AT&T and Verizon said today that they would limit some of their 5G wireless services for six months while federal regulators review the signals’ effect on aircraft sensors, an effort to defuse a conflict about C band interference that has roiled both industries.
The cellphone carriers detailed the proposed limits Wednesday in a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The companies said they would lower the signals’ cell-tower power levels nationwide and impose stricter power caps near airports and helipads, according to a copy reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. This comes after, both companies agreed to push back their 5G C band rollouts by an additional month to January 5, 2022 after the FAA issued a Nov. 2 bulletin warning that action may be needed to address the potential interference caused by the 5G deployment.
“While we remain confident that 5G poses no risk to air safety, we are also sensitive to the Federal Aviation Administration‘s desire for additional analysis of this issue,” the companies said in the letter to FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel.
“Wireless carriers, including AT&T and Verizon, paid over $80 billion for C-band spectrum—and have committed to pay another $15 billion to satellite users for early access to those licenses—and made those investments in reliance on a set of technical ground rules that were expressly found by the FCC to protect other spectrum users.”
AT&T and Verizon said they had committed for six months to take “additional steps to minimize energy coming from 5G base stations – both nationwide and to an even greater degree around public airports and heliports,” and said that should address altimeter concerns.
Wireless industry officials have held frequent talks with FCC and FAA experts to discuss the interference claims and potential fixes, according to people familiar with the matter. An FCC spokesman said the agreed-upon limits “represent one of the most comprehensive efforts in the world to safeguard aviation technologies” and the agency will work with the FAA “so that 5G networks deploy both safely and swiftly.” Wireless groups argue that there have been no C-Band aviation safety issues in other countries using the spectrum.
Earlier this month, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) warned it could restrict U.S. airspace in bad weather if the networks were turned on as planned in December. The FAA warning came in the thick of cellphone carriers’ network upgrade projects. A spokesman for the FAA called the proposal “an important and encouraging step, and we are committed to continued constructive dialogue with all of the stakeholders.” The FAA believes that aviation and 5G service in the band telecom companies have planned to use can safely coexist, he said.
AT&T and Verizon said they would temporarily lower cell-tower power levels for their 5G wireless services nationwide.
Photo Credit: GEORGE FREY/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
Wireless industry executives don’t expect the temporary limits to seriously impair the bandwidth they provide customers because networks already direct signals away from planes and airport tarmacs, according to another person familiar with the matter.
Still, the voluntary limits are a rare step for wireless companies that place a high value on the spectrum licenses they hold. U.S. carriers spent $81 billion to buy licenses for the 5G airwaves in question, known as the C-band, and spent $15 billion more to prepare them for service this winter.
The carriers earlier this month delayed their rollout plans until early January after FAA leaders raised concerns about the planned 5G service. Air-safety officials worried the new transmissions could confuse some radar altimeters, which aircraft use to measure their distance from the ground.
At an industry event last week, FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said conducting flights in a safe manner and tapping spectrum for 5G services can both occur. He said the question was how to “tailor both what we’re doing in aviation so that it dovetails with the use of this particular spectrum.” Mr. Dickson said another focus is the use of the spectrum in other parts of the world and how it differs compared with the U.S. “That’s what the discussions are that we’re having with the telecoms right now.”
U.S. wireless companies send 5G signals over lower frequencies than the altimeters, but air-safety officials worried that some especially sensitive sensors could still pick up cell-tower transmissions. Regulators in Canada and France have also imposed some temporary 5G limits.
The carriers’ letter said the mitigation measures would provide more time for technical analysis “without waiver of our legal rights associated with our substantial investments in these licenses.”
C-band limits are most relevant to AT&T and Verizon, which paid premiums to grab licenses for the new signals ready for use in December 2021. The companies still plan to launch their service, subject to the new limits, in January 2022. The proposed limits would extend to July 6, 2022 “unless credible evidence exists that real world interference would occur if the mitigations were relaxed.”
Rival carrier T-Mobile US Inc. is less vulnerable to delay because it spent a smaller amount for licenses that are eligible for use in December 2023. It also controls a swath of licenses suitable for 5G that aren’t subject to air-safety claims.
It’s not yet clear whether the proposal will be accepted by the FAA, which has warned pilots of the possibility that “interference from 5G transmitters and other technology could cause certain safety equipment to malfunction, requiring them to take mitigating action that could affect flight operations.” After July 6th, both carriers say they’ll set everything back to normal “unless credible evidence exists that real-world interference would occur if the mitigations were relaxed.”
“Our use of this spectrum will dramatically expand the reach and capabilities of the nation’s next-generation 5G networks, advancing US leadership, and bringing enormous benefits to consumers and the US economy,” Verizon and AT&T claimed in their joint letter sent to the FCC.
The federal agencies and the companies they oversee are meanwhile stuck in what New Street Research analyst Blair Levin called “a deep state game of chicken” guided by each regulator’s particular interest, with no clear path towards resolution.
Today at the 2021 Mobile World Congress (MWC) Los Angeles CA, Verizon and Amazon announced a strategic collaboration that will combine Verizon’s 5G wireless network with Amazon’s Project Kuiper constellation of low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellites. The first offering from the new partnership will backhaul Verizon’s cell sites through Amazon’s LEO satellites, enabling Verizon to offer fixed wireless access (FWA) in unconnected rural or underserved areas.
As part of the collaboration, Project Kuiper and Verizon have begun to develop technical specifications [1.] and define preliminary commercial models for a range of connectivity services for U.S. consumers and global enterprise customers operating in rural and remote locations around the world.
Note 1. There are no 3GPP specifications or ITU recommendations for the use of LEO satellites for 5G (IMT 2020/ITU-R M.2150) backhaul. Therefore, new carrier specifications are needed for 5G RANs to use LEO satellite networks for backhaul.
However, 3GPP is planning to include non-terrestrial networks (NTN) and to address satellite’s role in the 5G vision in their Release 17 package of specifications, to be released next year. You can read an overview of 3GPP NTN’s here.
ITU-R SG 4 is responsible for Satellite services. That includes Systems and networks for the fixed-satellite service, mobile-satellite service, broadcasting-satellite service and radiodetermination-satellite service. In particular,
ITU-R WP4B carries out studies on performance, availability, air interfaces and earth-station equipment of satellite systems in the FSS, BSS and MSS. This group has paid particular attention to the studies of Internet Protocol (IP)-related system aspects and performance and has developed new and revised Recommendations and Reports on IP over satellite to meet the growing need for satellite links to carry IP traffic. This group has close cooperation with the ITU Telecommunication Standardization Sector. Of particular interest are:
- Terms of Reference for Working Party 4B Correspondence Group on satellite radio interface technologies for the satellite component of IMT-2020.
- Working document towards a preliminary draft new Report ITU-R M.[XYZ.ABC] on Vision and requirements for satellite radio interface(s) of IMT-2020
Amazon’s Project Kuiper is an initiative to increase global broadband access through a constellation of 3,236 satellites in low Earth orbit (LEO) around the planet. The system will serve individual households, as well as schools, hospitals, businesses and other organizations operating in places where internet access is limited or unavailable. Amazon has committed an initial $10 billion to the program, which will deliver fast, affordable broadband to customers and communities around the world.
The Verizon-Amazon partnership seeks to expand coverage and deliver new customer-focused connectivity solutions that combine Amazon’s advanced LEO satellite system and Verizon’s world-class wireless technology and infrastructure. To begin, Amazon and Verizon will focus on expanding Verizon data networks using cellular backhaul solutions from Project Kuiper. The integration will leverage antenna development already in progress from the Project Kuiper team, and both engineering teams are now working together to define technical requirements to help extend fixed wireless coverage to rural and remote communities across the United States.
Verizon Chairman and CEO Hans Vestberg said, “Project Kuiper offers flexibility and unique capabilities for a LEO satellite system, and we’re excited about the prospect of adding a complementary connectivity layer to our existing partnership with Amazon. We know the future will be built on our leading 5G network, designed for mobility, fixed wireless access and real-time cloud compute. More importantly, we believe that the power of this technology must be accessible for all. Today’s announcement will help us explore ways to bridge that divide and accelerate the benefits and innovation of wireless connectivity, helping benefit our customers on both a global and local scale.”
Amazon CEO Andy Jassy said, “There are billions of people without reliable broadband access, and no single company will close the digital divide on its own. Verizon is a leader in wireless technology and infrastructure, and we’re proud to be working together to explore bringing fast, reliable broadband to the customers and communities who need it most. We look forward to partnering with companies and organizations around the world who share this commitment.”
This partnership will also pave the way for Project Kuiper and Verizon to design and deploy new connectivity solutions across a range of domestic and global industries, from agriculture and energy to manufacturing and transportation. The Kuiper System is designed with the flexibility and capacity to support enterprises of all sizes. By pairing those capabilities with Verizon’s wireless, private networking and edge compute solutions, the two will be able to extend connectivity to businesses operating and deploying assets on a global scale.
Betsy Huber, President, The National Grange said: “The agriculture industry is going to see dramatic changes in how it operates and succeeds in the next several years. Smart farms, bringing technology to agriculture, and connecting the last mile of rural America will be at the forefront of helping our industry to provide food for billions around the globe. Ensuring connectivity in rural areas will be key to making these endeavors a success. We’re excited to see the leadership from both companies working together to help take our industry to the next level.”
Financial analysts at New Street Research said the opportunity could be worth billions of dollars to the two companies. Specifically, they argued that Verizon’s wireless network currently does not cover around 7 million Americans. “If 50% of these people become Kuiper/Verizon customers and assuming Verizon’s phone ARPU [average revenue per user] of ~$60, there could be $2.4 billion in annual revenue,” they wrote.
Amazon and Verizon have previously teamed up to serve customers across many industries, including integrating Verizon’s 5G Edge MEC platform with AWS Wavelength and forming the Voice Interoperability Initiative. This collaboration builds on the relationship between the two companies, and lays the groundwork for Amazon and Verizon to serve additional consumer and global enterprise customers around the world.
Executives from Verizon and Amazon hinted that backhaul is only the start of the companies’ new partnership. They noted that Verizon’s plan to use Amazon’s LEO satellites is just the latest in a long line of pairings between the companies stretching from edge computing to private wireless networks.
“We’ve worked with Verizon on many complex projects over the years,” Amazon SVP David Limp said during a keynote presentation at MWC LA. Limp said Amazon continues to design and build its LEO satellites at the company’s Redmond, Washington, offices.
Verizon’s Chief Strategy Officer Rima Qureshi suggested Amazon and Verizon would explore other offerings beyond cell-site backhaul in the future. She said the companies would pursue “joint solutions” for large enterprise customers in industries stretching from agriculture to energy to education. She also said Verizon and Amazon would look for opportunities both domestically and internationally.
Qureshi noted Verizon’s deal with Nokia to deploy a private 5G network for Southampton in the UK – the largest of the 21 Associated British Ports. She suggested an Amazon-powered satellite component to that offering could extend connectivity beyond the port and into the ocean.
A spokesman for Verizon told Bloomberg it’s a global partnership with Amazon and it’s open to exploring similar deals with other companies, but declined to comment on the finances of the deal.
5G wireless telco’s deals with LEO satellite companies:
This new alliance between Verizon and Project Kuiper comes six weeks after AT&T made a similar deal with LEO satellite operator OneWeb. Just like Verizon, AT&T said it would use that agreement LEO (OneWeb) satellites to extend its connectivity reach to hard-to-serve areas that fall outside of AT&T’s fiber footprint or are beyond the reach of AT&T’s cell towers. AT&T said it would use LEO technology to enhance connectivity when connecting to its enterprise, small and medium-sized business and government customers as well as hard-to-reach cell towers.
In January, KDDI in Japan said it would use Starlink – the LEO offering from Elon Musk’s SpaceX – to connect 1,200 of its remote cell towers with backhaul. KDDI said it would begin offering services under that new teaming as soon as next year.
However, Project Kuiper is way behind both Starlink and OneWeb in terms of satellite deployments. As noted by GeekWire, Starlink already counts 1,650 satellites in orbit (and around 100,000 users), while OneWeb’s constellation is now up to around 358 satellites. Amazon, meantime, has received FCC approvals for the operation of more than 3,000 LEO satellites but has yet to launch any of them. Amazon has committed $10 billion toward the construction of its Kuiper LEO satellite network.
To learn more about partnering with Amazon and the Project Kuiper team, email [email protected]
AT&T and Verizon’s heavy promotions lead to booming growth, but value of next-gen networks to users still unclear, by Dan Gallagher
Even before the country’s two largest wireless carriers reported strong quarterly results this week, Morgan Stanley (MS) had a bit of cold water to splash on those carriers.
The investment bank published the results of its ninth annual broadband and wireless survey on Monday. Among the findings were that only 4% of respondents cited “innovative technology” such as 5G as an important factor in their choice of service. That number was unchanged from the previous year’s survey—despite an unremitting onslaught of marketing from wireless carriers and device makers for the next-gen wireless standard. [IEEE Techblog reported the results of the MS survey here]
That would appear inconsistent with the strong growth in wireless services reported by AT&T and Verizon VZ this week. On Wednesday, Verizon reported adding 429,000 postpaid wireless subscribers during the third quarter, which is up 52% from the number added in the same period last year. On Thursday morning, AT&T said it added 928,000 such users to its rolls in the same period—up 44% from the same period last year and the highest number of net new additions in more than a decade of what are considered the industry’s most valuable base of customers.
The two carriers have been selling 5G hard over the past couple of years. That picked up significantly last fall, when Apple Inc. launched its first iPhones compatible with the next-generation wireless technology. Those phones have been in hot demand. Analysts estimate total iPhone sales jumped 25% to a record of 237 million units in Apple’s fiscal year that ended last month, according to consensus estimates on Visible Alpha. The 5G-compatible iPhone 12 and 13 models are expected to account for more than 80% of that number.
But customers appear to be driven more by old-fashion promotions than cutting-edge technology. AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile —which reports its results on Nov. 2—offered heavy discounts last year for iPhone 12 models paired with new 5G plans. That appears to have continued with the newest crop; wireless analyst Craig Moffett of MoffettNathanson notes that “promotions tied to premium unlimited plans have gotten richer” with the introduction of the iPhone 13 family this year. Indeed, the Morgan Stanley survey found price to be the most compelling driver in choice of a wireless plan, with 44% of respondents citing it as their top factor.
Verizon today announced its earnings for the third quarter of 2021, with the company posting net income of $6.6 billion, operating revenue of $32.9 billion, and $1.55 in earnings per share. Verizon now expects total wireless service revenue growth of around 4%, an increase to prior guidance of 3.5% to 4%. It’s earnings guidance was also revised upwards. Verizon adjusted earnings per share of $5.35 to $5.40 is now forecast for the current quarter – an increase from its prior guidance of $5.25 to $5.35.
“We had a strong third quarter, delivering on our strategy and growing in multiple areas,” Verizon Chairman and CEO Hans Vestberg said in the earnings release. “Our disciplined strategy execution demonstrated growth in 5G adoption, broadband subscribers and business applications. We are increasing our 2021 guidance, and we continue to expand our 4G LTE and 5G network leadership. We fully expect to have a strong finish to the year as we accelerate deployment of 5G to our customers across the country,” he added.
“Verizon reported another quarter of strong financial and operating performance,” Verizon Chief Financial Officer Matt Ellis said in the press release. “We are seeing strong demand for connectivity across our Consumer and Business segments as our Mix and Match and Business Unlimited value propositions, network quality and unique partnerships are resonating with both new and existing customers. We grew revenue in the quarter, achieved solid cash flow, completed the sale of Verizon Media and increased the dividend for a 15th consecutive year.”
The #1 wireless telco in the U.S. lost 68,000 net video subscribers from its Fios (FTTH/FTTP) service in the third quarter. “The telecom giant has been shifting its video focus away from Fios TV to partnerships with third-party streaming services as it positions itself as a key distribution platform for them. For example, Verizon has a deal with The Walt Disney Co. for the Disney bundle, which gives customers with select Verizon wireless unlimited plans access to Disney streaming services Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+,” said the Hollywood Reporter.
During the quarter, Verizon sold off its Verizon Media unit, which consisted of formerly dominant tech brands like AOL and Yahoo. The unit was acquired by Apollo Global Management, although Verizon continues to hold a 10 percent stake.
Verizon reported 129,000 broadband net additions in the third quarter, comprised of Fios, DSL and FWA subscribers, during the quarter. Of those, there were 55,000 Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) subscriber adds , which was about 42% of the 129,000 total broadband net adds generated in the quarter. Verizon FWA has a total of ~150,000 subscribers.
Source: Verizon Infographic from 3Q 2021 Earnings Report
Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg said during the earnings call, “We’re on track to meet our fixed wireless access household coverage targets with an expected 15 million homes passed by the end of the year between 4G and 5G. To date, 5G Home is in 57 markets and 4G LTE Home is in over 200 markets across all 50 states.”
Verizon first began offering 4G LTE Home in July 2020 and has really accelerated its rollout. The company has also rolled out 5G Home. Verizon executives on today’s earnings call noted that the FWA subscriber base is a mix of customers getting service from its 4G/LTE network and via Verizon’s 5G millimeter wave (mmWave) network. The company’s FWA base currently is a mix of residential and business customers, but did not break out that ratio. But they did note that there’s about a rough 50/50 split between FWA customers that are coming from Verizon’s existing base and from other service providers. CFO Matt Ellis said Verizon’s FWA customers aren’t solely focused on rural areas, as Verizon is also seeing “good traction” with the product in urban and suburban areas.
Verizon now seems to favor FWA over Fios, probably because of significantly lower installation costs for the former. Yet the company is not giving up on Fios. “In addition to fixed wireless access, we’re pleased with the great performance of Fios and continue to grow the open-for-sale volumes within our footprint.”
Indeed, Fios Internet net adds were 104,000 in the quarter. The telco is increasing its Fios footprint, adding over 400,000 open-for-sale locations this year. One analyst noted that Verizon hasn’t talked about increasing its Fios brand within its ILEC for quite some time.
Chief Financial Officer Matt Ellis said, “On the Fios expansion, we see great opportunity. We have been investing in that for a number of years; maybe haven’t spoken about it quite as much. But it continues to be a very good growth driver for the business.”
The company reported that Fios revenue of $3.2 billion in the quarter was up 4.7% year over year, driven by continued growth in customers as well as Verizon’s effort to increase the value of each customer by encouraging them to step up in speed tiers.
“We remain focused on bringing in high-quality net adds,” said Elllis. “The mix and match pricing structure for both wireless and Fios provides opportunity to migrate customers to higher value tiers and bring in customers on higher value plans. Our strategy is focused on increasing the value we receive from every connection.”
Vestberg said, “Our strategy is becoming a national broadband provider with the best access to the tech for our customers, including Fios, fixed wireless access on 5G, on 4G, mmWave and C-band.”
In a research note to clients, analyst Craig Moffett discussed Verizon’s broadband business:
Verizon’s FiOS service continues to show strength, a product of both more aggressive pricing and a lessening drag from video as the video base shrinks. Notably, Verizon is also beginning to see some contribution from fixed wireless access.
- FiOS internet subscriber gains of 104K were almost spot on with consensus. DSL losses
remained relatively steady (-30K) despite the fact that the base of legacy DSL has been
gradually depleted. Overall broadband net additions came in at 129K, which includes
55K fixed wireless connections. The company reported that it had 150K fixed wireless
broadband customers at the end of Q3. Wireline broadband net additions were strong,
at 74K, but were still weaker than expected. Notably, the company has guided to an
addition of 400K FiOS homes open for sale, the first meaningful expansion of homes
available for sale in some time (note that “open for sale” does not necessarily equate to
new build – particularly in New York, there has long been a large gap between homes
already passed and homes open for sale – but it is likely that there is at least some new
- Like peers, Verizon is losing video subscribers (down 68K, a little worse than the 54K
loss we had expected, and worse than the 62K loss a year ago despite a smaller
denominator). Their decline rate of 7.2% is broadly in line with the rate of decline for the
With respect to Verizon’s 5G strategy and competition (e.g. T-Mobile), Craig wrote:
As we creep up to the 5G epoch, we’re on the brink of a very different industry. Despite a relatively healthy third quarter report – albeit against relatively easy year ago comps – there are reasons for disquiet. A post-COVID service revenue growth recovery has already begun to slow, and incremental revenue streams from 5G are still uncertain. Industry structure, which once appeared to be getting better – we went from four to three with the merger of Sprint and T-Mobile – is now arguably getting worse, as we now arguably go from three to five with the emergence of hybrid MVNO/MNO networks from Cable and Dish. Verizon is on the brink of a very different competitive position.
T-Mobile’s 5G network is increasingly viewed as better than Verizon’s for coverage, speed, and reliability. Verizon’s one-time bid for sustained superiority – millimeter wave “ultra-wideband” service – currently accounts for just one half of one percent of the time 5G users are connected.
Craig notes that Verizon’s initial gambit to retain network superiority in 5G was built on millimeter wave spectrum. The very limited propagation of millimeter wave spectrum, however, demands an incredibly dense wired backhaul network, at enormous cost, lest customers are simply out of range much of the time. Verizon is, anecdotally at least, well ahead of peers in network densification. Still, recent data (once again, from OpenSignal) suggests that, while 5G customers of Verizon’s 5G service are connected to mmWave spectrum much more often than are 5G customers of AT&T or T-Mobile, that is still too trivial a percentage of the time (one half of one percent). That’s hardly the basis of an advantaged network.
T-Mobile has an advantage in both spectrum propagation (coverage) and spectrum depth (speed). And Verizon still charges a premium. Retention and growth will be harder in a world where their network superiority has been ceded to a lower priced service.
In conclusion, Craig states that Verizon enjoyed years as the best network, but it will be harder to maintain that claim in the 5G era, where T-Mobile has a coverage and spectrum depth (speed) advantage. And where TMobile and the company’s Cable MVNO partners charge meaningfully lower prices than Verizon does for the same or better service.
Verizon’s Year End 2021 Priorities:
• Expand 5G leadership (?) and drive adoption; mmWave deployment and C-Band launch
• Customer differentiation and scaling premium experiences
• Transform the business; Tracfone acquisition and Verizon Media Group sale
• Accelerate and amplify 5 vectors of growth; Network-as-a-Service strategy
Verizon announced the availability of an on-premises, private edge compute service with Microsoft Azure, building on their collaboration formed last year. Verizon 5G Edge with Microsoft Azure Stack Edge is a cloud computing platform that brings compute and storage services to the edge of the network at the customer premises. This should provide enterprises with increased efficiencies, higher levels of security, and the low lag and high bandwidth needed for applications involving computer vision, augmented and virtual reality, and machine learning, Verizon said. Here are the highlights:
- Through its relationship with Microsoft, Verizon is now offering businesses an on-premises, private edge compute solution that enables the ultra-low latency needed to deploy real-time enterprise applications.
- Solution leverages Verizon 5G Edge with Microsoft Azure Stack Edge to bring compute and storage services to the edge of the network at the customer premises, providing increased efficiencies, higher levels of security, and the low lag and high bandwidth needed for applications involving computer vision, augmented and virtual reality, and machine learning.
- Ice Mobility has used Verizon 5G Edge with Microsoft Azure to help with computer vision-assisted product packing to improve on-site quality assurance. The company is now exploring additional 5G Edge applications that provide tangible, material automation enhancements to its business, such as near real-time activity-based costing.
Some of the applications possible with the on-site 5G and edge computing include in-shop information processing in near real time to help retailers manage inventory, or factory data processing and analytics to minimize downtime and gain visibility across manufacturing processes.
Logistics company Ice Mobility has used Verizon 5G Edge with Azure Stack Edge to help with computer vision-assisted product packing to improve on-site quality assurance. The company is exploring additional 5G applications that leverage initial computer vision and 5G edge investments to provide automation enhancements, such as near real-time activity-based costing. This would allow the company to assign overhead and indirect costs to specific customer accounts, pick and pack lines, and warehouse activities to enhance efficiencies and improve competitiveness.
“This announcement aligns with IDC’s view that an on-premises, private 5G edge compute deployment model will spur the growth of compelling 4th generation industrial use cases,” said Ghassan Abdo, Research VP at IDC. “This partnership is a positive development as it leverages the technology and communications leadership of both companies.”
“Our partnership with Microsoft brings 5G Edge to enterprises, dropping latency at the edge, helping critical, performance-impacting applications respond more quickly and efficiently,” said Sampath Sowmyanarayan, Chief Revenue Officer of Verizon Business. “5G is ushering in next-generation business applications, from core connectivity to real-time edge compute and new applications and solutions that take advantage of AI transforming nearly every industry.”
“Business innovation demands powerful technology solutions and central to this is the intersection between the network and edge” said Yousef Khalidi, corporate vice president Azure for Operators at Microsoft. “Through our partnership with Verizon, we are providing customers with powerful compute and storage service capabilities at the edge of customers’ networks, enabling robust application experiences with increased security.”
Verizon offers a similar service with Amazon Web Services (AWS which provides private multi-access edge computing (Private MEC) for enterprises. Private MEC integrates edge computing infrastructure with private networks deployed on or near the customer’s premises.
Verizon and Samsung Electronics recently completed an end-to-end fully virtualized 5G data session over C-band spectrum in a live network environment. The new milestone was reached in preparation for its upcoming 5G Ultra Wideband expansion using its newly acquired C Band spectrum.
This trial used cloud-native end-to-end virtualization and Massive MIMO technology to optimize 5G performance on C-band spectrum.
“We have been driving the industry to large scale virtualization using the advanced architecture we have built into our network from the core to the far edge. This recent accomplishment paves the way for a more programmable, efficient, and scalable 5G network,” said Adam Koeppe, Senior Vice President of Technology Planning at Verizon. “Customers deserve more than mere access to 5G. They deserve 5G built with the highest, gold-standard engineering practices that have positioned Verizon as the most reliable industry leader for years.”
Virtualization Is Important for 5G Performance Optimization:
The trials, conducted over Verizon’s network (using C-band Special Temporary Authority granted to Verizon by the FCC) in Texas, Connecticut and Massachusetts, used Samsung’s fully virtualized RAN (vRAN) solution built on its own software stack and C-band 64T64R Massive MIMO radio in coordination with Verizon’s virtualized core. The trials achieved speeds commensurate with traditional hardware-based equipment
Virtualization is critical to delivering the services promised by advanced 5G networks. Key 5G use cases such as massive scale IOT solutions, more robust consumer devices and solutions, AR/VR, remote healthcare, autonomous robotics in manufacturing environments, and ubiquitous smart city solutions, will heavily rely on the programmability of virtualized networks.
Cloud native virtualized architecture leads to greater flexibility, faster delivery of services, greater scalability, and improved cost efficiency in networks, paving the way for wide-scale mobile edge computing and network slicing. This technology enables Verizon to rapidly respond to customers’ varied latency and computing needs. Virtualization will also lower the barrier to entry for new vendors in the ecosystem. New entrants will accelerate innovation, reduce operating costs, and lay the groundwork for flexible network and cloud infrastructure closer to the customer, eventually leading to single digit millisecond latency.
“We’re proud to mark another milestone following our first large-scale commercial 5G vRAN deployment for Verizon, which is currently servicing millions of users. This trial reinforces our commitment to helping operators evolve their advanced 5G networks,” said Junehee Lee, Executive Vice President and Head of R&D, Networks Business at Samsung Electronics. “This achievement represents our dedicated efforts in leading the transition to virtualization, and helping Verizon realize greater efficiency, scalability and flexibility. vRAN is a powerful enabler for network transformation, and we aim to continue leading this journey.”
Why Massive MIMO Is Important for 5G Performance Optimization:
Massive MIMO is an evolution in antenna arrays that uses a high number of transmitters which enables more possible signal paths between a device and a cell tower. It also reduces interference through beamforming, which directs the beam from the cell site directly to where the customer is resulting in higher and more consistent speeds for customers using apps and uploading and downloading files. This trial used Samsung’s C-band 64T64R Massive MIMO radios that support digital/dynamic beamforming, SU-MIMO, MU-MIMO and dual connectivity and carrier aggregation.
“Incorporating full, cloud-native virtualization, Massive MIMO and beamforming into our network design and deployment will result in so much more than our customers merely seeing a 5G icon on their devices. This is 5G service optimized for peak performance,” said Koeppe.
Today’s milestone follows Samsung’s recent announcement on expanding its vRAN capability to support mid-band Massive MIMO radios—a first for the industry. Samsung’s C-band Massive MIMO radio is part of a complete C-band solutions portfolio.
Verizon on Track To Deliver 5G Over C-band:
This virtualization work comes on the heels of other work to speed the expansion of 5G Ultra Wideband service using C-band spectrum including:
- Successful trials integrating C-band with mmWave licensed spectrum,
- Securing new agreements with Verizon’s tower partners, which provide for process improvements including standardizing and reducing forms and minimizing legal reviews, and…
- Installation of C-band equipment.
These combined efforts, along with ongoing lab and field trials to optimize 5G technology on C-band spectrum will allow Verizon to offer expanded mobility and broadband services to millions more consumers and businesses as soon as the spectrum is cleared.
In the first quarter of 2022, Verizon expects to put its new 5G C-band spectrum into service in the initial 46 markets and to provide 5G Ultra Wideband service to 100 million people. Over 2022 and 2023, coverage is expected to increase to more than 175 million people and by 2024 and beyond, when the remaining C-band spectrum is cleared, more than 250 million people are expected to have access to Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband service on C-band spectrum.
About Verizon Communications Inc.
Verizon Communications Inc. was formed on June 30, 2000 and is one of the world’s leading providers of technology, communications, information and entertainment products and services. Headquartered in New York City and with a presence around the world, Verizon generated revenues of $128.3 billion in 2020. The company offers data, video and voice services and solutions on its award-winning networks and platforms, delivering on customers’ demand for mobility, reliable network connectivity, security and control.
Verizon Executive VP and CTO Kyle Malady stated: Right now we have about 1/3 of our cell sites and small cells on our own fiber asset (backhaul). And I think that’s — we like the owner’s economics of that. We also like the control of the network because we can maintain quality and reliability.
Wells Fargo Question:
Let’s talk about Verizon’s One Fiber project, where you’re building in more than 60 cities. Has that continued at its pace that it was at last year? Has it slowed down at all? And at what point is most of the network core already built and you’ve really flipped to more kind of success-based fiber CapEx once you get beyond the core build?
Kyle Malady’s Answer:
We’re getting there on the core build. I’d say maybe 80% there roughly. And now it’s more connecting in a lot of markets. It’s more connecting the cell sites into it and making what we call laterals. So building the fiber laterals to cell sites or what have you and connecting back to the core. So we got two or three more years left on our fiber build here. And then primarily, it will be just success-based builds.
Verizon launched its One Fiber initiative in 2016, unifying its fiber planning and purchasing for both wireless and wireline into a single program. It initially announced a six-year, $300 million project in Boston, eventually outlining ambitions to add fiber to more than 60 markets outside of its ILEC footprint.
Speaking in May 2019 during the Wireless Infrastructure Association’s Connectivity Expo, Verizon SVP Adam Koeppe said:
We’ve made a conscious effort to really pair our wireless engineering with a fiber engineering process and what that’s allowed us to do is pursue over 60 markets around the country. We’re going to actually be building fiber into the footprint and, you know, truthfully, serving our own needs if you will from a frontal and backhaul perspective. That’s a very integrated engineering process that creates tremendous synergy on our end and allows for very rapid deployment.
Regarding Verizon’s 5G Home (fixed wireless access or FWA) expansion, Malady said:
Now that we have millimeter wave and C-Band spectrum, I feel confident that we can do this. And I feel confident we can do this in a good way, a way that is consistent with the quality people have come to rely on Verizon for. So we’re going to engineer this right. We have enough spectrum to do it. And I’m excited about the possibilities for us from a — meeting customers where they want to be. And without this millimeter wave and C-Band, we couldn’t have been able to support this kind of use case.
Besides the consumer market for 5G Home, SMB seems to be kind of a no-brainer. If we make it easy to use, if we make it easy to buy and set up and utilize, people will probably figure out ways to use that we haven’t even thought of yet. So I do think it’s something that will be used across the board. You could use it (5G Home) at Wells Fargo. You could use them in ATMs. You can use the service for a whole host of things, if you make — if it’s easier to use, more reliable, good price point. So if the value is there, I think people will use it no matter kind of — no matter what segment of the economy they are in. So — but obviously, we’re a heavy Consumer company, and that’s where we’re going to start.
Malady added he expects Verizon’s fiber experience to give it a competitive edge in the FWA arms race with rivals like T-Mobile. “Having been in the FiOS game for a long time we understand what works, what doesn’t work, how to set things up, the customer support, all the different angles. So I do believe that having experience with FiOS is absolutely going to translate over to what we do with 5G Home.”
Verizon distinguishes between a private wireless network product and mobile edge compute (MEC) offerings, he noted, but likes it when both come together. That’s when “the full power of 5G” can be exploited, he said, with features like low power usage and high device density. Verizon has ambitions for both public and private MEC, in partnerships with Microsoft and AWS.
Asked about moving beyond just providing connectivity and driving new revenue streams with private wireless, he pointed to recurring services such as security, managed services, and running custom applications or IoT.
“The private network piece, very few can do it as well as us, but it’s the layers of services on top that creates a pretty compelling revenue case for us,” Sowmyanarayan said. “But more importantly use-cases for the customer.”
He acknowledged that typically with large customers there’s also a significant upfront piece to get the private network up and running. The private network is essentially a scaled down version of the macro network consisting of core, radio, and other elements at a local location. But afterwards the recurring services are attractive for both Verizon and private wireless customers who can then keep attention on their main business functions.
“They are able to look to a large partner to offload some of the complex work so they can focus on what their core is,” Sowmyanarayan noted, pointing to mines as an example.
Verizon also has a private wireless offering for international customers, which uses Nokia network equipment. The carrier recently signed its first European 5G private wireless deal with Associated British Ports (ABP) for the Port of Southampton in the U.K. Sowmyanarayan said the carrier is very excited about the ABP deal and categorized it as “a sign for things to come” for Verizon.
In the 1st Quarter of 2021, Verizon posted a loss of 170,000 monthly wireless subscribers. Analysts had predicted 82,100 new customers. The top U.S. wireless carrier continues to see partnerships like its ones with Amazon.com Inc. and Corning Inc. as the best path to bring advanced 5G services from development to actual sales.
The Federal Communications Committee (FCC) has given Verizon Wireless permission to conduct a series of tests in the 3.55 to 3.7GHz CBRS spectrum band using three radio stations in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Verizon said the tests will involve 5G and carrier aggregation technology. The FCC grant reads as follows:
Verizon Wireless is working with 5G base station and mobile device equipment vendors to
conduct product testing of 3.5 GHz in outdoor locations listed below.
1. Minneapolis (HENNEPIN), MN – NL 44-48-26; WL 93-22-29; MOBILE: within 0.75 km
radius of center point location, within 0.75 km, centered around NL 44-48-26;
2. Minneapolis (HENNEPIN), MN – NL 44-48-24; WL 93-22-29; MOBILE: within 0.75 km
radius of center point location, within 0.75 km, centered around NL 44-48-24;
3. Minneapolis (HENNEPIN), MN – NL 44-48-24; WL 93-22-29; MOBILE: within 0.75 km
radius of center point location, within 0.75 km, centered around NL 44-48-24.
“Verizon and partners plan to conduct the proposed 5G tests using pre-commercial equipment in prototype form,” Verizon said in its FCC application. The operator did not name the device or network equipment partners it will be working with for the tests.
PCMag reported that Verizon has only been using CBRS spectrum only for 4G – LTE. In Jackson Heights (Queens, NY), the CBRS-enhanced 4G clocked 456Mbps, while 5G DSS at the same times and similar locations hit 232Mbps. The PCMag author previously observed Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband at about3.2Gbps.
Therefore, the move to 5G over CBRS is significant. Verizon added that it plans to evaluate “intra-band and inter-band carrier aggregation between 3.5GHz and licensed (and/or unlicensed) bands,” including its licensed 700MHz, PCS and AWS bands. [Carrier aggregation technology can be used to bond together transmissions across different spectrum bands, thus dramatically increasing users’ connection speeds.]
Light Reading’s Mike Dano says that Verizon has been adding support for the 3.5GHz CBRS spectrum band to its network for years. And last year Verizon spent $1.9 billion to purchase CBRS spectrum licenses across the country in an FCC auction.
Verizon’s tests roughly coincide with the operator’s three-year, $10 billion program to put its C-band spectrum licenses into use. Verizon succeeded in more than doubling its existing mid-band spectrum holdings by adding an average of 161 MHz of C-Band nationwide paying $52.9 billion including incentive payments and clearing costs.
AWS and Verizon Business have expanded their 5G collaboration to provide private multi-access edge computing (Private MEC) for enterprises. Private MEC integrates edge computing infrastructure with private networks deployed on or near the customer’s premises. AWS and Verizon have integrated Verizon’s 5G Edge MEC platform with AWS Outposts [1.], a fully managed service that offers the same AWS Infrastructure, AWS services, APIs, and tools to virtually any data center, colocation space, or on-premises facility for a consistent, hybrid experience.
Note 1. Outposts is AWS’ on-premises option that involves data center equipment being installed at an enterprise facility. It uses AWS infrastructure, services, APIs, and tools to support a hybrid cloud service. Verizon is offering several form factor options of Outposts, include 1U and 2U deployments.
AWS initially launched Outposts in late 2019. “Instead of building this funky bridge between two things,” on-premises data centers and the cloud, Outposts brings native AWS services into on-premises data centers while “seamlessly connecting to AWS’s broad array of services in the cloud,” AWS CEO Andy Jassy explained at the time.
Outposts is similar to competing offers like Microsoft’s Azure Arc, Google’s Anthos, and IBM’s Cloud Satellite. AWS last month also struck a deal with Nokia to combine Outposts with the telecom vendor’s RAN and edge equipment to target the enterprise space.
Verizon Business customers will be able to tap into the combination to deploy a fully managed private mobile edge compute network within their on-premises environment that can handle low-latency applications like intelligent logistics, robotics, and factory automation.
MEC deployment across different enterprise networks. Source: ETSI
According to Amazon, cloud migrations are often inhibited by residency or privacy constraints that prevent data from leaving the premises, strict compute latency requirements, or the need for cloud infrastructure to connect directly to onsite equipment. Similarly, many workloads involve huge volume of data, making transfers to the cloud infeasible due to limited available network bandwidth and timing constraints.
Furthermore, enterprise applications commonly depend on local wired or Wi-Fi networks to transport data locally. While wired networks can provide acceptable performance, they are expensive to upgrade, reroute, and extend. On the other hand, enterprise Wi-Fi offers simplicity and cost-effectiveness, but offers less manageability and suffers from coverage, capacity, reliability, security, and handoff issues.
The Private MEC solution deployed on AWS Outposts addresses these challenges by providing a secure, dedicated cloud computing platform and reliable on-premises wireless networking based on 5G, all using a single infrastructure deployment. The private 5G network offers better performance, control, reliability, and density than existing options. Combined with the AWS services brought by AWS Outposts, we are enabling Enterprise customers to deploy low latency, high-performance applications on their premises, leveraging both the benefits of 5G and the cloud, locally. By leveraging Private MEC enterprises can host workloads in emerging areas such as Industry 4.0; for example, Private MEC and private 5G can facilitate deeper integration between IT and operational technology (OT) systems in manufacturing facilities.
Private MEC also supports many use cases beyond the factory. Events and venues, such as sports, concerts, and theme parks can use Private MEC to provide enhanced experiences with AR/VR, live information overlays, multi-camera, multiple angle views, and personalized instant replays. Healthcare providers use Private MEC for real-time diagnostics over 5G for rapid access to radiological scans on-site and local processing of sensitive patient data. Schools and universities can benefit from Private MEC by servicing students in rural areas without adequate broadband coverage to run applications like virtual desktops. We are excited about the innovations that Private MEC solutions can unlock across industries, and continue to work with customers to power their innovation with edge computing.
Amazon AWS is also working with Corning Incorporated, a leading materials science and advanced manufacturing innovator, and Verizon to deploy a Private MEC solution on AWS Outposts at the Corning factory in Hickory, North Carolina. Corning uses AWS Outposts to run computer vision software from Gestalt Robotics that provides autonomous navigation and advanced environmental sensing. Corning recently installed an AWS Outposts rack that places the power of the AWS cloud within the four walls of its optical cable plant in Hickory, North Carolina.
The AWS capabilities that Outposts delivers, combined with the ultra-low latency, high throughput of the private 5G network, provide a powerful platform upon which Corning will innovate with applications never before possible, such as real-time analysis of large volumes of high-resolution video streams from across the factory and integration of high-data-rate automation systems. In factory environments like this, Amazon EC2 instances with GPU acceleration provide the necessary computing power to run Computer Vision (CV) and AI/ML workloads efficiently, enabling real-time control of Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMRs) that roam the factory floors.
The software running on the Private MEC service can guide the AMRs safely and speedily through a factory, avoiding people and obstacles while ferrying their payloads from point to point. The Private 5G network enables reliable, low-latency transmission of rich sensor data (lidar, vibration, temperature, audio) from these AMRs and other industrial devices located throughout the factory. Importantly, this enables operators to observe a live stream of video in near real-time and intervene when necessary.
The same computer vision technology used by the AMRs for navigation and safety can also be used to detect and inventory raw material and finished goods in a factory. Mobile video streams from the AMRs can be combined with feeds from cameras installed in the factory and onsite sensor inputs and RFIDs for accurate counting and tracking. In addition, integration with Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) running on Outposts enables real-time monitoring, automation, and optimization, as raw material is turned into the final product.
This opens up possibilities such as performing predictive maintenance and servicing of onsite machinery without the need to ship massive amounts of sensor data over network links into the cloud. Private MEC solutions like this enable factories to become even smarter and leverage the power of innovation that AWS brings to the cloud, while simplifying the deployment and management of on-premise networking with the latest 5G technologies.