Verizon CEO: 5G trials going ‘extremely well,’ with expectations to deliver 1 Gbps

Verizon is in the best spectrum position of anyone to deliver on the promise of 5G and the Fourth Industrial Revolution, according to Verizon CEO and Chairman Lowell McAdam, who made a rare appearance during today’s fourth-quarter earnings call.

Verizon last year conducted trials in 11 markets and expects to commercially launch a fixed wireless service in three to five markets this year; the only market to be announced so far is Sacramento, California. Verizon has estimated the market opportunity for initial 5G residential broadband services to be 30 million households nationwide.

“The trials are continuing to go extremely well for us,” McAdam said, noting that Verizon has more than 200 sites up and online. “We continue to learn every day,” managing distances of up to about 2,000 feet and peak throughputs of 10 gigabits, all of which are much better than expected using millimeter wave spectrum.

“We’re very comfortable with being able to deliver a Gigabit of service to everyone that we’re providing service to,” he said, noting the first global 5G standard was approved in December. “We’ve announced with Qualcomm bringing chips online that will fit that standard in the second half of ’18, so we will be deploying with our proprietary standard but also very, very quickly in ’18 coming on with the global standard as well.”

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Verizon executives previously have said they do not expect a huge overhaul in order to get its pre-standard equipment up to par with the standards that are approved through 3GPP; rival AT&T has been a stickler about making sure whatever it deploys meets industry standards from the get-go.

There was a lot of discussion at CES about devices and Verizon believes that there will be 5G mobile devices in late 2018 and then more available going into 2019, he said.

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He also talked about how Verizon is in a good position with its spectrum and the FCC just last week approved (PDF) Verizon’s acquisition of Straight Path, which will provide it with 735 licenses in the 39 GHz band, 133 licenses in the 28 GHz, 29 GHz and 31 GHz bands, as well as nine common carrier point-to-point microwave licenses and one nonexclusive nationwide license in the 3650-3700 MHz band.

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McAdam stayed clear of revealing the other markets Verizon will launch this year but hinted the news may be in the offing. “I’m personally out meeting with some of the mayors talking about what we’re going to be providing and the reception has been extremely positive,” he said, adding that it takes a while to work through city governments. “I wouldn’t suspect it will be too much longer before you’ll see the other cities announced and then we can be more specific on POPs.”

McAdam said he doesn’t usually make an appearance on earnings calls but it was important for him to be on the call today to clarify things around tax reform but also to discuss 5G. “I’ve been in this industry for 30 years and I think we’re breaking into one of the most exciting times that I’ve seen in my career,” he said. “We’re on the cusp of what I call the Fourth Industrial Revolution as we see smart city applications, the changes in medical, the changes in transportation and education—all of those are fueled by a strong telecommunications infrastructure so I think this is a great time for our industry overall. Obviously, I think Verizon is in the best position to deliver that future.”