A top Verizon executive said that the network operator hasn't yet felt any "material" impacts from the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. At least, not yet.
"We haven't seen a material impact yet," Verizon CFO Matt Ellis said Tuesday at an investor conference. But that could change, he said, "if we see continued disruption."
The comments are noteworthy considering Verizon is a service provider and not an equipment vendor. Already executives from suppliers ranging from Apple to CommScope to Ericsson have been discussing how the spread of COVID-19 might affect sales of their equipment. That's not really a surprise considering China is where much of the world's electronics are made and the virus first showed up in that country. In order to slow the spread of COVID-19, Chinese officials prevented widespread travel in large regions, affecting manufacturing and shipping efforts there.
Indeed, Apple in part sparked a Wall Street selloff in recent days with a COVID-19 revenue warning. The stock market recovered a bit earlier this week, but the Federal Reserve just slashed interest rates in order to prevent an economic fallout from the coronavirus.
Verizon's CFO said the operator has not recorded any change in customer behavior due to COVID-19, nor has it seen any major significant effect on its supply of handsets or network equipment so far in the first quarter. But he acknowledged that supplies of handsets from vendors such as Apple could become sparse as the effect of factory closures trickles into Verizon's business. And he said Verizon could be affected in the coming months if the manufacture of network equipment is slowed.
The global wireless industry has already suffered a significant blow from the outbreak of COVID-19 following the GSMA's decision to cancel its annual MWC trade show in Barcelona, Spain. The event for years has stood as the centerpiece of the industry's annual travel calendar, and it typically draws roughly 100,000 attendees each year.
In other topics, Ellis said that:
- It makes sense for Verizon to charge extra for 5G if the experience is "differentiated" from 4G.
- Verizon is interested in purchasing C-Band spectrum and hopes to begin using C-Band spectrum as early as the end of next year.
- Verizon will expand its 5G Home fixed wireless service starting at the end of this year, when equipment sporting a new Qualcomm chip becomes available.
- Customers in Chicago are selecting a self-install option with 5G Home in greater numbers than Ellis had expected.
- Verizon is halfway through its $10 billion cost-cutting efforts, and expects to target its business segment and supply chain this year to eke out additional savings.