Verizon plans to offer a type of “white glove” experience to its first fixed 5G wireless customers in the company’s four launch markets of Indianapolis; Sacramento and Los Angeles, California; and Houston.
The operator has said it will launch 5G service in those markets sometime this year. Those initial markets will be using the company’s proprietary pre-standard 5G equipment. It plans to quickly move to standards-based 5G New Radio (NR) technology in 2019 as soon as manufacturers can make customer premises equipment (CPE) available.
Speaking today during the Bank of America Merrill Lynch investor conference, Verizon CFO Matt Ellis said that the company is going to work closely with its 5G customers in those four markets to refine its customer experience and “stress test” the network in a real-world environment. Ellis added that because Verizon will initially launch using its own pre-standard gear, there won’t be a large volume of equipment. However, he also insisted that doing this early buildout using the pre-standard gear will give the company more experience with 5G than its competitors. “No one else will have that same level of experience,” Ellis said.
It’s not clear exactly what the “white glove” experience will entail. However, Verizon has said that its initial 5G launch will be a fixed wireless deployment and include installing a CPE. Ellis also said that, in some cases, homes may require an external antenna as well.
Ellis explained that the company is spending a significant portion of its $17 billion in capital expenditures this year on 5G. And not all of that is just happening in the four 5G launch markets. “There is also 5G-related spending in other markets,” he said, adding that a lot of the company’s fiber build is part of its 5G preparation. “A lot of what we are doing with fiber isn’t just densification of the 4G network but also preparing for 5G.”
Verizon has said that its upcoming 5G fixed wireless launch in those four markets will include residential broadband and content. The company recently partnered with YouTubeTV and Apple TV for content. This type of offering sets Verizon up to complete with cable companies like Comcast and Charter. Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg has described the company’s fixed 5G offering as a cable service without the wire.
Verizon so far is the only major U.S. operator planning to launch a residential fixed 5G service. AT&T conducted a lot of fixed 5G wireless trials around the country but the operator has said that it doesn’t think there’s a business case for residential fixed 5G service. Instead, AT&T is planning to launch mobile 5G service in 12 markets by year-end. The fixed 5G wireless service does not support the handoff of a wireless signal between base stations, while the mobile 5G service does allow for a device to move between base stations without dropping a signal.