Verizon fashionably late to the LTE fixed wireless party

Joining several of its industry peers, Verizon announced it will offer fixed wireless Internet services to homes and offices in select rural locations over its LTE network. The service is available to Verizon's mobile phone customers for $40 per month and for $60 per month to other customers.

Verizon said customers can expect average download speeds of 25 Mbit/s with peak speeds up to 50 Mbit/s. A representative from the operator said customers can expect upload speeds "comparable to what mobility customers currently experience in those markets."

The operator said the service can stream video at 1080p, "plus you can enjoy unlimited data with no data caps." That's noteworthy considering many other fixed wireless LTE services are often capped or otherwise slowed after customers consume a certain amount of data per month.

Verizon's new "LTE Home Internet" product will run across all the operator's LTE spectrum bands, including 700MHz, 850MHz, PCS and AWS. And the operator confirmed to Light Reading that it will not need to deploy any new network equipment on its towers in order to offer the service.

Second time's the charm?
As Jeffrey Moore of Wave7 Research noted, Verizon launched fixed wireless Internet services over its LTE network almost a decade ago, and the offering is still highlighted on the operator's website. That service provided average download speeds of 5 Mbit/s to 12 Mbit/s, average upload speeds of 2 Mbit/s to 5 Mbit/s and started at $60 per month for 10GB of data.

A Verizon representative confirmed that Verizon's new fixed wireless offering is different from its old one in terms of speeds, pricing and installation.

"The previous service required installation of antennas on the outside of customers' homes as well as new CPE [customer premises equipment] equipment inside the home," explained Verizon spokesperson Karen Schulz in response to questions from Light Reading. She noted that customers of Verizon's new fixed wireless service will be able to install the router for the service inside their home or office themselves, without the need of a technician's visit.

She continued: "Also, as you know, our LTE technology has advanced greatly since that initial product was launched. With antenna modernization, advancements in QAM [Quadrature Amplitude Modulation, a wireless networking technology], and carrier aggregation, LTE technology has advanced greatly resulting in higher speeds and capacities. All of those advancements contribute to our ability to offer this new product."

Verizon said its new "LTE Home Internet" service is now available in Savannah, Georgia; Springfield, Missouri; and the Tri Cities around Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia, and that it would expand the offering to additional, unspecified rural areas outside of Verizon's Fios and 5G Home footprints.

It's worth noting that Verizon's Ronan Dunne countered arguments that the launch of Verizon's new LTE Home Internet service represents a step back from its 5G Home efforts. "This is very much AND : to further leverage our best in class 4GLTE network and compliment 5G Home in areas where we will not be deploying 5GUW in the near term," he tweeted.

Verizon's 5G Home fixed wireless Internet offering launched in a handful of cities in 2018, offering blazing-fast speeds up to 1Gbit/s, but Verizon hasn't expanded the service much beyond those locations since. Verizon's Dunne said earlier this year that the operator is waiting for new equipment – scheduled to be released in the second half of 2020 – before embarking on a wider deployment of its "5G Home" fixed wireless Internet service. The operator has promised to expand the service to roughly 30 million US households in the next five to seven years.

Verizon's 5G Home offering is mainly targeted at urban areas, while its LTE Home Internet is mainly targeted toward rural areas.

Verizon late to the fixed wireless party
Importantly, the launch of LTE fixed wireless services by Verizon now means that all of the nation's major wireless network operators are offering fixed wireless services to homes and offices using LTE. AT&T recently reiterated its previously announced goal of reaching 1.1 million locations by the end of this year with its own fixed wireless service. AT&T unveiled that effort in 2017; it's designed to meet the operator's rural network buildout requirements as part of AT&T's participation in the FCC's Connect America Fund Phase II (CAF-II) program. AT&T initially launched the service using its WCS spectrum but in 2018 said it would use CBRS spectrum with Samsung equipment. Indeed, Samsung just this week touted improvements to its fixed wireless equipment for the CBRS band.

AT&T today promises fixed wireless speeds of at least 10Mbit/s down and 1Mbit/s up with prices starting at $40 per month for 500GB, though it charges $10 per 50GB of additional data after customers pass their monthly data allotment.

T-Mobile, meanwhile, has promised to use LTE and 5G to offer in-home broadband Internet services to almost 10 million households by 2024, covering 52% of all US zip codes, as part of its merger with Sprint. The operator recently announced its "Home Internet" service is now commercially available in Kent, Muskegon and Ottawa, Michigan.

T-Mobile is promising LTE fixed wireless speeds of 50 Mbit/s for $50 per month, without any usage caps. As Light Reading reported last year, a user of the service in Memphis, Tennessee, recorded average download speeds of 80 Mbit/s to 130 Mbit/s and average ping times of 75ms to 80ms.

Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T aren't the only operators investing into fixed wireless technology in order to challenge established wired Internet providers like Comcast and Charter. In fact, it seems that virtually every major and minor telecom operator in the US is now offering some kind of fixed wireless service including CenturyLink, Shentel, Windstream, C Spire, U.S. Cellular and Midco, among others.

A number of independent companies are also pushing fixed wireless services. As Wave7 recently reported, the top independent fixed wireless Internet providers include Rise Broadband, King Street Wireless, Etheric Networks, Starry, Nextlink, VTX Communications, Everywhere Wireless and others. Research and consulting firm Carmel Group reported that there are more than 2,100 fixed wireless operators in the US.

Network research firm Dell'Oro Group predicted that the overall global market for radio access network (RAN) equipment will reach $200 billion across 2019–2024 due in part to "a more favorable outlook for FWA [fixed wireless access]."

Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

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