Verizon CFO talks fixed wireless; doesn’t mention Bluejeans shutdown

In the height of the Covid pandemic in 2020, Verizon purchased the Bluejeans web collaboration platform for $400 million. But now, Verizon is shutting down its Bluejeans business.

Bluejeans was never able to gain the kind of traction that apps like Zoom and Google Meet were able to garner. 9to5 Google wrote yesterday that Bluejeans was the “Google Meet competitor you’ve never heard of.”

Even Verizon executives often didn’t use the platform on calls with media, opting instead to use more popular platforms such as Teams.

In an interview today at an Oppenheimer investor conference Verizon CFO Tony Skiadas was not asked about Bluejeans, and he did not bring up the topic himself. He did, however, repeat Verizon’s top talking points of late in light of the company’s modest mobile subscriber growth the past few quarters.

He said, “The focus on the team is really to grow wireless service revenue. Everybody’s laser focused on that.”

In March, Verizon named Sowmyanarayan Sampath as head of its Verizon Consumer Group, and he’s moved quickly to change the structure of the business from a national model to a regional model. “This is a model we know from year’s past and know how to execute well,” said Skiadas today. “We’ll also be able to do offers more local."

Fixed wireless access

Skiadas talked enthusiastically today about Verizon’s fixed wireless access (FWA) business. He said, “Fixed wireless access has had great results. From starting a business from scratch, we’re already at 2.3 million subscribers. We’re at a good pace at roughly 400,000 [per year], and we continue to grow the base. We’re well on our way to the target we put out there for 4-5 million.”

He said when Verizon gets access to its second tranche of C-band spectrum — sometime before the end of this year — it will continue to turn on more markets where it sees demand for both mobility and FWA. “We’ve had great progress when we have bundled customers in the early markets,” said Skiadas. “When you look at retention and churn, the churn statistics are great when we have a bundled customer on C-band.”

The company feels confident enough that it is raising the price of its FWA Home Internet from $25 per month to $35 per month, for those on autopay. The price increase will go into effect later this summer.

Skiadas said, “We felt it was the right time to take a look at pricing and remove what I’ll call the introductory part of the pricing and move to something that reflects the value of what folks are getting. Obviously, we’re going to continue to monitor the market conditions and see where things go.”

Who’s winning the cable wars?

Skiadas brags about 2.5 million FWA subscribers and a pathway to 4-5 million, which cuts into the traditional broadband business of cable companies. 

But that FWA sub growth could be contrasted against the gains that Comcast and Charter have made in gaining wireless subscribers. Comcast has now accumulated 5.98 million wireless subs, and Charter counts 6.6 million wireless subs. 

Asked about the wireless competition from cable, Skiadas said, “I guess they’ve been successful with free lines. We’ll see how that goes in a year two when the customer gets the surprise.” He was referring to the inevitable end of wireless promotions when Comcast and Charter will probably start charging extra for mobile service.

In terms of Verizon’s wholesale relationship with Comcast, Charter and Cox, where it leases its wireless network to them, Skiadas said, “We’re very happy with the relationship we have with the cable companies. It’s consistent with our strategy to monetize the network.”