Verizon recently announced a multi-year major Network as a Service (NaaS) agreement for over 9,000 Walgreens and Duane Reed-branded retail stores across the U.S., marking Verizon’s largest NaaS agreement with an enterprise customer at this level. According to Sampath Sowmyanarayan, president of Global Enterprise at Verizon, Verizon will be turning on 5G fixed wireless access (FWA) at some stores “very very soon.” He didn’t initially disclose how many stores are next for 5G FWA but did mention it’s part of the initial steps to bringing 5G to some locations.
Verizon hasn’t been quiet on the growing opportunity for private 5G networks and mobile edge compute, but neither of those are front and center on the Walgreens agreement. Sowmyanarayan said, “Down the line we may explore options on private networks and other network solutions, but immediately getting 5G connectivity with fixed wireless in some of those stores is in the cards.”
The 5G sites at the various Walgreens and Duane-Reed stores will use Verizon’s Fixed Wireless Access platform, with a CPE device and handoff as ethernet.
Verizon has been pushing to light up their mmWave 5G network, dubbed 5G Ultra Wideband, in parts of 60 cities by the end of 2020. Sowmyanarayan noted, “wherever a Walgreens store overlaps with Verizon’s network footprint and the conditions are right” is where the 5G deployments will happen.
Walgreens is one of the first pharmacies across the world to adopt 5G connectivity, following other real-world deployments such as the General Motors’ factory facility and their recent announcement to build in 5G networks as part of their agreement with WeWork. Sowmyanarayan said, “When [Walgreens] wants to transform to the pharmacy of the future, do omni retail, we will ensure that 5G is there for them.”
As Verizon works to be a fully integrated service for Walgreens, they’ll help with other aspects of the business other than just providing a 5G network. Verizon is looking to take charge of other things like connectivity, security, and managed services as well as other needs based on store locations.
Sowmyanarayan said that Verizon will tailor each location’s services based on their profiles. So for example, one location may need fiber or higher security whereas other stores may use the carrier’s LTE or 5G network.
Backend services are a part of the agreement, as well as upgraded connectivity and security to things like kiosks with Verizon “enabling the plumbing” to bring new services as well.
One other important element of the deal is that Verizon will be enabling a new infrastructure to support the next generation of Wi-Fi across store and non-store locations.
Usually, a project this size will take 2-3 years to implement, but Verizon has said that its NaaS platform and approach cut that time down to just one year. The first phase is already underway and once that’s finished the project will focus on real-time updates as well as new initiatives as new technologies come along.
Though the Walgreens-Verizon deal is the largest NaaS to date, Verizon still has several deals in the works according to Sowmyanarayan, who anticipates more NaaS deals both in the U.S. and internationally, where more than 50% of his customer base has a global presence.
Sowmyanarayan said, “While most of the competition is pulling back globally, we’re aggressively increasing our global presence.”
Source: Fierce Wireless