Verizon ‘absolutely’ on track to build 7-8K C-band sites this year: CFO

Verizon, which spent more than $50 billion on C-band spectrum, is banking on that spectrum to amp up its 5G strategy, and, as previously outlined, it’s “absolutely on track” to build 7,000 to 8,000 C-band sites this year, according to CFO Matt Ellis.

Speaking at a Credit Suisse investor conference on Tuesday, Ellis noted that a good number of people will have C-band supported in their handsets, both Android and iPhone devices. Verizon expects more than 20 C-band compatible devices will be offered by the end of 2021.

The carrier won between 150 and 200 megahertz of C-band spectrum in major markets through the FCC auction that concluded earlier this year. In the tranche set for early clearing, Verizon secured 60 megahertz in the initial 46 markets, which is due to be cleared by the end of 2021.

Asked about the prospect of getting C-band spectrum cleared before the FCC-imposed deadlines, Ellis said Verizon has good contacts with the satellite companies that are doing the clearing. “They’ve got a good amount of work to do. We’ve got a good amount of work to do to build out that network,” and CTO Kyle Malady and his team are well on their way to do that, he said.

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Verizon revealed during its investor day that it plans to build 7,000 to 8,000 C-band sites this year, and based on the latest information he’s received from the team — and the updates are on a very frequent basis — “we’re absolutely on track” to get to that number of sites, Ellis said.

The bigger clearing opportunity is with the Phase 2 C-band spectrum, which is due to come available at the end of 2023, because the time period in which it can be accelerated is potentially more significant. “We’re open to seeing if there are ways to do that,” he said, noting that it’s too soon to tell.

The message is similar to what Verizon Chief Network Engineering Officer Ed Chan said during a recent Cowen Equity Research event. Satellite providers are still on track to clear part of the C-band by the end of this year, and Verizon expects to reach 100% of its coverage goal by the first quarter of 2022.  

Currently, Ellis said, there are no supply chain constraints, which is something they’re watching every day. “At this point in time, we still feel good about having the equipment to deliver on our goals” in terms of the network buildout for the remainder of this year. However, it’s something they’re paying close attention to, he added.

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He reiterated Verizon’s plans to cover nearly 15 million homes with its home broadband product but the end of this year and 30 million homes by the end of 2023 using both 4G and 5G.