Verizon continues to be bullish on the opportunities presented by 5G next-generation wireless service and is encouraged by its performance so far in the limited number of markets the company has launched it in, according to Hans Vestberg, the company’s CEO and chairman.
“We actually are very pleased with what we are seeing with the 5G,” he told the Goldman Sachs Communacopia Conference in New York Sept. 19.
The company has launched 5G in nine U.S. cities so far and plans to have the technology available in 30 U.S. markets by the end of this year, with additional deployments following in 2020, he confirmed.
There’s been mixed reviews so far, with very high speeds reported and the service reaching north of 1 gigabit in some cases, but there’s also limited initial coverage, a Goldman Sachs analyst pointed out. But Vestberg noted that with 4G “it took a year before we got some real improvement on it” after working out the kinks.
5G is “meeting our expectations and we are gradually increasing our footprint every day,” he told attendees. But “we’re so early in the cycle,” he said, noting Verizon was the first company to offer 5G for smartphones. “We are in the beginning of it and seeing the evolution of the technology is actually very encouraging,” he said.
Asked when consumers will be able to access Verizon’s 5G on a nationwide basis in the U.S., he said: “We’re going to turn it on when our customers are ready for it and the market has the ecosystem for it…. There’s so many facets of 5G … but ultimately it has to be good coverage [and] it also has to be a superior experience compared to 4G.” For now, Verizon is waiving the $10 premium fee for 5G service, he also noted.
New entrants in the wireless market, meanwhile, include Altice USA, which is offering plans starting at just $20-$30 a month for unlimited data, mostly in the New York market. That’s much cheaper than the $70 that Verizon’s plans start at for a single line.
But Verizon isn’t daunted by the competition, according to Vestberg, who said: “We have lived [with] tough competition for many, many years and we continue to do so.” He added: “We just need to stick to our main strategy – we build the best network.”
Verizon recently lowered the price of its 4G unlimited plans by $5 a month, which was done from a “position of strength,” he said. What Verizon is doing is “making the path for our customers coming to unlimited easier …. We have a journey on 4G and 5G on unlimited that we want to bring them into, so this is part of a much broader, longer thinking” strategy, he explained, noting that about 50 percent of its wireless customers now have unlimited service.
There are, meanwhile, no plans for Verizon to become a bigger player on the content front like rival AT&T, according to Vestberg, who said his company prefers to partner with other media companies instead and focus on having the strongest network. Verizon also has in-house technology that includes artificial intelligence (AI), via its Verizon Media division, which rival carriers don’t have, he also said.