With Verizon’s promised 5G launch date rapidly approaching, CFO Matthew Ellis confirmed this morning that the carrier is “full steam ahead” on its 5G deployment plans for the second half of 2018, saying that the company’s network is being readied to launch as soon as 5G customer equipment is ready. On a quarterly conference call with investors, Ellis said Verizon already has the necessary assets in place for the launch and is largely focused on developing compelling services to win customers.
Despite jockeying by other carriers in China, South Korea, and the United States, it appears increasingly likely that Verizon will indeed be the world’s first carrier to launch commercial 5G services — albeit with several previously announced caveats. “The launch this year will be on our proprietary standard,” said Ellis, who reaffirmed that Verizon will start in three to five markets and will focus on in-home broadband rather than mobile devices. “Over time, we want to move to standards-based consumer premises equipment.”
Interestingly, Ellis appeared to embrace an earlier Qualcomm prediction that 5G services will necessarily include unlimited data. “When we launch 5G, we’ve spent a good amount of time making sure the network is ready for it,” said Ellis, explaining that the carrier has taken bandwidth-increasing steps that range from densifying its network to upgrading wireless equipment and adding radio spectrum. “As we move into an unlimited world and see data consumption on the increase … the network is performing incredibly well, and we continue to add capacity.”
Since Verizon’s initial foray into 5G will focus on winning residential customers away from wired broadband providers, Ellis also noted that Verizon is working on a novel over-the-top subscription video offering to appeal to 5G consumers. “We’re not looking to launch a me-too product,” he said, “but we expect to have an overall product offering in those three to five markets that will be compelling.” Ellis described 5G as an opportunity to “deepen relationships” with existing Verizon customers using premium services, as well as to win new customers by addressing emerging use cases.
While Verizon appears to be committed to using millimeter wave spectrum for its 5G offering, Ellis repeatedly downplayed the carrier’s need to acquire additional spectrum to support its network, even when it expands into mobile 5G services. “We can launch 5G mobility on our existing assets,” said Ellis. “We are comfortable that we can offer 5G mobility with the assets we have. It will initially be focused on urban areas. We’ll be ready with that as soon as there are handsets.”
Verizon’s continued confidence in 5G contrasts with several recent, non-trivial warning signs from foreign 5G manufacturers and cellular carriers. After being frozen out of the U.S. 5G market by legislators and regulators, 5G equipment maker Huawei last week reversed course and downplayed the technology, claiming that it wouldn’t make a material difference for consumers. Over the last several days, carriers in both South Korea and Taiwan have separately expressed serious concerns over recouping 5G network buildout expenses, noting that it will be challenging to make unlimited plans affordable.