Verizon’s Vestberg to give CES 2021 virtual kick-off keynote

The audience may be sheltered mostly in place, but the CES 2021 show must go on as a virtual event, and Verizon Chairman and CEO Hans Vestberg will give the kick-off keynote with a focus on 5G.

The CES show, usually restricted to something on the order of, oh, say, 180,000 in-person attendees, will be available virtually to registrants across the globe for the first time, eliminating the need for elbowing your way through a crowded conference hall or city sidewalk. The show takes place Monday, January 11, through Thursday, January 14, 2021.

According to Verizon, Vestberg’s keynote will discuss 5G as the framework of the 21st century, the “essential tech of the present and accelerated tech of the future to move our global community forward, “ such as telemedicine, tele-education and more.

“Verizon’s keynote for CES will demonstrate the vital role that mobility, broadband and cloud or the world’s 21st century infrastructure has played in connecting the world this year and how the accelerated shift to 5G is transforming every industry,” Vestberg said in a statement. “This time in history is redefining the meaning of connectivity for consumers, industries and society as a whole imagination is our only threshold.”

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No word on whether the keynote will delve into how Verizon expects to make a return on investment in 5G. That theme came up during a BofA investor event on Wednesday, where Verizon EVP and Consumer group CEO Ronan Dunne was asked about where the money is going to be made.

It’s not clear whether people are willing to pay just for super-fast speeds, which is something Verizon offers using millimeter wave spectrum but with extremely limited coverage. 

Dunne said 5G as a technology offers lower cost unit-for-unit than its predecessors, so in a world where demand is growing, continually reducing your unit cost of production is a critical factor. That’s the base layer for the economic case for 5G.

Another factor is the currencies for 5G are divisible, where previously, if you offered LTE or 3G, you were essentially offering an “it comes with” feature, be it speed or latency, according to Dunne.

In 5G, you can “slice” the network to offer a private 5G network to an enterprise, and you can separate the individual currencies. So if someone needs lower latency but doesn’t need huge capacity, or if someone requires massive burst capacities, “you can separate those things” and therefore, similar to “mix and match” for consumers, you can tailor solutions for customers, particularly B2B and increasingly, B2B2C. An example of that is gaming, where latency will be a critical component, he said.

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As for the consumer side, “within our plan structures, we still have a premium for Ultra Wideband,” he said. “It had always been our intention that 5G nationwide would come as part of the standard unlimited package. So when we launched our refresh of our Mix and Match just a month or so ago, we described them all as 5G-ready, and it is for 5G nationwide.”

If customers want the Ultra Wideband, “then you go to one of our higher-tiered plans,” or take a $10 bolt-on with the entry-level unlimited plan. “There is a tiering structure within the tariffs itself, and then there’s the opportunity to monetize components of the 5G in the currencies.” For example, it would be possible to create a gaming package for a higher level of experience with better speeds and latency.

5G Home, the fixed wireless access (FWA) product, represents an opportunity to expand Verizon’s reach outside the Fios footprint. Another monetization opportunity is 5G Mobile Edge Compute (MEC), where it can participate for the first time in the cloud space, moving from a metro cloud to an edge cloud.

“Those represent discrete capabilities that weren’t previously available to us within the 4G LTE environment,” he said. “It creates new business opportunities and business model opportunities, many of which I think will be B2B and B2B2C, as well as the plain vanilla B2C monetizing through a tiered pricing structure.”