Verizon to test 5G “wireless fiber” for Internet & TV in Spring 2017

Verizon Communications CEO Lowell McAdam described the teleco’s first 5G fixed-wireless trial, planned for early next year, as “wireless fiber.” The trial will focus on several small towns and will support gigabit speeds and over-the-top (OTT) video.

“We won’t be charging for the service, but we will be learning from it and figuring out the distance between the transmitter and the receiver in a 5G environment,” McAdam said at a UBS investor conference in New York.

Verizon has long touted 5G technology, well in advance of the ITU-R standard.  5G can be up to 100 faster than current 4G wireless service, as the basis for a new cable and Internet service.  Analysts claim 5G  is needed for Verizon’s six year, $300 million plan to offer TV and Internet in Boston, for example. But McAdam had not previously given the early 2017 timeline and additional details about Verizon’s efforts.

“We could go to a 300-channel bundle,” McAdam commented. But he noted that the industry is seeing increased demand for “skinny bundles” with fewer channels and that a “skinny bundle” would be part of the Verizon 5G fixed wireless trial.  The customer premises equipment (CPE) supporting the offering will be “very simple,” according to McAdam. It essentially will be a traditional home router with a 5G chip in it, he said.

The carrier is looking for ways to save money and crack new markets as growth in its two main lines of business, wired and wireless phone service, have slowed. In addition to 5G video service, McAdam has also targeted service for smart, connected devices in the Internet of things and online advertising, via the acquisition of AOL and pending purchase of Yahoo.

Verizon’s FiOS unit, which offers TV and Internet service, largely ceased expanding years ago because of the expense of building fiber optic lines to customers.   But the 5G wireless plan could dramatically reduce those costs. A customer would only need a typical router placed by a window to receive signals for high speed Internet and TV service from a neighborhood-based cell tower. Verizon has even discussed deploying more numerous microcells, with new technology that can put a 5G transmitter inside a street light, for example.

“This will allow you to stop anywhere from 200 feet to 1,000 feet, somewhere in that range, we think, from the home and then make it a wireless last leg into the home,” McAdam said. “And I think that is going to be the predominant architecture for wireless service going forward,” he added.

Author Notes:

  1.  FiOS is available in about 54% of the three-state territory Frontier acquired from Verizon in September, 2015. While Verizon’s wireless network operates nationwide, the telco has reduced wireline operations to focus on the Northeast US.
  2. Google Fiber has apparently been put on hold as parent company Alphabet contemplates moving away from fiber to the home service towards a wireless platform that could provide high speed Internet access and TV service in urban areas for much less money.  Google is hoping to use wireless technology to connect homes, rather than cables, in about a dozen new metro areas, including Los Angeles, Chicago and Dallas, according to people familiar with the company’s plans. As a result Alphabet has suspended projects in San Jose, Calif., and Portland, OR.



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