AT&T, Verizon hungrily eye fixed 5G progress

Executives from Verizon and AT&T laid out plans to press ahead with long-awaited 5G fixed wireless access (FWA) deployments later this year, noting the Covid-19 (coronavirus) pandemic could actually make such offerings more valuable to consumers.

Ronan Dunne, Verizon consumer group CEO (pictured), explained during an investor conference “peoples’ attitude to bandwidth has probably changed more in the last 10 weeks than in the last 5 years” as a mass shift to remote work made consumers more aware they were sharing their internet capacity with neighbours.

Verizon plans to capitalise on this with the expansion of its FWA 5G Home service, which he said will offer access to “uncontended capacity” for the “foreseeable future” via the operator’s mmWave-based mobile network.

Rivals AT&T and T-Mobile US are also eyeing FWA 5G home broadband services, with the former already covering 880,000 consumer and enterprise customers with FWA LTE.

But both Dunne and AT&T SVP of wireless technology Igal Elbaz said operators were stuck waiting on new chipsets for high-power 5G consumer equipment, which they said will help improve deployment economics. New kit is expected to become available in Q3 or Q4 of this year, they said.

The executives added FWA launches will be driven by mobile 5G deployments, as the operators aim to leverage the same infrastructure for both services.

While Dunne dubbed FWA a “byproduct opportunity” of Verizon’s mobile network construction, he noted it has significant potential, particularly in light of the pandemic: “If I’d had the opportunity to sell 5G Home in the last 12 weeks I would have made out like a bandit.”