Verizon’s Ed Chan didn’t exactly spill the beans about where Verizon will launch commercial 5G residential broadband services next year—that would be rather peculiar if he did—but he did give a few insights into the decision-making process.
Verizon last week announced it will launch the first commercial application of next-generation broadband services in three to five U.S. markets in 2018, starting with Sacramento. The operator didn’t name the other markets and simply said more information would be provided at a later date.
When asked about the selection process during a Barclays investor conference on Thursday, Chan said that there are multiple things at play, including results of market trials. Generally speaking, it’s important to get the right municipalities involved, not just geography-wise.
“We wanted to go after a set of cities” that could be highlighted as 5G cities, so they went through the economics of the right density and places and considered which municipalities were more progressive about new technologies.
The senior vice president, Technology Strategy and Planning at Verizon Communications, also noted that Verizon is overlaying its millimeter technology over existing 4G sites rather than creating a brand-new build, and coupling that with the long-term view that includes the mobility use case.
He also alluded to Verizon’s 5G Technology Forum (V5GTF), which was formed in late 2015 with ecosystem partners Cisco, Ericsson, Intel, LG, Nokia, Qualcomm and Samsung. The V5GTF created a common and extendable platform for Verizon’s 28/39 GHz fixed wireless access trials and deployments. Ultimately, it helped accelerate the 5G standards process, which has picked up momentum.
The first two 5G applications are known: enhanced mobile broadband and broadband to the home, or fixed wireless access. But “it would be practically silly for us to predict all of the applications” that are going to show up for 5G, he said. The thinking was: “Let’s get out there and build a network,” and the applications would come.
Based on the trials that have been going on in 11 markets this past year, Verizon engineers also learned a lot more about millimeter wave and its propagation characteristics, some of which were surprising.
“I think sometimes we underestimate how much technology can actually change the way in which you engineer systems like this,” he said.
For example, trees, foliage and Low E glass have long been seen as impediments in millimeter wave spectrum. But Verizon engineers actually went into a home for an installation where there was Low E glass; they put the antenna right next to the glass and the system actually worked. So some surprises came up. They also discovered they could reach at least to 20 floors in a multiple dwelling unit, rather than the single-digit floors they had anticipated.
“We truly believe that the customer is going to be relying on the network more and more” into the future, so network reliability and capabilities will be critical to that. “We are the doers” who want to be out there creating market and not sitting and waiting for something to happen, he said.