Verizon’s Haberman answers 6 questions about 5G Home

Verizon said Clayton and Emily Harris are the first customers for its 5G Home service. (Verizon)

Verizon began activating customers on its new 5G Home service this week. The service represents Verizon’s first foray into 5G technology and is being used by the carrier to challenge wired internet service providers like Comcast and Charter.

Verizon’s 5G Home service uses the carrier’s 28 GHz spectrum and 5GTF standard to wirelessly beam an internet connection into a customer’s home or office. Verizon is touting the launch as the world’s first 5G service, though not surprisingly critics took aim at its claims: “I have to say congrats to Verizon on delivering its 5G* Home Service today. It doesn’t use global industry standards or cover whole blocks and will never scale, … but hey, it is first, right?” tweeted T-Mobile CEO John Legere.

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Although Verizon has been discussing its 5G plans for years, and last month formally announced its 5G Home pricing and launch plans, a few details about the service haven’t been disclosed.

FierceWireless asked Mike Haberman, Verizon’s VP of network engineering, for details on a few key remaining issues with 5G Home:

1. Advertised speeds for 5G Home are 300 Mbps and peak speeds of almost 1 Gbps. Why are those speeds lower than what some others have discussed for 5G?

“We’re being conservative,” Haberman said, explaining that Verizon continues to advertise that its LTE network provides 5 to 12 Mbps despite the fact that it routinely records much faster speeds on the offering.

Haberman also said that 5G Home will eventually provide speeds much faster than 1 Gbps.

The catch, he said, is that the connection between the router for the service and the modem can only support speeds up to around 1 Gbps. He said that, as Verizon deploys additional network technologies and equipment, speeds will increase, though he provided no timeline for those upgrades.

2. Verizon has hinted that customers may be able to install their own 5G Home equipment. Why isn’t that available?

“We’re doing it [this way] because this is the first implementation,” Haberman said. “There’s no reason down the line that can’t happen.”

Haberman explained that Verizon is conducting “white glove” installations currently to make sure that customers have a good experience with the service. He said those installations include connecting not only Verizon’s own equipment but also customers’ devices like tablets and security cameras. He said Verizon technicians would even make sure customers’ mesh Wi-Fi networks were up and running and everything was working smoothly.

Verizon’s 5G Home service requires a 5G modem from Samsung to be installed on the outside or the inside of a home, depending on that customer’s distance from Verizon’s transmitter, as well as a router from suppliers Inseego and WNC.

Haberman said that Verizon could well move to a self-installation scenario for its 5G Home service, where customers install the equipment themselves, thus saving Verizon the cost of sending technicians out for installations. But Haberman declined to say whether or when Verizon might move to a self-install model.

3. What are 5G Home’s upload speeds?

Haberman said Verizon’s 5G Home service uses TDD technology in 28 GHz and allocates roughly a fifth of the capacity available to uploads, meaning upload speeds on Verizon’s 5G Home service should be around a fifth of the download speeds.

4. How big is Verizon’s 5G Home deployment?

Verizon is rolling out its 5G Home service to select locations in four cities: Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles and Sacramento. Haberman said that the carrier operates “hundreds” of nodes in each of those cities, but he declined to provide specifics. He also declined to say how many potential customers are covered by each of those nodes.

For what it’s worth, the Wall Street analysts at Deutsche Bank Research noted that Verizon is targeting a total addressable market of $60 billion with 5G Home. And Verizon itself has said that it expects to eventually target a total of 30 million households with its 5G Home service, a goal that Wall Street analysts don’t expect the company to reach until 2024.

Macquarie Research has said that Verizon could gain up to 1 million customers in a year with 5G Home.

5. Verizon has been building out a fiber network in locations around the country to support its wireless efforts. Is Verizon-owned fiber a prerequisite for Verizon’s 5G Home service?

Haberman said that fiber is certainly required to support the blazing-fast speeds of 5G, but that Verizon could use either its own fiber or dark fiber from another provider.

Importantly, Haberman said that three of Verizon’s four initial 5G Home markets use the company’s own fiber, but that the fourth market relies on fiber from another provider. Haberman declined to disclose which market uses fiber from another provider or which provider that is.

6. When and how will Verizon swap out its 5GTF equipment with 3GPP equipment?

Verizon developed its 5GTF standard in order to deploy its 5G Home service more quickly. But the company said that it will eventually replace its 5GTF equipment with equipment that adheres to the 3GPP’s 5G standard. However, Haberman declined to say when that would happen and how exactly Verizon would go about doing that work.

He said that Verizon would begin to sell customer premises equipment using the 3GPP standard as soon as that equipment becomes available and Verizon is satisfied with its performance. He also said that Verizon’s network equipment suppliers would need to change or upgrade their network gear to the 3GPP standard. He said that some vendors would only need to issue a software upgrade to adhere to the 3GPP standard, but he said other vendors might need to replace some physical components.

Overall, though, he described the work as relatively simple. “I would tell you that it’s not hard at all,” he said, noting the hard part is getting the necessary permits to install the equipment in the first place. “The upgrade process is pretty straightforward.”