Verizon’s Koeppe on 5G roadmap and what Verizon brings to AWS partnership

Talking about Verizon’s 5G roadmap this week, Adam Koeppe, SVP of Technology, Strategy Architecture and Planning, cited DSS benefits beyond nationwide coverage and discussed what Verizon brings to its mobile edge compute partnership with AWS. 

So far Verizon has turned on eight 5G MEC locations with Amazon. Verizon also signed a deal with Microsoft to integrate Azure for private 5G MEC, two distinct opportunities CEO Hans Vestberg recently called out.

The partnership with Amazon to implement its AWS Wavelength platform into Verizon’s network for public mobile edge compute use cases focuses on 5G, and in an interview with FieceWireless, Koeppe pointed to 4G LTE network architecture as a reference point.

The distributed nature of Verizon’s existing 4G LTE and 5G networks appear to be a key feature.  

“4G LTE architecture relied on very distributed network equipment centers,” Koeppe said, to provide latency capabilities needed for LTE, where processing had to be pushed out into the network and fairly close to the customer that was using the cell site.

RELATED: Verizon’s Vestberg makes private vs. public 5G MEC distinction

“Those locations are all owned and operated by Verizon, they have all of our equipment for LTE and 5G functions and now they’re fully virtualized,” he said, meaning Verizon’s taken all of its directional platforms and moved them to its internal network clouds.

Because the locations are so distributed, the carrier worked with AWS to use their Wavelength platform, which Koeppe noted is a small footprint edge compute platform, “to basically use space in our locations, which are already on-net, and create what’s called low-latency zones or reliability zones for public edge compute use-cases.”

What Verizon brings to the table in that equation, he said, is the previously mentioned equipment center space, and transport on the network including fiber backhaul, to handle all of the backend processing that occurs on the network.

In addition, “we have the cell site infrastructure, both 4G and 5G, that then utilizes those edge compute zones to shorten the round trip and function that need [of] low-latency,” Koeppe added.

The partnership essentially creates a revenue share model.

Speaking at the Barclays TMT investor conference last week, Verizon CFO Matt Ellis pointed to both Verizon and Amazon reaching higher revenue levels together than alone. He reiterated that Verizon expects to start seeing 5G MEC revenues in 2021 but won’t start scaling until 2022.  

RELATED: Verizon puts private 5G in focus with Nokia, Microsoft partnerships

“It’s really a case of 1 plus 1 equaling something greater than 2,” Ellis said, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript. “In terms of what we bring to the partnership, what [AWS] brings to the partnership is going to allow both of us to get revenue streams that would have taken us a lot longer to develop on an individual basis and maybe we never have got to the same type of levels as we can together.”

Teaming up also brings the developer community into the fold, where they don’t have to re-write code to take advantage of the 5G edge infrastructure.

“It’s right there for them,” Koeppe said, noting the applications created on top of that are specifically focused on low-latency, like mobile gaming or AR/VR, for example.

“Really nobody else can provide that for those end customers because we’re putting the AWS solution into our network locations and then exposing that to their developer community,” he added.    

DSS part of longer-term equation

Verizon is using dynamic spectrum sharing (DSS) to offer nationwide 5G, with performance more similar to 4G LTE.

DSS is a technology that allows existing spectrum resources to be shared and allocated to both 5G NR and 4G LTE based on usage.

T-Mobile is using low-band 600 MHz for broad 5G coverage and has been critical of DSS, though still plans to use it on a more limited basis. Recent testing by SRG found Verizon’s DSS performance to be somewhat disappointing, but executives have said results are in line with expectations so far.

RELATED: Verizon CTO: We’re thrilled with DSS performance

Koeppe said DSS is only in its first iteration, and like other capabilities has its own roadmap. That includes helping to efficiently manage spectrum evolution as customers transition from 4G to 5G. 

Unlike the move from 3G to 4G where old equipment had to be physically pulled down and new LTE put in as usage declined, DSS allows for additional 4G spectrum resources to be provisioned with 5G via software on an as needed basis. 

“Regardless of the 5G nationwide solution it provides, it’s a really efficient tool to manage your inventory, if you will, on the network,” Koeppe said. “So we expect that to be part of the equation for the foreseeable future.”