Verizon plays up C-band tune for investors

Verizon investor day
Verizon is committing to an additional $10 billion in capital expenditures over the next three years to deploy C-band.(Verizon screen shot)

For $52.9 billion, C-band had better deliver a lot, and that’s what executives spent much of their time talking about during Verizon’s investor event on Wednesday.

That’s how much Verizon is on the hook for in its acquisition of C-band spectrum, including incentive payments and clearing costs. Verizon needs that mid-band spectrum for 5G more than anyone, but that it bid $45 billion was a head turner. The FCC’s quiet period for the C-band auction lifted at 6 p.m. Eastern time on Wednesday, marking the first time Verizon could explain its winnings. Big Red and rival T-Mobile wasted no time in sharing their C-band stories, to the extent they’re ready and willing to reveal them to the public.

“Today is one of the most significant days in our 20-year history. This was a highly successful auction for Verizon – a once in a lifetime opportunity – and I am thrilled with what we were able to accomplish,” said Verizon Chairman and CEO Hans Vestberg in a statement that pretty much sums up how the executive team presented their C-band narrative: thrilled and ready to roll.

Here are some bullet points Verizon shared about its C-band acquisition:

  • The spectrum Verizon won represents a 120% increase in Verizon’s spectrum holdings in sub-6 gigahertz bands.  
  • Verizon secured a minimum 140 megahertz of total spectrum in the contiguous United States and an average of 161 megahertz nationwide, meaning it will have bandwidth in every available market – 406 markets in all.
  • In the initial 46 markets targeted for clearing by the end of 2021, Verizon secured 60 megahertz of spectrum; that represents more than half of the U.S. population. (AT&T secured 40 megahertz of spectrum in these early clearing markets.)
  • Verizon won up to 200 megahertz in 158 mostly rural markets covering nearly 40 million people, which it’s using to enhance its broadband solution portfolio for rural America.

Plans call for deploying C-band on 7,000 to 8,000 cell sites in 2021. Within about 12 months, it expects to cover 100 million people with C-band.

RELATED: Verizon brags about Q4, but didn’t add as many subs as expected

Importantly, Verizon is committing to an additional $10 billion in capital expenditures over the next three years to deploy C-band as quickly as possible. That spend will be in addition to the company’s current capital expenditure guidance of $17.5 billion to $18.5 billion for 2021, which is expected to be at comparable levels through 2023. 

Here are some other points about Verizon’s 5G rollout:

  • Plans call for 14,000+ additional mmWave cell sites in 2021, for a total of more than 30,000 sites by year end.
  • Over time, it expects 50% of urban traffic will be on mmWave.
  • More than 50% of the 4G and 5G sites will be on Verizon-owned fiber in the next three years, which means it gets the benefits of owner’s economics.