Verizon’s CFO Matt Ellis spoke at the Morgan Stanley European Technology, Media & Telecom Conference this week where he talked a bit about the carrier’s C-band deployments in the U.S.
In addition to deploying C-band in its initial 46 markets, Verizon is in the process of working with satellite operators to clear another 30 C-band markets this year as part of the first tranche of its spectrum winnings.
Verizon spent more than $45 billion at the C-band auction in 2021. Its C-band spectrum currently covers 160 million PoPs and Ellis said, “It will be at 200 million in the first quarter next year. The team has done a phenomenal job bringing in a huge amount of capacity.”
There’s a second tranche of C-band that is expected to be cleared in December 2023.
Asked if Verizon will ultimately put C-band on all of its towers, Ellis said, “You should expect us to have C-band pretty much everywhere we have the 4G network today. And so obviously, a lot of the initial deployment is on existing towers. And if we need to add in between, we can. We have a large number of sites that we can just go to put C-band radios up but already have backhaul and power in place.”
In order to deploy all this new spectrum, Verizon has said it’s going to spend an incremental $10 billion over three years — 2021 through 2023.
“The way that’s shaping up, we spent just over $2 billion last year, which was really a 9- to 10-month window of work rather than a full year,” said Ellis. “This year, we said it would be $5 billion to $6 billion. We’re certainly well on track to be well within that range. So that leaves kind of, call it, $2 billion to $3 billion number next year to finish out.”
He said Verizon will “get a nice step down in capex next year” as a result of the $5 billion to $6 billion spend this year. And there will be another step down in capex in 2024 versus 2023. After that, Verizon expects a “business-as-usual” capex spend of about $17 billion per year.
In addition to its mobile business, 2022 has been a year focused on fixed wireless access (FWA) for Verizon.
Ellis said the company’s FWA subs have grown sequentially throughout the year. It reported 194,000 net adds in Q1; 256,000 in Q2; and 342,000 in 3Q. The adds are split across Verizon’s consumer and business groups.
He said on the consumer side, it’s garnering customers who were not happy with their previous broadband service. And he noted that Verizon is used to marketing and servicing home broadband accounts because of its experience with its Fios fiber offering.
And similarly on the business side, a “vast majority” of the new FWA connections are primary lines, coming from subscribers “that are seeing the value of the product versus what they were using previously.”
During Q3 2022 Verizon passed the 1 million subscriber number for its FWA offering. It still expects to have 4 million to 5 million customers by 2025.
T-Mobile has talked about how it offers FWA on a “sector-by-sector” basis.
Verizon does some of that as well, but it explains its FWA differently. Ellis indicated it can do FWA on LTE, mmWave and C-band.
“There are certain areas where our LTE network has capacity, and we can offer that,” he said. “So that’s a location-by-location decision, where we think the LTE network has capacity that we can monetize it with FWA in addition to mobility.” And Verizon also has mmWave spectrum in dense urban areas, which may be ripe for FWA.
Currently, Verizon’s 5G FWA is only available in the markets where it has turned on C-band.
Verizon also sees FWA as a sales opportunity for mobility and vice versa. More than two-thirds of its consumer FWA broadband customers are already wireless customers.
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