What’s going on with Verizon’s One Fiber project?

Verizon’s messaging around its One Fiber build has been – to put it kindly – a bit messy. Back in June 2021, President of Global Networks and Technology Kyle Malady said the operator was 80% finished with core construction on its new sprawling backbone. Then in November 2021, Verizon exec Ed Chan said it expected to be two-thirds done with its One Fiber build by then end of that year. At an investor conference last week – about a year and a half after his initial comment – Malady provided the same 80% progress figure. So, what gives?

For background, Verizon’s One Fiber Build dates back to 2016, when the operator decided it would rather own than lease the fiber running to its cell towers. The logic was that the same transport network could be used for wireless towers, residential broadband and business services. It initially tackled a build in Boston and outlined plans to run fiber to more than 60 markets outside of its ILEC footprint.

According to an operator representative, investors can rest assured the project hasn’t been idling at a standstill. Instead, the representative indicated Malady’s seemingly conflicting statements were the result of a messaging mix up. Even though it was not made clear in a transcript of his 2021 remarks, at the time Malady was referring to progress in several specific markets whereas last week he was speaking to progress on the overall build, the representative said.

“In 2023, the entire One Fiber initiative is 80% complete with many markets already 100% built,” the representative told Fierce. “So no, we have not slowed down and there were no major delays in construction or the supply chain impacting that build.”

But then there’s also the question of how many One Fiber markets there are. Verizon has said from the start back in 2016 that it plans to reach 60-plus markets with One Fiber. But at an investor conference last month, CEO Hans Vestberg said something interesting in response to a question about its capital spending outlook for the coming years.

“We're almost in 80 markets with our fiber,” he said, noting its fiber build is coming to an end.

It’s possible Vestberg’s comment was a simple error. Asked for clarification, the Verizon representative said only “We have 60+ OneFiber markets.”

Regardless of the number of markets, progress toward completion of the build is expected to continue apace throughout this year. In November, CFO Matt Ellis said it has already completed core metro construction work in more than half of its target markets and expects to have “substantially all” of those builds done by the end of the year. After that, fiber deployments will be “success-based,” to meet demand where needed, he said.