Technicians may need to install Verizon's initial fixed 5G CPE

Samsung indoor 5G home router (Samsung)
The FCC recently approved Samsung's home internet router for Verizon's 5G service. (Samsung)

AUSTINBy the end of this year, some residents of Los Angeles, Sacramento and two other U.S. cities are expected to be surfing the internet and watching movies over Verizon's 5G wireless networks. Verizon wants to take on the cable companies by launching 5G-based home broadband service in markets that it doesn’t already serve with its Fios fiber-to-the-home offering.

“We are taking these markets very seriously,” said Neeraj Garg, director of digital transformation at Verizon. Garg discussed Verizon’s 5G plans during a panel this week at the 5G North America trade show here. He said that at this point there are still a number of “unknown unknowns,” meaning questions the company has yet to identify or answer. “We are in this market to learn,” he said.

One of the things Verizon wants to learn is how much time and money will be spent installing the customer-premises equipment that consumers will use to access the company's new network. In Sacramento, the company will use Samsung’s indoor 5G router, which the FCC certified earlier this month.

Derek Johnston, director of marketing at Samsung, said technicians should be able to install the routers with minimal training—specifically, he said that installers won't have to be RF technicians and will be able to learn what they need to know by watching a training video. Those technicians could be Verizon employees or third-party contractors.

Samsung's Johnston added that, down the road, consumers will be installing their own 5G CPEs. He said the CPEs will need to be located near windows.

Samsung has developed an indoor router and an outdoor router for 5G. Johnston said the outdoor router is for customers who cannot get service using the indoor router. For example, someone living in an apartment might need to connect to an outdoor 5G router, he said. 

Johnston said Samsung’s 5G CPEs will eventually support Wi-Fi, but for now they use a cable to connect to the user's home Wi-Fi router. Users will continue to access the internet over Wi-Fi, but their Wi-Fi routers will connect to a 5G wireless network instead of a wired connection.

“People do not think of their home internet coming on wireless,” said Verizon's Garg. “It’s a mental shift. … The biggest challenge is to change the customer perception.”

“Our testing has proven this thing works but a lot of the challenge we face at this point is how do we build expectations?" said Garg’s colleague Vipul Jha, a senior manager at Verizon. “The expectations from customers is a very tricky thing." Jha acknowledged that millennials are perhaps more comfortable getting broadband over wireless, but said a large portion of Verizon’s existing customer base is older.

Jha said other issues Verizon is working through with its first 5G networks include working with cities to secure small cell sites, establishing line of sight connections to homes, and making sure that the entire home can be covered. 

Verizon did not discuss pricing for its new 5G service during the panel. One of the panel members, James Childs of CBNL, predicted that 5G CPE price points will fall to $500 within a year. Of course, service providers will decide how much to charge consumers and may wrap the cost of the equipment into the monthly service fee.

Verizon is working with different equipment vendors in different markets. Samsung’s Johnston said that in Los Angeles, Verizon will not use Samsung’s customer-premises equipment or radio access equipment for its initial 5G fixed wireless service.