Verizon CEO details 'wireless fiber' 5G deployment trials

(Fortune Live Media / CC BY-ND 2.0) Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam

Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam offered up some details on his company's ongoing 5G trials and the cost savings they could present in limiting installation work in and around the home.

"I think of 5G initially as, in effect, wireless fiber, which is wireless technology that can provide an enhanced broadband experience that could only previously be delivered with physical fiber to the customer," said McAdam during Verizon's second-quarter earnings call, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript. "With wireless fiber the so called last mile can be a virtual connection, dramatically changing our cost structure."

In addition to saving time and money by creating a so-called "virtual" last-mile connection, McAdam said that the cost to deploy FiOS in the home, which represents about half of the Verizon's cost to deploy, will be reduced along with the similarly costly drop in ONT outside the home. At the same time, McAdam said that he expected the router for fixed 5G wireless service to cost about the same as the router used today for FiOS wireline service.


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"…With the router in the house being probably less than an ONT and router combination today, and losing the wiring in the house and losing the drop, we expect there to be a significant cost reduction," said McAdam.

In addition to saving on residential installation costs, McAdam said Verizon can, at a "very little incremental cost," build 5G network capabilities into the 4G small cells it's currently deploying as part of its network densification efforts.

McAdam also offered up details on what kind of speeds and over what distance Verizon has been able to successfully wireless transmit during the trials. He said Verizon has typically seen speeds above 1 gigabit over a distance of about 500 yards or less. Verizon is also moving into field testing and McAdam said the 5G trials can already cover a 200 home development.

McAdam said that "theoretically" a deployment could look like 1,000 meters or so between cell sites but that in some rural environments it's possible that the propagation characteristics will change based on demand.

Verizon has been aggressive in its early predictions for 5G fixed wireless, eyeing a 2017 commercial launch for the service. But during the earnings call, CFO Fran Shammo was careful to clarify that it would be late 2017 or early 2018 before any commercial 5G launch began to generate revenue.

For more:
- see this Seeking Alpha transcript

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