The sprint to 5G in the United States is entering a new phase. On Friday, Verizon announced plans to deploy standards-based 5G services in more than 30 U.S. cities this year.
The nation’s largest wireless operator provided an update on its 5G plans during a presentation at its analyst conference in New York City. The news comes just days before the wireless industry converges for MWC Barcelona, which kicks off next week.
The move into mobile 5G is a first for Verizon, which launched a 5G Home service in October with limited availability in four cities. While the plans mark an escalation in deployment on the mobile front for Verizon, the carrier missed its chance to be the first carrier with standards-based mobile 5G in the United States.
AT&T has already launched a mobile 5G network in 12 cities and plans to expand to nine more markets in the next few months. The second-largest U.S. operator claims it will have nationwide 5G coverage in the first half of 2020 and T-Mobile has publicly stated it plans to have nationwide 5G coverage in 2020.
That leaves Verizon, which hasn’t made any commitments about nationwide mobile 5G service yet, behind its closest competitors. The company told investors that revenues from mobile and home-based 5G services will begin to scale in 2020 and “contribute more meaningfully to growth in 2021."
Network capital expenditures per gigabyte continue to decline and 5G will move that trend forward, according to Verizon. Wireless capital expenditures per gigabyte dropped 47% from 2016 to 2017, 41% from 2017 to 2018 and are on pace to decline by 24% from 2018 to 2019. The carrier projects cost to drop a further 18% in 2020.
Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg called the widening effort a “vision of the future” of the company. “This is our commitment to be on the leading edge of technology to provide customers with the best network experiences in the world, to deliver growth in revenue and profitability, to expand our 5G leadership, to sustain value to shareholders, and to enable services that benefit society,” he said in a prepared statement.
The presentation came a day after Vestberg shared a stage with Samsung Mobile CEO DJ Koh in San Francisco, where the pair announced Verizon will have an exclusive on Samsung’s forthcoming Galaxy S10 5G smartphone, one of the first devices on the market with 5G capability. The release of the device will likely coincide with Verizon’s 5G network launch.
As the carrier moves forward with its mobile 5G deployments, it also announced plans to upgrade its proprietary-based 5G Home service to 5G NR and expand to more markets in the second half of this year.