Verizon scored its first U.S. 5G private wireless customer, announcing Tuesday plans to equip the new headquarters of BlackRock, the world’s largest asset management firm, in New York City with a dedicated network using its On Site 5G platform.

BlackRock, which had $10.01 trillion of assets under management as of the end of 2021, is setting up a new global HQ at 50 Hudson Yards – a skyscraper in Manhattan – where it’s occupying 15 floors covering 1 million square feet.  The company plans to use Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband for high-speed and low latency connectivity in spaces of the facility such as its trading floor, client-facing conference center, auditorium and meeting rooms.

According to Verizon, using a private 5G network can replace office Wi-Fi, and enables BlackRock to use tools like virtual enhanced training, augmented and virtual reality, better security management and monitoring, real-time edge computing and emerging data-centric technologies.  

“Our vision from the very beginning was to create a world-class, tech-centric experience for our people and our clients,” said Rob Goldstein, COO of BlackRock, in the announcement. “Partnering with Verizon Business to deploy On Site 5G at our new headquarters will help us turn that vision into reality. As we usher in a new world of work, the vibrant and dynamic environment that we are looking to create will give our people the best opportunities to succeed and better serve our clients.”

Verizon last summer debuted On Site 5G, its first commercial private network offering for U.S. customers, focused on large enterprises and the public sector. It also has a private 5G managed service product for international customer that uses Nokia’s Digital Automation Cloud (Verizon marked its first deal for the platform last April, signing up Associated British Ports in the U.K.).

The On Site 5G network setup for U.S. customers is non-standalone 5G mode, using 5G small cells with an LTE packet core and LTE radios. Ericsson supplies the packet core while 5G radios are from Corning.

Using NSA means older devices can still be used at the same time as 5G, without the need to upgrade everything at once. Verizon has said a standalone version of its private network product will come along in the future as the device ecosystem catches up.

Verizon Business CEO Tami Erwin in a statement said 5G Ultra Wideband should be a prerequisite for workplaces that want to be state-of-the-art and future ready.

“BlackRock’s decision to outfit their new headquarters with On Site 5G from Verizon Business puts them at the forefront of data-centric innovation, in full view of clients, guests and partners, who can enjoy the on-premises private network and all its benefits as well,” said Erwin.

Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband network includes both millimeter wave and newly deployed C-band spectrum, but a particular band for the BlackRock deployment hasn’t been specified. When On Site 5G initially launched it was mmWave-only, spectrum which Verizon often touts for high-density and indoor locations that can benefit from the wide channel sizes offering high capacity and fast speeds.  Mid-band C-band spectrum also offers performance enhancements compared to lower bands with better reach than high-band, and is initially being deployed from towers to boost coverage and speed on Verizon’s public macro 5G network.  

5G Edge services from Verizon weren’t part of the BlackRock announcement, but executives for a while have emphasized the view that on-site 5G edge compute and private networks go hand-in-hand. Tuesday’s announcement also called out developments in real-time edge compute as one of the burgeoning technologies that customers can take advantage of with a scalable and customized On Site 5G platform, as well as IoT, AI/ML and AR/VR. Benefits of bringing 5G and cloud computing to the enterprise edge include greater security along with ultra-low latency from the proximity of being on-prem.

 As Verizon aims to capture a multi-billion private wireless market opportunity with enterprises, it’s also tapped cloud players to boost capabilities. Those include a private 5G MEC offering introduced  in August that added Microsoft Azure Stack Edge cloud computing platform and complements the On Site 5G product. Earlier in 2021 Verizon’s relationship with AWS extended to private MEC, integrating the carrier’s private 5G and edge platform with AWS Outposts.

Enthusiasm for private wireless has been further on display this week in announcements coinciding with Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, including Verizon competitor AT&T which is partnering with Microsoft to integrate the carrier’s 5G network with Azure private MEC. That effort, which includes roaming beyond the boundaries of a private network, are still in the proof-of-concept phase.

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