Verizon may densify its network for C-band in the mid-term, says Ronan Dunne

ronan dunne verizon
Verizon's Ronan Dunne. (Verizon)

Verizon’s EVP and CEO of its consumer group Ronan Dunne is stoked about the company’s new C-band spectrum. Speaking at a FierceWireless virtual event today, Dunne talked about Verizon’s roadmap for deploying C-band, and he answered a question about the need to deploy more macro towers for the mid-band spectrum.

At its investor day a couple of weeks ago, Verizon executives said they would not need to immediately densify Verizon’s macro network to deploy C-band, saying they planned to use their existing towers for C-band. But T-Mobile’s President of Technology Neville Ray countered that Verizon would have to use more macro towers for C-band because the new spectrum doesn’t propagate far enough to just rely on existing towers.
 

Today, Dunne said Verizon will be preparing cell sites during this year in expectation of the arrival of the first tranche of its new C-band spectrum at the end of the year. He said Verizon will not be building new cell sites but will be upgrading existing cell sites in the first 46 partial economic areas (PEAs) where its newly acquired C-band spectrum will be available. Those 46 PEAs include the main urban areas in the U.S. “We will be upgrading sites, power, antennas and new radio equipment to be ready for C-band,” he said. “And then we’ll launch at the end of this year in those first 46 markets.”

RELATED: C-band focus turns to densification

He said in urban areas, Verizon has already been densifying its network for the last 18 months via its mmWave deployments on small cells.  “We have overlapping coverage in our urban areas,” said Dunne. “I’m building small cells, which support my mmWave deployment. We have about 15,000 of those that we will deploy in the course of 2021, which will mean that by the end of the year we’ll have more than 30,000 of those small cells.”

He said the combination of deploying mmWave 5G in urban areas and deploying C-band in the first 46 urban markets will “densify” the network quite a bit in 2021.

“So, we’re not building new macros,” said Dunne. “In the medium-term in rural and semi-rural areas, we may take the opportunity to do some infill. But in the short-term in the dense urban areas, we have no incremental macro site requirements.”

Dunne also touted the fact that ultimately, Verizon will have access to C-band spectrum in all 406 PEAs in the U.S. “Unlike anybody else’s coverage, we will have one single, contiguous coverage layer of mid-band spectrum without any gaps, without any power limitations,” he said.

And Verizon is also anticipating the fact that C-band will allow it to pass more households where it plans to use fixed wireless access (FWA) to compete in the residential broadband market.

Big goals for residential broadband

“We will have two discrete offerings for customers in the fixed wireless access space: 4G FWA and a 5G offering,” said Dunne.

Currently, Verizon offers LTE Home in parts of 48 states; and it offers 5G Home in 28 markets. Verizon anticipates passing 15 million homes with some version of its fixed wireless access product by the end of this year.

RELATED: Verizon debuts all-in-one 5G Home receiver, Wi-Fi router

In urban areas it will use both mmWave and C-band spectrum for 5G Home. And in more rural areas Verizon will add C-band spectrum to its LTE Home offering. “What we’ve said is many of the 4G customers will have the opportunity to upgrade in due course to 5G as we roll out C-band,” said Dunne.

“We see the opportunity, as we’re fully rolled out, of having the largest addressable market in residential broadband in the U.S.,” said Dunne. “So we talk about 50 million homes by 2025 with fixed wireless access,” he said.

And Verizon is also counting its fiber-based Fios product to set its long-term goals for residential broadband.

“I already have access to about 17.9 million homes passed in the Fios footprint,” said Dunne. He adds together the 17.9 million Fios homes and the 50 million FWA homes to point out that by 2025 Verizon will pass about 67.9 million homes with residential broadband. “Then over time, past that 5-year horizon, we will go well beyond 70 million homes, and therefore will have the largest addressable footprint of any provider in the U.S. with a truly national offering,” he said.