Verizon CEO not worried about AWS private 5G

Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg doesn’t appear to be sweating AWS intro last week of a private 5G offering for enterprise, saying at an investor conference that it won’t compete with the carrier’s own private 5G options.

Asked by analysts Monday during the virtual UBS Global TMT 2021 investor conference if AWS’ new product for dedicated networks could become disruptive or take share from existing carriers, Vestberg said he doesn’t see that happening. He categorized the AWS private 5G as “an add-on” and noted it’s something Verizon could be part of if it wants to.

RELATED: AWS surprises with AWS Private 5G

Verizon sees 5G private wireless offerings as “much stronger when you have licensed spectrum” than CBRS or shared spectrum, Vestberg said.

AWS announced a fully managed private wireless offering supporting CBRS spectrum. In addition to licensed PALs, CBRS is available broadly in the U.S. via general authorized access (GAA) that’s similar to unlicensed use. AWS can also support other spectrum options, including licensed. Read more details about AWS here.  

Verizon has been clear about its own private 5G ambitions, going after a market it’s pegged a roughly $8 billion opportunity over the next few years. It debuted private 5G, dubbed On Site 5G, for enterprise and the public sector over the summer using millimeter wave spectrum.

When AWS surprised with its own private 5G offer some viewed it as potentially creeping in on markets telcos want to capture.

RELATED: Verizon launches private 5G for enterprise, public sector

On Monday Vestberg downplayed that notion, saying AWS is broken out as a cloud offering of sorts, while talking up Verizon’s own relationship with the cloud provider.  

“Ultimately what we are doing is an integrated solution with them, which we think of as far far more interesting for customers than the other solution,” Vestberg said. “But again, it doesn’t exclude that we can do that solution with [AWS] as well, because ultimately somebody needs to have the spectrum” which Verizon also has. He indicated the AWS product provides an option if Verizon wants to bring to customers and highlighted the close relationship the carrier has with Amazon including investing together in research.

“So I feel we have all the optionality with Amazon [with] what we want to do,” he said. “And I think we’re well ahead of anybody else thinking about doing any 5G in the network together with the cloud players.”

AWS executives themselves have made similar comments about competition over private 5G. AWS VP of Engineering Bill Vass told Fierce last week that it sees itself “as a partner, not competitor” for operators regarding the private 5G solution. Other AWS executives noted telcos bring assets like spectrum and network management and operation experience.

RELATED: AWS isn't going to war with telcos on private 5G

Cloud players have already been in Verizon’s sphere on the private wireless side where another key element for the carrier is 5G mobile edge compute (Verizon also notably partnered with AWS for its distinct public 5G MEC product aimed at developers creating applications).

The private 5G MEC involves a dedicated network with cloud software at the edge.

At its March 2021 investor day Verizon laid out a $30 billion addressable MEC opportunity by 2025 – including $10 billion for mobile edge compute (public and private) U.S., a $10 billion global private networks market, along with a $12 billion U.S. enterprise market.

RELATED: 5G MEC gives Verizon an edge with enterprise – CEO

For private 5G MEC Verizon first partnered with Microsoft and in April brought AWS into the fold with AWS Outposts. In August the carrier rolled out a private MEC product with Microsoft Azure. Vestberg called both great opportunities as partnerships in the go-to-market strategy.

Verizon is seeing great uptake, he said, mainly in new areas thanks to automation for manufacturing, logistics, and healthcare. These industries like private network benefits of security, low-latency and high throughput.

Talking about early implementations, Vestberg noted that manufacturing companies see opportunity in factories by leveraging robotics while logistics are interested in managing and controlling large-scale operations and using real-time decisioning. Healthcare, meanwhile, has security and continuity for handling sensitive information top of mind, without interruptions that might be seen with Wi-Fi.

RELATED: Verizon snags private 5G network deal with U.K. port operator

As mentioned Verizon is using mmWave for private networks, which Vestberg said provides a great opportunity for the high-band spectrum adding that “with the bandwidth we have we can deploy this immediately.”

While it was first focused on building the network Vestberg said the ecosystem is now coming along as well, calling out small cells for indoor mmWave along with handsets and devices.

“So this is a very important area for us going into 2022,” he noted.

However it’s not just about mmWave and on the public MEC front with Amazon, Verizon’s chief executive reiterated that deployment of C-band spectrum will amplify the offering.

“We have been really preparing for this moment, both for public and private, going into ‘22 to start now scaling this as the ecosystem is coming out,” Vesberg added. “So we feel good about it, we probably are two years ahead of anybody else in the market, in the world even, and this is a bet we’re doing.”

Verizon is hoping to capture a piece of the multi-billion MEC market opportunity, as it works to leverage its 5G network build for multiple uses. Among other 2022 priorities, Vestberg pointed to Verizon’s  focus on greater 5G adoption, delivering fixed wireless service, monetizing network capacity with MVNO agreements and addressing the prepaid segment with its TracFone acquisition.