LTE in a Can
11:50 AM -- Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) this week launched HomeFusion, its fixed-broadband Long Term Evolution (LTE) service in a handful of markets, expecting to deliver downstream speeds of 5 Mbit/s to 12 Mbit/s downstream, and 2 Mbit/s to 5 Mbit/s in the upstream. (See Verizon Brings LTE Home.)
The service, which relies on what's often referred to as the "cantenna" to acquire the LTE signals, is largely a rural play, targeting areas with limited or no access to broadband. But is it a DSL alternative? Definitely, according to how Verizon describes it in the FAQ: "HomeFusion Broadband is a solution for customers who do not have Internet access or have dial-up or DSL Internet service."
DSL linkages aside, I still see satellite broadband services are most at risk as Verizon expands the rollout of HomeFusion. They are targeting the same rural, broadband-starved areas. And, like satellite broadband services, HomeFusion will be subject to strict monthly data caps and, as DSL Reports points out, a steep US$10-per-gigabyte overage penalty.
But should cable operators fret about HomeFusion? Verizon Wireless's new cable partners probably won't, but what about MSOs that nudge up against HomeFusion's service footprint? The topic came up on a wireless session at last week's Cable Next-Gen Broadband Strategies event in Denver. Panelists gave HomeFusion's competitive impact a collective shrug. (See Photos: Next-Gen Broadband Strategies 2012 .)
And no one expects to see Verizon turn HomeFusion into an Urban Cowboy. Andy Striegler, VP of carrier services for Rogers Business Solutions, said his company's LTE network is as good as anybody's, but acknowledged that the backhaul requirements become tricky in highly penetrated, dense markets.
"You're not going to have something that can compete with some steel like Docsis 3.0," says Timothy Burke, VP of strategic technology for Liberty Global Inc. (Nasdaq: LBTY), which has favored a "full" MVNO model in Europe in which Liberty owns the core networks. "It's not going to happen."
And HomeFusion's unfriendly caps won't make it very viable for customers who gobble up more than 50GB per month, added Hillol Roy, a fellow at Interactive Broadband Consulting Group LLC (IBB) . So Hulu LLC lovers need not apply unless they don't mind lightening their wallets each month to pay consumption penalties. On the high end, HomeFusion's 30GB-per-month tier runs $120 per month. The antenna will set you back $199.99.
And Verizon would be foolish to try HomeFusion anywhere but a rural area, anyway. Verizon has already predicted that it will start eating through its current swath of LTE capacity in 2013. "They'll probably run out in the high-density markets," said Karen Brown, senior director of industry intelligence for One Touch Intelligence . "So this is not where they'll run a fixed wireless service. Verizon will be very strategic in how they market and sell this." (See Verizon Fears 4G Spectrum Shortfall .)
But someone in the audience did challenge that, noting that LTE Advanced is on the horizon. Won't that make a difference? Perhaps, but cable broadband won't be sitting still, either. (See EPON-Over-Coax Starts Its Standards Journey and Does Docsis Have a 5-Gig Future? )
"The wireline side will always be … faster in a fixed environment than a wireless service," Brown said.
Verizon's cantenna may threaten satellite broadband and cause concern for some DSL providers, but don't expect it to open up a can of whoop-ass on cable broadband.
— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable