Verizon increased its capex guidance for 2020, outlining plans to spend an extra $500 million to speed its transition to 5G and prepare for a potential surge in data traffic related to the spread of Covid-19 (coronavirus).

It now expects capex of between $17.5 billion and $18.5 billion, up from an original range of $17 billion to $18 billion.

The move comes as the operator prepares for potential stress on its network, as companies and schools in the US increasingly adopt online work models to help prevent the spread of Covid-19.

CTO Kyle Malady said in a statement Verizon is yet to see a significant change in data usage, but is “monitoring the situation closely”. He added it is “not clear yet how having millions of additional people working from home will impact usage patterns”, but said the operator is prepared to meet the challenge.

“While this is an unprecedented situation, we know things are changing, and we are ready to adjust network resources as we better understand any shifts in demand.”

The operator noted it will priortise the needs of hospitals, emergency services and government agencies, and stands ready to deploy assets including portable cell sites and mobile charging stations as necessary.

Earlier this month, CFO Matt Ellis said the virus was not expected to weigh heavily on Q1 results, but warned extended supply chain disruptions could dent future equipment revenue.