Speaking at the Citi 2021 Global TMT investor conference on January 5, 2021, Verizon executive Ronan Dunne said the telco’s operational efficiency has continued to increase, largely due to cutting $10 billion in costs, which was first announced four years ago by then CEO Lowell McAdam.
Dunne said Verizon has been reaping billions of dollars every year in operational efficiencies from the core of how it builds network to the efficient way it carries traffic on that network with its One Fiber strategies. Verizon’s One Fiber project, which has been underway for five years, combined all of the telco’s fiber needs and planning into one project. It also allows Verizon to plot out its fiber uses cases and purchasing plans across all of its sectors.
“But as regards (to) the focus of operational efficiency, it’s a ruthless, consistent focus inside the business in exactly the same way as balance sheet strength has always been a watchword of Verizon. And so rest assured those will continue to be as important in ’21 and ’22 as they have been in the last few years.”
Regarding cost cutting, Dunne had this to say: “So yes, Matt (Verizon CFO Matt Ellis) has talked about our commitment to a $10 billion cost program, and we’ve made excellent progress on that. But in my time in the wireless business originally and then consumer, we’ve made significant strides. We’re talking about billions of dollars every year in operational efficiencies. From — right from the core of how we build the network, to be highly, highly efficient, how we carry traffic on the network with our One Fiber strategies to how we serve customers and deliver experiences. And across all of those vectors, we see continued opportunity.”
In addition to densification of the wireless network, backhaul and fronthaul, and enabling wireline access, having fiber deep is key for supporting radio access networks (RAN) as well as provisioning an increasing number of small cells. Verizon CTO Kyle Malady built the telco’s Intelligent Edge Network, which has allowed Verizon to lower its operational costs by benefiting “from efficiencies within the core and right through the business.”
“The particular area that I’m focused on in my part of the business is really AI at scale,” Dunne said. “That really allows us to improve our CRM (Customer Relationship Management) efficiency. So the efficiency of every dollar invested in acquisition and retention. Also the efficiency of every dollar invested in those elements that are customer service elements, and distribution elements,” he added.
Dunne opined that when you think about Verizon you recognize its network as a platform, it’s distribution as a platform and it’s billing and services platforms. He believes the opportunity to improve the efficiency of those platforms through investment in technology.
He also talked about the relationships with Microsoft and AWS for edge computing as a new platform capability that’s available both to us internally but also available to customers and partners. “So that’s the strategy. So we see the opportunity to grow highly efficiently as well as serve the existing base more efficiently and lots more to come there.”
“I’m not building a fixed wireless access network,” said Dunne, expressing a bit of frustration regarding a question of whether the company is on target to hit that 30 million homes passed goal. “I’m building a 5G mobility network with a second use case where it’s appropriate, where it covers 5G Office and 5G Home, so we just shouldn’t lose sight of that.”
Dunne says that he believes they are still on track, but the reality on the ground has Verizon constantly updating its 5G mobility strategy of where and how the service gets deployed. That reality impacts the ramp up of 5G Home, potentially slowing its deployment. The service is currently in 12 markets, with very limited footprints in those markets.
Verizon’s recently launched 4G LTE Home fixed wireless service (intended for rural subscribers) should also be included in a discussion of the company’s overall fixed wireless goals. The carrier’s 5G Home service and the goals associated with it pre-date the launch of the new 4G LTE based fixed wireless service, that Verizon initially said would target smaller markets.
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“One of the other things that I think is important for people to think about is that as we build out the 5G network, we’ve also built 4G Home and we’ve seen significant response to that,” said Dunne. “My addressable market for Home, for me, has always been not limited to the specific of a 5G fixed wireless, but a broader ambition to be able to participate in the home.”
4G LTE fixed wireless access offers peak speeds of 50 Mbps for now, compared to its 5G Home service which claims average speeds of 300 Mbps. Nevertheless, Dunne sees this broader footprint of 4G and 5G fixed wireless combined with mobility, as a formidable competitor to cable broadband, and its fixed wireless homes passed goal attainment should be agnostic to the underlying wireless technology.
Can 5G fixed wireless access be an alternative to cable?
“Well, then my strong view is, yes, it can. But to be clear, we only build where there’s a mobility case to build. We’re not building a stand-alone 5G fixed wireless network. So sometimes when respectfully, people get frustrated with us and say, well, hold on a second. What about — I want to see all your discrete reporting of 5G fixed wireless or why aren’t you there or there or there? The answer, which — forgive me, but I keep repeating is because I’m not building a fixed wireless access network. I’m building a 5G mobility network with a second use case, where it’s appropriate, where it covers 5G office and 5G home. So we shouldn’t lose sight of that.
So as I build over that sort of 7-, 8-year horizon, one of the realities is that I will be updating my mobility deployment patterns all the time. So we’re not really — we’re not saying that, that sort of 7, 8 years for the 30 million homes time line is shifting. But what I am saying is we continue to optimize the mobility 5G deployment strategy. And as a result, we continue to finesse and update the practicalities of that relative to the homes past. But one of the other things that I think is important for people to think about is that as we build out the 5G network, we’ve also built 4G home, and we’ve seen significant response to that. And yes, that’s a maybe a 50 meg product rather than a 500 meg product. But for a lot of people, that’s important. And that also affords us this opportunity that as we build out 5G, as we put more nodes in place, but also as we put more carriers out there, deploy more spectrum, et cetera, we have this ability to build a home portfolio, which is carrier — basically bearer-agnostic. And I think the thing for us is that we see the opportunities to participate in tens of millions of homes across the U.S. as really attractive.
What I want to do is have toolkit that says, in my Fios footprint, if fiber is the right thing to do, great. If anywhere in the U.S. 5G ultra-wideband is available to me, I have that. And in other places, I have my 4G increasingly enhanced performance in that network, which may ultimately be a 5G nationwide solution. So my addressable market for home for me has always been not limited to the specific of a 5G fixed wireless but a broader ambition to be able to participate in the home and to bring the scale benefits of that to my customers who see Verizon as the partner of choice.”
We think we have a very strong growth opportunity, which is stimulate the base, spread through our network and distribution as
a platform, our access to the market across all of the available segments and really execute on a very strong, high performance, both network, but also a set of experiences….