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Verizon CEO on 5G iPhone launch: 'It's just a big, big performance improvement for our customers'

Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg joins Yahoo Finance's Akiko Fujita to discuss Verizon’s partnership with Apple to launch the first 5G iPhone.

Video Transcript

AKIKO FUJITA: Well, Verizon, our parent company, is expanding the ability of its 5G ultra-wideband service today in 55 cities. We saw CEO Hans Vestberg making that announcement at the Apple event that wrapped up an hour or so ago.

Let's bring in Hans Vestberg. He is the CEO of Verizon and joining us today on the show. Hans, it's great to have you on today. Let me get right into that pitch there because you've been talking about the rollout of nationwide 5G for some time. How does the announcement today change the game for you?

HANS VESTBERG: I think we have said all the year that we're going to launch nationwide 5G this year. And, of course, we said it should be in the right commercial moment, and I think the commercial moment was today.

And first of all, [INAUDIBLE] up to, now, we have 55 cities with the ultra-wideband, which is the super performance. At the same time, we do the nationwide 5G covering more than 200 million people in the United States and 1,800 cities. So this is the commercial moment.

I mean, iPhone is, of course, widely spread in our base for our customers. And the coming with the 5G phone, which both have sort of the ultra-wideband and the nationwide for us, is just a big, big performance improvement for our customers when they go to 5G.

So we're excited [? everyday. ?] We worked with this strategy for years. We worked with our partners. Apple is, of course, one of those very close partners where we developed this both technology-wise, but commercially. Our customers can get to be part of that.

AKIKO FUJITA: In layman's term, for consumers, how does the experience change? You've heard the criticism before, those who say, look, we've seen the big headlines on 5G, but my personal experience hasn't necessarily changed. Some would argue that in some spots it has actually been slower. So with this announcement today, how does the consumer experience change at the most granular level?

HANS VESTBERG: I think the big thing is here that the iPhone is 5G enabled with millimeter wave and low band. I think that's the big thing. And, of course, you need to upgrade to the 5G phone to experience that, but clearly if you're in the ultra-wideband zone, you can get up to 4 gigabits per second, which is probably 20 times faster or at least 10 times faster than any 4G network, and we have the best 4G network as well.

So it's a huge, dramatic change in speed, but then you have the capacity. The capacity means that we can actually have this super app with NFL with seven different cameras at the same time on the screen, and you can actually pick and choose. You can only do that with 5G. And you can do it in the stadium or at home as long as your have 5G ultra-wideband. So it's very different.

And then you have the low latency, and that's why we, together with Riot, will launch the gaming on 5G, which is "Wild Rift," which is one of the most widely used gaming in the world because the low latency now is making that possible on a phone. So it's a lot of new things coming out as soon as this phone is spreading out in the market.

AKIKO FUJITA: And how long until-- you know, we've talked a lot about the ability to tap into 5G in major cities, and yet it does feel like, in some parts of the US, that accessibility isn't there still. How long until we get the same kind of benefits that you talked about-- the extra capacity, the low latency-- across the country in the same way?

HANS VESTBERG: Think about our networks. We always want the superior performance. First of all, we already have the best 4G network in the nation, and we've had that for years. So that we have as a fundamental.

Then we have a nationwide 5G where you're going to access it on a lower band. And then on top of that, we're at 55 cities right now, 60 by year end where we're going to have ultra-wideband. And in some of those cities, we have definitely doubled the coverage right now in the last 12 months.

So remember, this year we're doing five times more 5G radio base stations compared to the previous year. So this is a big year for Verizon. We are executing on the strategy we have talked about for three years to really get this out, and we get all our partners with us-- the infrastructure players. The biggest handset manufacturers like Apple is coming with our strategy. I think that is really exciting for us, and it's super exciting for our customers.

AKIKO FUJITA: You talked about that app that would be available for the NFL. You've also talked about adding the service in airports as well. Where do you see the biggest opportunities in terms of growth for 5G, and what are some other potential partnerships you're looking to right now?

HANS VESTBERG: I'd say if you look at our five-year strategy, which is different than anybody else-- first of all, on the consumer side, you already mentioned, we think that a couple of the applications we're coming out with will-- and with the phone, that will enable consumers to actually take on 5G.

Then we have the 5G home which we just launched just a couple of weeks ago when we actually do broadband substitution by using 5G with a new device. So that's also a new business for us, and we see that as a great opportunity.

And the last one where we work with Amazon which we're doing 5G mobile edge compute, basically bringing cloud computing out to the edge with 5G. Those are three distinct business opportunity for us, and we have been working with them since 2017. And now we see the fruits of that in this second half of 2020.

And I've been talking about this all year. This is the year where we're going to have all this start happening. And today is one of those landmark days for us when we actually get everything to happen, and 5G just got real, as I usually say.

AKIKO FUJITA: Hans Vestberg, good to talk to you today, the CEO of Verizon Communications, which we should note is our parent company.