Verizon’s Huge Increase in Fiber Investments for “5G” Small Cell Backhaul & FTTP

Verizon Communications’ recent surge in buying fiber assets has little to do with its FiOS video and broadband Internet access.  Yet the company expects to benefit from the investments, Senior Vice President Kyle Malady said at the Fiber Connect conference this week. He said Verizon is doubling down on fiber to fuel 5G network builds.  His presentation can be viewed here.

“All the cards are lining up for us to double down on fiber again,” Malady said during his June 13th keynote address at the conference. Malady said balancing CAPEX requirements in a world of 4G, pending 5G, and other key network initiatives may have given the appearance that Verizon was scaling back on fiber investments. But that has now changed and you can thank wireless backhaul for it.

“Fiber is basically the nervous system of the networks of the future,” Malady said and Verizon is making big investments in it. He cited recent announcements with Corning and other fiber suppliers that Malady said has the carrier buying enough fiber to string to “Mars and back.”

This doubling-down in fiber is not driven by expanding FiOS. It’s driven by the need to densify Verizon’s network for 5G.  FTTP applications will be a benefit of this densification. Because of 5G, Verizon will need to backhaul wireless traffic from small cells located at approximately 1,000-foot intervals in urban applications.

Those small cells will require gigabit capable backhaul, which is best delivered through a deep fiber network, says Malady. As a result, Verizon is changing their approach to fiber. They are adding many more strands as they lay this fiber, leading to the ability to offer FTTP services as they accommodate their small cell-heavy 5G network. “All applications can be served out of one fiber sheath,” said Malady.

Verizon’s “One Fiber” in Boston, MA. is their first market for this approach. It’s an approach that Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam stressed at a recent industry conference, suggesting Verizon will have the largest national fiber footprint as a result of their 5G intentions.  Verizon is also partnering with the city of Sacramento, CA.  The theme is: “Designing and Constructing an Integrated Fiber Solution with our Municipality Partners,” according to Malady.

“[5G] leads to a whole new architecture and will require massive bandwidth, deep fiber and flexible access at the edge,” said Malady. This 5G-driven architecture is one reason Verizon is moving to NG-PON2 for their next generation fiber platform.

“We’re going to skip XG-PON and move on to NG-PON2,” Malady said, citing mid-2018 as their commercial launch time frame. NG-PON2 is better suited for 5G because of its wavelength flexibility and capability to eventually scale up to 80 Gbps in capacity.

Malady hinted this new outlook on fiber could lead to Verizon entering markets outside of their traditional territory. He cited ongoing discussions with Sacramento, Calif. for a fiber broadband-based public-private partnership.

New network architecture, according to Verizon:

• Massive bandwidth – deep fiber, flexible access
• Edge Computing
• Dense 5G Wireless
• Unlicensed and shared spectrum
• Software defined infrastructure
• Open source and automation, open RAN