For millimeter wave 5G, Verizon will use IAB as it continues deploying fiber
While competitors claim nationwide coverage using low-band frequencies, Verizon is staying the course on millimeter wave–a heavier construction lift and smaller coverage areas but the speeds you’d expect with 5G. To scale out that millimeter wave coverage, Verizon needs fiber; and the operator is steadily building it.
Speaking recently at the Cowen Communications Infrastructure Summit, Verizon’s Adam Koeppe, senior vice president of network strategy and planning, said fiber builds are ongoing in some 60 markets, also the year-end goal for millimeter wave 5G markets.
“But the goal is in every square foot of the country,” Koeppe said, according to a transcript of his interview with Cowen’s Colby Synesael. “So it is very targeted to the more dense areas, our hottest markets, if you will, for 4G and 5G growth. That’s where — that’s the sweet spot for where we’re putting our fiber resources. That’s — there’s still 2 to 3 years left in that build program for those core markets. So each year, though, we have an aggressive capital management process that looks at projects that have a greater need versus ones that don’t and shift resources accordingly. But right now, we are full steam ahead on the fiber build and pairing that with our 4G and 5G node deployments and it’s been going exceptionally well.”
Industry analyst Jim Patterson wrote in his The Sunday Brief column that this was Koeppe’s way of saying, “Fiber is Verizon’s foundation for growth,” and expect multi-billion dollar annual investments “in perpetuity. If they increase their One Fiber accountability (‘sell where you have fiber/don’t sell where you don’t have fiber’,) Verizon could create disproportionate value in the next decade,” he wrote.
As it works on its concurrent fiber and 5G deployments, Verizon plans to use Integrated Access/Backhaul technology at small cell sites to turn up without initially having fiber backhaul. IAB works by, as the name implies, using millimeter wave frequency for both access and backhaul. But by no means a long-term solution.
Verizon was testing IAB with Ericsson last month and, at the time, spokesperson Karen Schultz told RCR Wireless News the roadmap calls for multi-hop trials followed by commercial deployment. She called IAB an “acceleration tool…Meaning that it will help us get 5G sites on the air more quickly…but we do not intend to use the airlink indefinitely. It will help us speed the deployment of cell sites and we will use the airlink for backhaul until we are to run fiber to the site.”