July 8, 2020 – The United States is leading in the deployment of 5G, claimed Verizon Communications CEO Hans Vestberg on Wednesday.
Vestberg updated the public on the rollout of 5G and Verizon’s response to COVID-19, among other matters, in a virtual conversation with David Rubenstein, president of the Economic Club of Washington D.C.
Vestberg, a native of Sweden, quickly rose in the ranks at Verizon, becoming CEO and chairman after working at the company for just one year, during which he designed the company’s 5G strategy.
Rubenstein inquired about the state of 5G, asking Vestberg, “Why is the United States so far behind in 5G manufacturing and deployment?”
“I think your statement is wrong — the U.S. is first in the world for 5G,” Vestberg responded.
Vestberg noted that while 5G is being deployed and utilized in the country, much of it is by industry.
“The reason consumers don’t think we’re far ahead in the U.S., is because there is such a high penetration of Apple phones and Apple has not yet built a 5G capable device,” he said.
Vestberg elaborated on his vision of 5G to the home, saying he sees it as a replacement for fiber to the home.
He also said that the biggest complaint he receives from customers is that Verizon does not offer Fios, their fiber optic network services, to their homes.
“We’re only serving seven states with Fios,” Vestberg said, resisting the idea of expanding the program.
Instead, he said, these customers “will soon have 5G wireless service in their area.”
Ironically, Vestberg noted the importance of having both 5G and fiber at his personal home, claiming these services were responsible for the high-quality connection of the Zoom call.
In response to COVID-19, Vestberg reported that he has been running Verizon remotely for about 18 weeks.
The company never fully closed due to the pandemic, although currently only 30 percent of Verizon stores are open.
“We have tried to keep the network open for all subscribers, and the network has performed excellent in crisis,” Vestberg claimed.
About 150,000 employees are currently working from home, while 20,000 continue to work on the ground as field engineers.
Vestberg reported taking safety measurements for Verizon field engineers, explaining that much of the job can be done without going into the homes of customers at all.
Rubestein questioned Vestberg about Verizon’s recent decision to pull advertising from Facebook.
According to Vestberg, the act was not a political statement, nor part of the Stop Hate for Profit ad boycott, but was instead due to a breach in the commercial contract between the two companies.
“We have a brand that we want to protect, and we were made aware of posts that broke commercial contract,” said Vestberg, insinuating that Facebook was contractually removing users’ posts reflecting poorly on Verizon in the past.
“We did the same with YouTube two years ago,” Vestberg added.
When Rubenstein asked Vestberg if he was thinking of getting deeper into the content business, Vestberg responded no, stating that the company “[feels] really good about the online services we offer — we’re not interested in long form content as there are other areas we can grow.”
While he claimed to be uninterested in the content market, Vestberg went on to highlight Verizon’s content partnerships with Disney+ and Apple music.
“We can attract the best brands to work with us, because we offer the best service,” he said.
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