Verizon is unlikely to start expanding its 5G Home fixed wireless broadband service until the second half of 2019.
The delay for the expansion is attributed to the lack of standards-based 5G customer premises equipment. When the carrier started building its 5G network in four locations across the United States, the carrier used network equipment that did not follow the 5G New Radio (5G NR) standard. Instead, to launch its fixed wireless service as early as possible, Verizon used hardware based on the 5G Technology Forum (5G TF) protocol, which it developed along with several industry partners and incorporated some of the technologies used in the 5G NR standard.
While using 5G TF allowed Verizon to launch its 5G network early than others, using a proprietary air-interface meant that the technology is not scalable, which limits the future development of the company’s infrastructure. The carrier already said that it will either replace its network equipment with standards-compliant hardware or upgrade existing infrastructure through firmware updates. Furthermore, Verizon noted that it will wait until 5G NR customer premises equipment is available before it expands its 5G Home network beyond its current footprint. However, there are delays in the development of 5G network hardware.
Hans Vestberg, the chief executive officer of Verizon, expects that the standards-compliant equipment for 5G fixed wireless broadband will appear in the second half of 2019, and the expansion of the carrier’s home internet service will likely happen at the same time.
Verizon launched the 5G Home service in October, 2018. The carrier claims that its network is the first commercial 5G fixed wireless access network, although the coverage of the network is limited to only four cities in the United States, which are Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, and Sacramento. This network uses the 28GHz millimeter wave spectrum, which offers increased data speeds but significantly-reduced coverage. Based on early independent testing, it seems that Verizon’s 5G Home service manages to deliver its advertised speeds. The carrier claims that users may experience data transfer rates of 300Mbps to 1Gbps on its network, and speed tests show that customers can experience download speeds of 600 to 800Mbps and upload speeds of 250Mbps.
The delay in standards-compliant 5G fixed wireless access hardware may also affect the 5G-based home broadband plans of other major carriers. AT&T plans to offer Home 5G across the United States within the next few years, and if its merger with Sprint pushes through, T-Mobile may also launch a fixed wireless service which it claims will be cost-competitive compared to rival services.
The deployment of 5G networks open a multitude of revenue streams to carriers, which include remote surgery, support for virtual reality services, and development of smart cities. Wireless companies also view 5G-based fixed wireless access as a possible major source of income in the future. However, the delays in the development of hardware for fixed wireless broadband could impact the revenue of carriers in the short term, a problem that service providers may need to endure in a period of mediocre financial results and middling subscriber additions.