Verizon’s planned 5G home network offerings may be utterly impractical to scale and take several years to roll out, according to a new report from New York-based independent research firm MoffettNathanson LLC. The assessment follows an analysis of the carrier’s roll-out in Sacramento, following six months of slow progress which saw only up to six percent of homes gaining access to the network. Making matters worse, only around three percent of homes within those areas actively subscribing to the service.
According to the report, Verizon’s problem seems to stem from the fact that the radios it is installing -- approximately 200 as of January -- aren’t covering a wide enough area to make the roll-out profitable. In fact, the coverage of each radio appears to be much lower than expected, the firm reports.
That low rate of expansion highlights the challenges associated with growing the network, particularly as it pertains to growing the network without absorbing massive costs. What’s more, the report notes, Sacramento is not the largest city the technology is being deployed in, ranking at number 35 in the nation. So the cost-to-return ratio will almost certainly be higher in other regions.
The costs will also be detrimental to the company’s ability to gain subscribers or move consumers away from more traditional network types such as fiber optic-based connections.
Not at all a surprise
The new report comes following reports from early last month that indicated Verizon was scaling back its 5G fixed wireless broadband service until the second half of this year. At the time of the announcement, the provider stated that the move was due to a lack of standards-based 5G customer premises equipment. Summarily, the company pointed back to the start of its home 5G roll-out and the fact that its equipment, at the time, didn’t comply completely with 5G New Radio (5G NR) standards.
The analysis from experts at MoffettNathanson implies that there could be another reason for the delays as well and that shouldn't come as too much of a surprise either. As early as February 9, reports began to appear showcasing exactly how limited the roll-out had been so far after PCMag was able to get its hands on an internal map showing the coverage area for the network.
As of that earlier report, Verizon's network was shown to be severely lacking, serving only a handful of neighborhoods and zones in each of its launch cities - including Houston, Indianapolis, and Los Angeles in addition to Sacramento. The service, when launched, cost users as much as $70 per month for new customers and just $20 less for current subscribers. Yet it only covered very small portions of the maps in question.
Advantage ...all of the competition
The takeaway from the new report seems to be that Verizon has placed itself at a severe disadvantage almost across the board in its rush to roll out next-gen networks quickly. Companies such as Sprint, T-Mobile, and AT&T are focusing on mobile data networks instead and will build up home services from that.
Specifically, AT&T is expected to center its efforts in home 5G service around hotspots while Sprint and T-Mobile won’t even necessarily be utilizing the same millimeter wave spectrum as Verizon. The latter company built out its initial network on the 28GHz band. Sprint and T-Mobile instead intend to utilize the wider mid-band spectrum, at least initially. That means the companies will be offering a slight reduction in speed with much greater coverage to start before broadening out on other bands.
AT&T may be at a disadvantage from a consumer perspective as well since it decided to begin rolling out advanced LTE under a "5G E" branding early this year. The move was widely decried as an attempt to cash in on the 5G branding without due consideration for exactly how that would impact consumers or cause confusion around the conventions used for each successive generation of mobile networks. The 5G E service is essentially 4G while true 5G will move the measuring metric from megabits per second to gigabits per seconds -- with one gigabit equalling 1,000 megabits.