Verizon’s Dunne: COVID-19 underscores 5G Home opportunity

Verizon sees some opportunities to make changes as a result of the COVID-19 lockdowns, including accelerating its mix of online and in-app interactions with customers – and getting ahead of its 5G buildout plans.

“It’s very much our intention to keep that momentum during the course of the year,” said Ronan Dunne, EVP and Verizon Consumer Group CEO during a Bernstein investor conference on Thursday. In some areas, like stadiums, it’s easier to build when events are not happening.

"We’re trying to get ahead in our rollout plan and as customer demand comes back, we will be there ready and available,” he said.

Basically during this time in the pandemic, it’s “business-as-usual strategy with an acceleration of some elements.”

5G Home update

When it comes to the 5G Home product, “that opportunity is even bigger than I would have told you three months ago,” he said.

Verizon offers its mobility-focused 5G Ultra Wideband service in parts of 35 markets and its 5G Home fixed internet service in parts of five markets, with the ultimate goal of reaching 30 million homes with the Home product.

One of the reasons Verizon has been slower to deploy its 5G Home and office service is it was waiting for the standardized 5G New Radio (NR), which is now deployed in Chicago and getting deployed elsewhere. It also is waiting for the high-powered CPE, which is due to arrive in an end-of-fall timeline.

He also mentioned the internal versus external antennas as drivers.

In the economics of the offering, “the amount of self-install and the amount of internal antenna versus external antenna are also key drivers,” he said. The company has improved its ability to bring more of the CPE fully indoors rather than using some of the hybrid solutions out there that it was using, where it had “inside coupled with outside and just meshed across the window sills.”

The hardware and software are getting better, and “the ability to pick the signal is getting better and the CPE will be enhanced in late fall, as we get the high-powered CPE.”

“If I had the opportunity to sell 5G Home in the last 12 weeks, I would have made out like a bandit,” he said.

RELATED: Verizon anticipates indoor 5G without Wi-Fi

He also explained why Verizon believes its 5G Home has a shot at competing with entrenched cable that's already present in consumers’ homes.

One big reason is something people working from home are seeing front and center during the pandemic: They're sharing capacity with their neighbors in the cable environment – and it’s not a good experience, especially for video calls and conferencing. 

Because Verizon has so much spectrum and capacity, that kind of experience isn't going to happen with 5G Home. In addition, because it’s wireless, people can try before they buy and compare it to the existing service.

"Taking out one of your home utilities is a big decision,” he said, but if you can bring 5G Home in and run it side by side and see the comparison, “it gives you that confidence to buy… I think we can do really well in this space.”

RELATED: Verizon tweaks 5G Home, puts 5G repeaters on road map

Mid-band opportunities

He couldn’t say anything about the CBRS 3.5 GHz auction that’s coming up in July due to the quiet period that precedes auctions, but acknowledged the majority of the satellite companies have confirmed their participation in clearing the C-Band, making way for the auction to proceed as planned this winter and for the first batch to be cleared by the end of 2021. (Ahead of the FCC's May 29 deadline, Intelsat earlier this week announced its intention to accelerate clearing of the band.)

“We certainly have the opportunity in the way we build the network and in the way touch the network to prepare significantly in advance for any opportunities we might have, so therefore our ability to match the timing of the availability of cleared spectrum, if we were to acquire any, in the C-band or any other spectrum, and our ability to rapidly deploy that within our network are pretty tightly aligned and we can certainly do that within the overall financial guidance and envelope that we have from a capital point of view,” he said.