Verizon today announced updates on its i) high-band (mmWave) 5G network roll-out, ii) fixed wireless access (FWA) products, and iii) C-band spectrum deployment, including resistance it is facing on this initiative from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband (High-Band or mmWave)

Presently, Verizon has exceeded its target to deploy an incremental 14k+ high-band (mmWave) small cell sites during 2021. Therefore, to-date, Verizon has deployed a total of 30k+ high-band (mmWave) cell sites, using small cell infrastructure.

As a result, Verizon now has its 5G Ultra Wideband (high-band) mobility service available in parts of 87 U.S. cities. Recall that Verizon’s high-band (mmWave) 5G spectrum holdings consist of the 24 GHz, 28 GHz (including LMDS), and 37/39 GHz frequencies.

Positively, Verizon notes that data use on high-band (mmWave) 5G is up more than 750% year-over-year, showing the strength of 5G Ultra Wideband’s capacity. However, as recent reports from research firm umlaut show, the issue with 5G Ultra Wideband is coverage. Through umlaut’s tests in the cities of Cincinnati, Cleveland, Orlando, and Salt Lake City, it was shown that Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband service was available, on average, only 2% of the time.

Fixed Wireless Access (FWA)

Verizon’s 5G Home and 5G Business Internet, which are its fixed wireless access (FWA) products, are currently available in parts of 65 cities and 62 cities, respectively. These products use high-band (mmWave) spectrum to offer average download speeds of 300 megabits per second.

Verizon notes that new 5G Home customers are using the same amount of data as customers utilizing Verizon’s Fios fiber optic broadband service. However, this comparison is being made between a small 5G Home customer base (Verizon’s total FWA subscribers are only ~150k) and a large Fios Internet business with 6.8 million consumer and business customers – hence the validity of the comparison should be scrutinized.

C-band Spectrum Deployment

Verizon re-iterated its intention to have 5G service on C-band deployed to 100 million customers (PoPs) across the United States by March 2022. Recall that C-band spectrum is in the 3.7 GHz to 3.98 GHz frequency range.

To this end, Verizon has begun installing C-band radio access network (RAN) equipment on macro cell towers, using the infrastructure of its partners American Tower, Crown Castle, and SBA Communications. Additionally, Verizon intends to enhance the capacity of its 5G network, using C-band spectrum, through deployments on small cells.

Verizon’s engineers recently completed and approved plans for small cell equipment. Therefore, Verizon will begin deploying C-band spectrum via small cells in 2022.

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Debate

Verizon has recently been part of a public ‘back-and-forth’, regarding its C-band deployments, with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), an agency of the U.S. government. As part of protecting U.S. civil aviation (i.e., flying) from radio frequency interference, Verizon has agreed to:

  1. Delay its C-band deployments by one month, to January 2022
  2. Reduce the power levels being transmitted from its C-band equipment, particularly around airports, for a period of 6 months

Verizon indicates that it does not expect these concessions to meaningfully restrict the coverage or capacity of its 5G service using C-band spectrum. Nevertheless, these changes will have at least some impact to the company’s service. Ultimately, should the FAA debate persist, it may hinder Verizon’s ability to meet its C-band deployment target of covering 100 million customers by March 2022.

Field and Lab Tests – Download Speeds

In recent field tests, using 100 MHz and 200 MHz of C-band spectrum depth, Verizon has experienced download speeds of 1.5 gigabits per second (Gbps) and 3 Gbps, respectively. Furthermore, in a recent lab test using carrier aggregation (800 MHz of mmWave and 100 MHz of C-band spectrum depth) and a test device, Verizon and Qualcomm were able to reach download speeds of 7.92 Gbps.

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