As Verizon readies to launch its new swath of C-band spectrum for 5G this month, the deployment opens new opportunities to sell fixed wireless service to 2 million businesses.
Verizon’s expected launch date for activating C-band spectrum to its 5G Ultra Wideband service in 46 markets is January 19. Verizon itself couldn’t confirm the network is going live on that date - although multiple executives have said the most recent delay with the FAA was the final agreement and President Joe Biden referenced January 19 as the date for 5G C-band launches from AT&T and Verizon in a statement earlier this month.
Verizon has said it will cover 100 million people (or PoPs – points of presence) with 5G C-band for mobile from day one. With the expansion it will also cover more than 20 million homes with fixed wireless 5G home internet, and more than 2 million businesses with 5G Business Internet across 900 cities.
“This is a massive market that we are unlocking on C-band for businesses,” Verizon Business Chief Revenue Officer Sampath Sowmyanarayan told Fierce Wireless.
Coverage doesn’t translate directly to customers but Verizon in recent months has ramped up its excitement and focus for a fixed wireless play, which the carrier now views as key growth driver. Verizon owns 60 MHz of the first available tranche of C-band spectrum, which promises broader coverage than mmWave and faster speeds for 5G than the low-band flavor already widely deployed.
One key aspect of the FWA business service is that the product is plug and play, according to Sowmyanarayan. Businesses don’t need a technician to come and install or take up hours during the day, say in the afternoon when a coffee shop is busy, for example. Once customers order, a box is shipped overnight.
“You open it, you plug it in and you’re done. It’s that simple,” he said, adding that he’s successfully done it himself at home. “It’s a fundamentally new way of doing broadband nationally.”
For target customers, he emphasized that most either don’t currently have a good internet product or other options. To that end Verizon is introducing new 5G Business Internet pricing and plans later this month coinciding with the launch, which could go as low as $29 per month when service is bundled and credits are factored in.
“[It’s] just an incredible feat to get world class broadband at that price point, and the reason can do this is because it’s on the same network as our large wireless business,” he said, adding that it’s likely the most attractive offer Verizon’s ever had for business customers.
For the carrier’s consumer 5G Home Internet, Verizon just revamped plans that included price cuts and 50% off for customers on to certain unlimited mobile service plan.
Business Internet plans will be unlimited Sowmyanarayan said, adding that they can consume as much as they want and won’t be throttled or limited.
Along with plug and play, another factor top of mind of for small businesses is security.
“The single biggest thing businesses ask us is ‘please provide some security solutions with it’,” Sowmyanarayan said. “And it’s not like 2 out of 10, it’s like 8 out of 10 [businesses].”
He noted FWA plans will have security features built-in and bundled that leverage solutions in Verizon’s large cybersecurity business.
Two buckets of action
In the third quarter Verizon disclosed 55,000 net additions for fixed wireless, a majority of which were business customers, according to Sowmyanarayan.
Verizon ended September with a total of around 150,000 fixed wireless customers. Verizon reports Q4 results on January 25.
So where is Verizon seeing action so far? The revenue chief called out two buckets. First is potentially new use cases such as kiosks, construction sites or Covid testing centers in parking lots - “things that it’s almost impossible to get a connection there.”
The second is for businesses’ primary broadband, where customers aren’t happy with their current cable provider and are looking for reliability and service offered by Verizon’s wireless network.
The two types of use cases are fundamentally different, but broad in terms of the verticals they cover, he said. For the primary internet use case main ones are “retail, professional services and then healthcare as well, is another big vertical for us.”
Retail comes in at the top given the ease of deployment, as customers don’t need to close down stores or have installation happen at night after hours. Professional services are also primed, with Sowmyanarayan citing branch offices for businesses like doctors, dentists, lawyers, or CPAs, for example.
And with more people working from home these days, it provides another avenue for the Business Internet offering.
“We have a very strong work from home use case” that’s unlocked in the last 12 months, he said.
On that front, he said Verizon is seeing two things. One is people who generally work from home where “security is key because you don’t want your traffic to be exploited by others.” Those may want to add additional security services on top of primary broadband. The other is even large companies that are providing broadband to their employees who are working from home.
“They are working with us saying ‘hey you guys have strong nationwide coverage with C-band or even LTE so why don’t you go and provide business internet to our employees’, and in some cases the companies pay for us directly,” he noted.
Earlier this week at least one analyst firm questioned if Verizon and T-Mobile’s aggressiveness on fixed wireless access is warranted. A report from MoffettNathanson pointed out that home broadband users require more network capacity, using scarce network resources, but bring in much less than higher value mobile customers on a per gigabyte basis – more on that view here.
In terms of economics for offering FWA Business Internet, Sowmyanarayan said it’s all about using the same network that runs the world’s largest wireless business.
“We are literally using the same network, the same infrastructure, the same truck rolls, the same spectrum, to add a new business, which is why the economics on this are good. It’s not like we are buying someone else’s services and reselling it where we have a higher cost of goods sold, this one is purely leveraging our existing network, so very attractive margins for us,” he said. “And at the same time when you can give price points as low as … $29 and have good margins it’s good for everyone which is why we’re so focused on making fixed wireless such a big part of our business.”
While the first 100 MHz tranche of C-band will be lit up later this month, Verizon also has additional C-band assets that should be ready in the 2023 timeframe.
Sowmyanarayan said there are around 15-16 million businesses and in the next few years, “our plan is to cover a good portion of them just as we want to do for C-band on the consumer side as well.”