizon already has an agreement with the NFL for 5G.
- 5G vs WiFi. Dunne said that widespread mmWave 5G coverage indoors and outdoors could render public WiFi networks obsolete. "In a world of 5G mmWave deployments, we don't see the need for WiFi in the future, because we have a more secure network environment," he said, adding that "our view is that, when fully deployed, there are substantial environments in which public WiFi will be eliminated in favor of mmWave."