Verizon’s Vestberg gives shoutout for StraightPath mmWave acquisition

Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg ended a conversation that was largely focused on 5G with an observation about StraightPath, the company it acquired in May 2017 for its millimeter wave licenses.

“I think one of the most brilliant acquisitions was Straight Path,” he said during a UBS investor conference Q&A session when asked to discuss the company’s M&A strategy. He reiterated that strategy does not include linear TV, although content is still going to be important, and Verizon is playing in that arena, including with Oath.

But network-wise, the $3 billion Straight Path acquisition gave Verizon access to a boatload of millimeter wave spectrum, both at 28 GHz and 39 GHz, although Vestberg did not reveal whether the 5G Samsung smartphone that Verizon expects to launch early next will support the 39 GHz band. The 28 GHz spectrum has been a popular band for 5G trials and service not only for Verizon but other operators as well, although Verizon does hold the lion’s share of 28 GHz, which is part of the reason there isn’t much of the band left to be auctioned off.

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Vestberg, a former Ericsson CEO, was named CEO of Verizon in June after having served as CTO at the operator. Last month, he unveiled a wide-ranging reorganization that essentially splits the company between consumer and enterprise sales efforts. He also put Kyle Malady in charge of building out Verizon’s 5G network.

The difference with 5G compared with previous technologies is multiple use cases, and Verizon’s 5G Home is one of those use cases, Vestberg said Tuesday. It launched that service on Oct. 1 in four cities to deliver broadband to the home; Verizon is guaranteeing a minimum 300 megabits per second, although it has seen instances where it’s delivering up to 900 Mbps.

“It’s a totally different way of doing broadband,” meaning instead of having a cord into the house, it’s using wireless waves, but the experience is the same in the house, he said. “I think that’s a big opportunity for us.”

Verizon has been working in the space for about one-and-a-half years, starting with the technology, then moving to installations and now into the home with customers, which gives it a big advantage in gaining experience in a way that no one else in the world has been able to do, he said. The same radio base station that delivers 5G mobility will deliver 5G Home in the same area, he added.

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“We are just at the beginning of it,” he said, noting that Verizon rolled out the service in the first four markets using a proprietary technology and as soon as the 5G NR global standard equipment is available, it will deploy that. It’s not only for fixed access but for mobility at the same time, he said.

Verizon already has learned a lot and it’s cutting the lead times for installations in the home quite dramatically. “Things like that you learn constantly when you’re out with customers every day,” such as where to place antennas, he said. “We’re encouraged by what we’re seeing.”