After it closes on Straight Path, Verizon will have spent more than $4 billion in the past couple of years on acquisitions that boost its millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum, which is expected to play a big role in 5G. Now, the carrier is trialing mmWave technology in the U.S.
Of the 11 markets in which Verizon plans to test 5G fixed wireless, the carrier has set up eight of those markets, so far, and is already conducting tests.
Speaking at Oppenheimer’s 20th Annual Technology, Internet & Communications Conference today, Ronan Dunne, EVP and group president of Verizon Wireless, indicated the trials are looking at very basic issues with mmWave technology.
“What we’re looking for in the trials is just the practical propagation experiences, the experience of self-install,” said Dunne, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript. “Do you need antenna outside rather than just on the window on the inside; just to see what the actual experience in the wild is. Later in the year, we’ll have a lot more inside.”
Verizon is working with friendly customers who are using its antennas. “Certainly, the download speeds are very good,” said Dunne. “What we need to understand is all of the conditions: the leaves on the trees you know, your UPS van pulls up outside and blocks a line of sight to some of the millimeter wave spectrum. Those are the sort of things that we’re looking at.”
The mmWave technology has been criticized for its short propagation range and line-of-sight paths.
And Dunne acknowledged that, saying “Yeah, I think some of the propagation has probably been better.”
In its field tests, Verizon is looking at “not what’s the maximum throughput, but it’s what’s the minimum throughput in certain experiences,” he said. The company is looking at propagation in certain weather conditions such as snow and heavy rain. And it’s helping people to self-install and find the optimum window and location inside.
“So a lot of it is very kind of what I would describe as low engineering tech practicalities,” said Dunne.
Those practicalities could make all the difference between profit and loss with 5G. If Verizon and other carriers that are banking on mmWave have to roll a truck to every home and business that buys 5G, that will be costly. “Whereas if it’s a very natural self-install then it gives us a very significant opportunity of leveraging the investment in fiber that we’re doing at the moment,” said Dunne. “The small cell rollout that we’re doing already, it really gives us a very natural run into the 5G space.”
Verizon picked up a lot of 28 GHz mmWave band spectrum in its $1.8 billion acquisition of XO Communications in 2016.
This year it won the bidding war for Straight Path, offering $3.1 billion. The deal, which is expected to close in the first quarter of 2018, includes 868 licenses in the 28 GHz and 39 GHz bands.