Though it has been reluctant to give numbers, Verizon recently touted its small cell rollout as “the industry-leading deployment” of the technology in the United States. But just because the carrier believes it’s already at the top doesn’t mean it’s planning to stop anytime soon. In fact, according to Verizon CFO Matt Ellis, there’s still “a lot” of work for the company to do on that front.
Speaking at an investor conference this week, Ellis said the carrier has followed through on its promise to add capacity to its network through densification after exiting the AWS-3 auction without new airwaves in some key markets. Last week, Verizon’s Chief Network Officer Nicole Palmer indicated the carrier said those deployments are currently underway “in all of our major metropolitan areas” across the country. Palmer said the deployments have been enabled through not only cooperation with cities and municipalities, but also by Verizon’s fiber footprint. The latter has allowed the new small cells to be connected via fiber to the carrier’s centralized RAN (C-RAN) system, she said.
But Ellis on Wednesday noted there’s still plenty of work to be done in deploying small cells to lay the foundation for 5G.
“Densification very much works. There’s still a lot for us to do with densification,” Ellis said. “And a couple of other plus points about densification: one, it prepositions the network for 5G because by putting the small cells in, by putting the dark fiber in, you’re creating some of that backbone that you’re going to need for that next generation network. And secondly, it’s more efficient to densify than just add capacity through spectrum.”
But while Verizon may have ambitious plans for small cell build outs, MoffettNathanson analysts this week said it’s unlikely the carrier will be able to go it alone thanks to massive CapEx costs. More on that is here.
Speaking of spectrum, Ellis addressed capacity concerns around unlimited by noting Verizon still has plenty of headroom to deploy airwaves. Restating a metric revealed by Palmer, Ellis said only around half of Verizon’s spectrum today is used for LTE. Palmer commented last week those airwaves carry around 98 percent of the carrier’s data traffic. That leaves a wealth of spectrum – including AWS-3, refarmed PCS and 800 MHz, and unlicensed spectrum opening up next year – on the table for Verizon to use, Ellis said. And thanks to improvements in network architecture, Ellis said those airwaves are more efficient than ever.
“We are more efficiently deploying the spectrum today than we were five, six years ago, when we launched the LTE network,” Ellis said. “So every piece of spectrum we have now is doing more work … and we see opportunities to have gains just through the architecture.”
Filed Under: Infrastructure