Verizon, T-Mobile dominate 5G conversation, AT&T lags

Moffett Nathanson hosted a 5G event earlier this month, which wasn’t open to media, but Craig Moffett posted a lengthy blog with the top takeaways. There were a few things that seemed particularly interesting.

The first thing that jumped out was that AT&T chose not to participate. This isn’t especially surprising given that AT&T has been largely missing in action from a lot of industry events this year. The carrier often gives the excuse that it’s in the middle of various quiet periods, whether it’s for its earnings reports, the CBRS auction or the upcoming C-Band auction. But T-Mobile and Verizon have these same quiet periods and still tout their 5G prowess.

“We were struck by the degree to which the conversation was framed as a contest between Verizon, with an advantage in millimeter wave spectrum (branded “Ultra-Wideband”) and T-Mobile, with an advantage in mid-band spectrum,” wrote Moffett. “But what was equally striking was that AT&T’s name barely came up. To be fair, AT&T chose not to participate in the Summit, so their own arguments for competitive advantage weren’t heard. But it was hard not to conclude that all participants are beginning to see this as a two-horse race.”

T-Mobile’s massive marketing machine has been promoting its “layer cake” strategy of low-band, mid-band and high-band spectrum. While Verizon boasts about its mmWave and dynamic spectrum sharing strategies.

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Meanwhile, AT&T doesn’t have a strong and cohesive marketing message about its 5G.

“AT&T remains distracted with a litany of challenges in its non-wireless businesses and the constraint of a balance sheet already deployed to diversify away from wireless,” wrote Moffett.

Verizon’s fixed wireless access

Both Verizon and T-Mobile are pouncing on the opportunity in fixed wireless access (FWA). They’re deploying both 4G and 5G technologies for FWA.

Verizon first rolled out its LTE Home Internet service in the summer and has quickly expanded it across the country.

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At the Moffett Nathanson event, Verizon SVP for Technology Strategy, Architecture and Planning Adam Koeppe said that every 5G node Verizon has deployed is capable of providing mobile and fixed service, and with 800 MHz or more of mmWave spectrum, it has ample capacity to serve both mobile and fixed customers.

“Eventually, [Koeppe] expects all of Verizon’s 5G Ultra-Wideband markets outside of their FiOS footprint to become 5G Home markets,” wrote Moffett. Verizon’s goal is to take share from the existing broadband providers, although it obviously won’t compete against its own FiOS business.

Meanwhile, T-Mobile is jumping on the FWA opportunity, as well. And the carrier has specifically targeted its LTE fixed wireless home internet to locations where AT&T is no longer taking new signups for its DSL service.

T-Mobile in the enterprise

Now that T-Mobile has acquired the assets of Sprint, the carrier is placing more emphasis on its enterprise aspirations. Wave7 Research analyst Jeff Moore said recently that T-Mobile has been “under-penetrated” in enterprise but the enterprise business from Sprint will give it a boost.

“Sprint brings enterprises capabilities that T-Mobile didn’t have before," said Moore. "Sprint had backup contracts with the vast majority of the Fortune 500. So I think that explains the initiative we’re seeing.”

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Moffett said that T-Mobile had only a low-single-digit market share in its enterprise and small/medium business a few years ago, and now that’s at about 9%.

T-Mobile’s Neville Ray reportedly said he was “absolutely being in every conversation” with enterprise and public sector accounts, and he sees it as a massive opportunity for T-Mobile.