Verizon's Vestberg Mum on 2019 Capex but Ebullient on 5G Prospects

Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg didn't reveal the operator's plans for capital expenditures Tuesday -- while heavily hinting that costs wouldn't be blown out by 5G -- but happily talked about the opportunities offered by the new technology.

Last week, AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) broke with tradition and announced early capex expectations for 2019 before the end of the year. On Tuesday afternoon, newish Verizon CEO Vestberg was asked at a UBS conference if 2019 will be the year the company ups its spending on 5G, after pulling back slightly on 2018 expectations. (See AT&T Pegs 2019 Capex Guidance in $23B Range, Despite 5G Push.)

"We're doing everything we planned to do from the beginning... I couldn't even ask my team to go any faster," Vestberg said. (See Verizon Capex to Stay Flat Despite Commercial 5G Launch in 2018.

Verizon now expects 2018 capex in the $16.6 billion to $17 billion range. Vestberg said the 2019 expectations will be out early next year. (See 5G in the USA: Fall Edition.)

Verizon, meanwhile, has claimed the first commercial 5G service in the world with its "5G Home" fixed-wireless, pre-standard offering that launched in four cities in the US this October. Vestberg said that download speeds are "coming to" 800 Mbit/s or 900 Mbit/s, with a guaranteed 300 Mbit/s "minimum." (See Verizon Sets Launch of '5G Home' .)

"We have gained experience that no one in the world has," Vestberg said, in deploying and positioning customer premises equipment (CPEs) and antennas. The CEO is sticking to his knitting though, with a service range of 2,000 feet, non-line of sight baseline expectation. Vestberg is still targeting 30 million homes passed by 5G. (See Verizon CFO Reiterates Plans to Pass 30 Million Homes With 5G.)

"We stick with that, we take it day-by-day," he said.

The CEO also referenced the 28GHz 5G smartphone coming from Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (Korea: SEC) in the first half of 2019. He wouldn't be drawn on whether smartphones -- or something else -- would be the star players in the 5G world. "It could be something else," he opined. (See Verizon Plans to Offer Samsung 5G Phone in H1 2019.)

"I've stopped saying: 'What is the killer app' now?" Vestberg explained. "Because I've missed it for 2G, 3G and 4G."

The CEO has made no secret of his expectations of Internet of Things (IoT) for the next release (Release 16) of the 3GPP 5G New Radio standard. Particularly support for "1 million connected devices per square kilometer," where 4G LTE can support 1,000 devices in that area today. "That comes in Release 16," Vestberg commented. That release is scheduled for December 2019. (See Ericsson's CTO Talks Up 5G Opportunities.)

Low-latency and "mobile edge" computing will change costs with applications like video cameras. Vestberg says 5G at the edge will help reduce costs for devices like video cameras, because the "compute power" can be shared at the edge, rather than built into each individual camera. (See Could 5G Revitalize the Thin Client Market?)

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

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