Verizon’s Vestberg touts network speed amid Samsung 5G smartphone launch

Hans Vestberg
At the CES show in January, Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg talked about the eight “currencies” that 5G will bring, including speed and throughput. (Fierce Wireless)

Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg took the opportunity during an appearance at the J.P. Morgan investment conference today to boast about speeds the carrier is seeing in Chicago today with the new Samsung Galaxy S10 5G, Samsung’s first 5G smartphone in the U.S.

Usually, when a new generation of wireless technology comes around, such as with 3G and 4G, the first phones are “very clunky” and not user friendly, he said. But, the S10 can leverage 4G or 5G, and is the best 4G phone that Samsung has ever offered, he said, adding, “That’s exciting,” along with longer battery life, the cameras and “all of that.”

Referring to an Ookla speed test in Chicago, “we had 1.5 Gigabits per second on the phone this morning,” he said. “We’re excited” about this phone.

Besides Chicago and Minneapolis, Verizon previously named another 20 cities that will be getting its 5G Ultra Wideband service this year: Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dallas, Des Moines, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Little Rock, Memphis, Phoenix, Providence, San Diego, Salt Lake City and Washington, D.C.  

The most data usage is in the urban areas, and that’s where Verizon is building 5G first. “Then, we still have the best 4G network” whenever users go outside those areas, and it’s seamless in between, Vestberg said. “Ultimately, all spectrum that we have will be 5G spectrum.” However, customers need to migrate to the newer technology over time, and the way to do that is with the phone. The Samsung Galaxy S10 is exclusive to Verizon for a limited time.

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Over the next few years, “I think the majority of our map will have 5G,” he said. Every new wireless technology is better than the previous one, so there’s an incentive to put 5G in the network: It handles data more efficiently, and the cost per bit comes down.  

One acronym to remember, he said, is DSS, for dynamic spectrum sharing, which is a feature allowing for more flexible use of spectrum, dynamically changing whatever phone the user has. “That’s a very important feature” coming to the network next year, he said. “Then we don’t need to discuss whether it’s 4G or 5G, whatever phone you have is going to use it. That’s basically how dynamic spectrum sharing is working.”

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With 4G, there was basically one business case, and that was consumer wireless. But, with 5G, there are at least four business cases. The first one is consumer wireless, with higher throughputs and speeds. “We are Number One in that market,” he said, and Verizon has high ambitions to increase to create higher market share.

The second business case is 5G Home, which uses the same infrastructure and investment and expands the market. “We can expand the market because right now, we’re on the East Coast with FiOS, but over time, we can have 5G Home in any place where we have 5G mobility on millimeter wave and we have that our ambition is to cover 30 million homes with 5G,” he noted.

The third business case involves the use of 5G for edge cloud computing, addressing enterprises to transform logistic flows and offer things like private 5G networks. That’s cloud computing at the edge compared to the big cloud providers doing it in the data centers. “It’s coming much closer to you so you can transform and change,” he said.

The fourth is lower cost to transport the bits, all using the same infrastructure. Fixed wireless access failed in countries around the world because it used a separate network. Now, Verizon is using the same base stations and antennas. “You need to have almost unlimited spectrum, or at least a high degree of spectrum,” he said, adding that Verizon has some 1,000 megahertz spectrum nationwide on millimeter wave. “That’s how we see it.”

Verizon is building fiber in 60 cities around the country, and given that it has a multi-customer environment, it decided to build it rather than rent or acquire. It’s building rings, not point-to-point, and that’s a big difference from an architectural point of view. With rings, “you can serve so much more,” and monetize the assets so much better, he said.