During the virtual Morgan Stanley European Technology, Media and Telecom Conference today, Verizon CFO Matt Ellis outlined the company’s strategy to become a nationwide provider of broadband access. That strategy involves a dramatic expansion of fixed wireless access to complement the company’s Fios fiber footprint.
By the end of 2025, Verizon intends to make broadband available to close to 70 million locations, including its eastern seaboard Fios footprint. Fixed wireless will serve just over 70% of all those locations, or 50 million, according to Ellis.
“Consumers are going to think about ‘I have my connectivity partner and it works when I’m on the move and it works when I’m at home,’” Ellis outlined. “The ability to go from being just a regional player on broadband as we were a couple of years ago to nationwide and how we market to our customer base in terms of offering those products together is a significant part of the growth opportunity that we discussed up front.”
Verizon is on track to hit 15 million locations by the end of this year, having hit 11.6 million by the end of 3Q21, he reports. The company reported adding 55K fixed wireless subscribers in 3Q21.
Fixed Wireless as a 5G Killer App
Ellis labeled fixed wireless a killer app for 5G, citing the carrier’s strategy to use both mmWave and C-band 5G spectrum for fixed wireless access. Ellis cites 30K mmWave cell sites as up and running, providing more 5G fixed wireless footprint. As they turn up C-Band, the Verizon broadband footprint will expand, courtesy of 5G fixed wireless.
“Is it one of the 5G killer apps? We absolutely believe that to be the case,” Ellis said in response to a question from the moderator about 5G for fixed wireless access.
While 5G fixed wireless is a key component, so too is 4G LTE. By leveraging excess capacity with its 4G LTE spectrum, Verizon is expanding its fixed wireless reach with 4G and 5G. In many cases, subscribers will gain access to both variants from the same CPE.
Verizon began shipping 4G fixed wireless CPE last summer with C-band capability baked in. As C-band sites get turned up, those subscribers will be able to migrate to a faster 5G C-band enabled experience.
On the Fios front, Ellis sees much momentum as well. He reports 400K net Fios adds over the past four quarters. The company is also adding about 400K new Fios addressable locations each year, through new housing formation and in a footprint copper replacement strategy. Ellis expects this momentum to continue for the next two to three years.
Verizon Plans for Broadband Infrastructure Funding
Ellis also sees broadband infrastructure funding flowing from the recently passed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 as a possible source to fuel even more Verizon broadband network investment.
“Absolutely we have the opportunity to look at ways of using those funds to accelerate some of the work we’re doing,” Ellis said. “We’ll do that in a thoughtful fashion, find the right opportunities to do that.”
Given Verizon’s reliance on fixed wireless, Ellis was quick to lobby that the funding should be technology neutral.
“I think it’s really important that the bill doesn’t favor particular technologies,” Ellis said. “Let’s let the marketplace determine the right solution in each geographic location. Does it have to be fiber into each individual premise, or is it fiber to the cell site and then fixed wireless access [that] provides a compelling product and a great price point for those customers as well.”