Verizon and AT&T often trade barbs about the performance of their networks and the pricing of their services, so perhaps it’s no surprise that the two mobile operators have very different views on fixed 5G wireless.
During the company’s earnings call with investors yesterday, AT&T CFO John Stephens was lukewarm on the technology. “Our tests show it can be done. We can do it. But we are not as excited about the business case for us as it might be for some.”
Stephens added that what makes the business case tricky is the backhaul part of the equation. For AT&T, which has an extensive fiber network, he said it might be just as effective to give customers fiber to the home rather than outfit them with fixed 5G.
AT&T has said it will launch standardized mobile 5G service in 12 markets this year. But the company also has said it will launch 5G with a puck-shaped mobile hotspot. In 2019 the company expects 5G tablets and smartphones to be available.
Verizon, however, is moving ahead with its own pre-standard fixed 5G service and plans to launch the service in three to five markets this year. Speaking at the Brooklyn 5G Summit 2018 today, Bill Stone, vice president of networking at Verizon, described this offering as a residential broadband play that is just the “tip of the iceberg.” Stone said Verizon decided to offer a fixed 5G service because it was the easiest to deploy quickly. “We view fixed wireless as a good opportunity,” he said, adding that the company found that during trials it could provide gigabit services to users in excess of 2,000 feet from the node.
But he also said that mobile 5G is a priority for the company. “It’s about a heck of a lot more than fixed.”
While it’s important for Verizon to be a first-mover with this next-generation of technology, Stone said that being the first-mover also means that you often launch the technology without having a lot of concrete business case. He reflected on his own career history of launching other generations of wireless technology including CDMA, cellular digital packet data (CDPD), and even LTE. “In all cases, we found that by getting out in front and exploiting the technology … it worked to our advantage every time.”
Sprint’s First 5G Market
AT&T and Verizon aren’t the only two U.S. operators preparing to launch 5G. Sprint has said that it will launch a nationwide 5G mobile network in the first half of 2019 using the company’s 2.5 GHZ spectrum. The company revealed this week that Kansas City, Kansas, home to Sprint’s headquarters, will be one of the first nine markets to have 5G. The other markets Sprint has named are Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, and Washington, DC.
Update: This article was updated to reflect that Verizon can provide gigabit services to users in excess of 2,000 feet, not 200 feet.