Verizon more than doubles mid-band spectrum for 5G

After spending $52.9 billion for C-band spectrum spanning the US, Verizon plans to cover roughly 100 million people with the new spectrum in the next 12 months.
Written by Stephanie Condon, Senior Writer

Verizon more than doubled its existing mid-band spectrum holding with the results of the recent FCC 5G spectrum auction, the company said Wednesday during its Investor Day presentation. The company plans to increase its capital investments by $10 billion over the next three years "to put this C-Band to use as quickly as possible," CEO Hans Vestberg said. 

Verizon says it expects to cover roughly 100 million people with C-band 5G in the next 12 months. The company also plans to build another 14,000 millimeterWave sites this year, "offering the ultimate experience of 5G," said Verizon CFO Matthew Ellis. 

"The addition of C-Band is nothing short of rocket fuel" for Verizon's strategy, Vestberg said. 

It doesn't appear to be enough to fuel Verizon ahead of its competitors, T-Mobile was quick to point out Wednesday, noting that it plans to cover 200 million people nationwide with Ultra Capacity 5G this year.

In addition to increasing spending to deploy the spectrum, Verizon plans for a speedy rollout by focusing its initial C-Band build on existing locations. 

"We are ready to go as soon as the first block of spectrum is cleared for use later this year," Vestberg said. 

According to Verizon CTO Kyle Malady, Verizon will benefit from the density of its LTE network, as well as its strong relationships with tower partners and landlords. He said the C-band rollout should be "the fastest deployment of new spectrum ever."

Specifically, Verizon has secured 140-200 MHz of C-Band spectrum in every available market, with an average of 161 MHz nationwide. 

In the initial phase of its rollout, Verizon expects more than 20 percent of its phone base to have 5G-capable devices, executives said. 

In 2022 and 2023, Verizon will continue to sale its C-band 5G deployments, cross over 175 million people covered. By then, 55 percent of the company's phone base should have 5G-capable devices. By 2024, Verizon says it will cover more than 250 million people. 

Last month, the Federal Communications Commission released the names and winning bids of its C-band auction. Verizon was said to have spent an eye-popping $45 billion for 3,511 spectrum licenses. AT&T bid $23 billion for 1,621 licenses, while T-Mobile bid $9 billion for 142 licenses. On Wednesday, Verizon said that including incentive payments and clearing costs, it spent $52.9 billion.

Mid-band spectrum is valuable to wireless carriers planning 5G deployments for its expansive geographic coverage and ability to transmit large amounts of data. C-band is a widely-used spectrum band throughout the world, which will allow for global roaming and economies of scale, Malady noted Wednesday. 

"The quality of spectrum and the depth of license holdings represent the the premier asset in the industry," he said. "We now have a very competitive position in low- and mid-band to go along with our leading level of mmWave holdings."

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