Verizon CTO Malady: Fiber build-out continues at fast clip

While AT&T is throttling back on its fiber build-outs starting next month, Verizon looks to accelerate its fiber deployments, according to Verizon CTO Kyle Malady.

Speaking at the Wells Fargo Telecom 5G Forum 2019 on Thursday, Malady said Verizon is continuing its quest of adding a thousand route miles of fiber per month across 60 cities.

While Verizon continues to build up its fiber war chest, AT&T Communications CEO John Donovan said earlier this month that his company would take a more incremental approach to deploying fiber starting next month. As part of its 2015 merger with DirecTV, the Federal Communications Commission required that AT&T expand its deployment of its high-speed, fiber-optic broadband internet service to 12.5 million customer locations, as well as to E-rate eligible schools and libraries, by July of this year, which AT&T built out to 14.5 million customer locations.

Verizon saw the fiber writing on the wall two years ago when it signed a $1.1 billion, three-year fiber and hardware purchase agreement with Corning to build a next-generation fiber platform to support 4G LTE, 5G, gigabit backhaul for 5G networks and fiber-to-the premise deployments to residential and business customers. Also in 2017, Verizon also announced a $300 million fiber deal with Prsymian Group to provide additional fiber for its wireline and wireless broadband services.

"We wanted owners' economics," Malady said at yesterday's conference. "We wanted to kind of be masters of our own destiny as we are deploying our wireless network.

"It made sense to us because we're going to be densifying 4G. We saw 5G coming and we see a host of other uses for fiber and that's why we've been down what we call the One Fiber path the last few years."

Verizon's One Fiber project, which has been ongoing for several years, combined all of the telco's fiber needs and planning into one project. It also allows Verizon to plot out its fiber uses cases and purchasing plans across all of its sectors.

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In addition to densification of the wireless network and enabling wireline access, having fiber deep is key for supporting radio access networks (RAN) as well as provisioning an increasing number of small cells.

Verizon plans to have 5G in up to 30 cities this year, which means it's continuing to build out its fiber assets in those areas.

"I feel we're going a lot faster than when we first started," Malady said. "I feel we can go a little bit faster, but as anybody that does this knows, this is frankly construction.

"We're out there working with every town on trying to get permits and scheduling time to put the fiber in the ground, and getting construction crews who are capable of doing it in a good economy. All of those things take time and you just have to keep working them through."

While the labor market is more challenging in a robust economy, Malady said Verizon planned ahead on both the manpower and the amount of fiber that are needed.

"We have great partners," he said. "We locked up a lot of different folks in this space that do construction. They've been partnering with us, and we've been working closely with them.

"The other thing we were worried about was the supply of fiber in the world, so years ago we did deals with Corning and Prysmian. Corning has built out a lot of capacity to support our needs. We saw some of this coming early on and we locked up our vendors and we're in pretty good shape right now."