Verizon doesn’t think fiber is a must have for SMB customers

Verizon has spent the last several years building fiber rings in more than 60 markets outside of its traditional ILEC footprint, but that doesn’t mean it’s planning to use those assets to run fiber directly to every customer. CFO Matt Ellis said during an investor conference it’s currently using its fiber backbone to serve up fixed wireless access (FWA) to business customers and it doesn’t have plans to upgrade them to wired lines anytime soon.

Speaking at a J.P. Morgan event, Ellis explained fixed wireless allows it to serve new use cases that require a more mobile option, for instance enabling connectivity for food trucks and construction sites. But it’s also suitable for long-term stationary applications too, he said. The benefit there is how quickly it can be rolled out to deliver service compared to waiting for a fiber strand to be run to a building – which he noted could require digging up a business customer’s parking lot.

Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg previously hinted the operator was looking at its One Fiber expansion project as an opportunity for it to serve more enterprises. Addressing how One Fiber plays into its FWA ambitions, Ellis said “As we’re providing that fixed wireless service, that cell site that’s providing that service is running off our own backhaul, which creates quality of service benefits for us and also cost benefits.”

While some cable operators have raised questions about the long-term viability of FWA, Ellis didn’t appear concerned. “Do I see us ultimately replacing the fixed wireless in those SMB customers with fiber? No,” he said. “We think that fixed wireless is a very good product and we don’t need to run fiber into all those locations to be the broadband provider of choice for our business customers.”

During Q1, the business segment accounted for around 40%, or 82,000, of Verizon’s 194,000 fixed wireless net additions overall. The operator also added 5,000 Fios business customers and lost 2,000 other business wireline customers. The business segment ended Q1 with 361,000 Fios Internet customers, 217,000 FWA and 475,000 other wireline broadband customers.

Verizon has said it’s aiming to use its C-Band spectrum to expand FWA coverage to 50 million households and 14 million businesses by the end of 2025.