Verizon is about to launch home internet service using 5G. This new wireless standard isn’t just about faster data for your smartphone—it could finally offer competition for home internet, breaking the cable companies’ local monopolies and giving you a choice.
This is About Verizon, But It’s Not About Verizon
Verizon is the first company to deliver home internet service via 5G, so we’re talking about Verizon a lot in this article. We know the details of their service and can compare it to cable internet. But this isn’t an advertisement for Verizon.
AT&T also plans to launch home internet over 5G by the end of 2018. T-Mobile and Sprint are claiming they will launch a similar service if only the government lets them merge first.
This is all exciting. These are multiple companies that can compete with each other! It’s very unlike wired internet service in most places in the US, where there’s one big cable company.
Imagine having a choice between internet service providers. Competition might force Comcast to lift that data cap—or provide good customer service. Seriously, have you ever been to an old-school Comcast service center? It’s like going to the DMV. They’ve gotten better with their more upscale Xfinity stores, but most places don’t have those yet.
Why Internet Over 5G and Not 4G LTE?
You might wonder why everyone is talking about home internet over 5G. After all, no one was talking about home internet delivered over the current 4G LTE network that smartphones use. Is 5G that much faster?
Yes, yes it is. 4G has a theoretical maximum speed of 100 Mbps (megabits per second,) while 5G has a maximum speed of 10 Gbps (gigabits per second.) In other words, 5G is a hundred times faster than 4G at theoretical maximum speeds. Even taking these numbers with a grain of salt, it’s a huge leap.
5G also promises reduced latency. According to the specification, there’s a maximum latency of 4 ms (milliseconds) on 5G instead of 20 ms on 4G LTE today. That will deliver a better experience, too.
With these high speeds and low latencies, 5G looks like a strong competitor to the cable speeds offered by companies like Comcast/Xfinity, Charter, and Cox. 5G could be even faster than cable.
RELATED: What Is 5G, and How Fast Will It Be?
How Verizon’s Service Works
Verizon is the first cellular carrier to launch a 5G home internet service product, which it’s calling “5G Home.”
Like with standard cable internet service, you’ll have a 5G Home modem that connects to Verizon’s servers. You can then attach this modem to your router and other devices so they can access the internet. That 5G modem sits in a window and communicates with Verizon wirelessly. There’s also an external modem that you can mount outside if there’s no good reception from the windows.
Your modem communicates with Verizon devices placed every 500 to 1000 feet in your neighborhood. These may be placed on streetlamp poles, for example. That’s because 5G takes advantage of “millimeter waves” for super-fast speeds. These waves can’t easily travel through solid objects, so the 5G network needs nearby “small cells” to enable these fast speeds. 5G doesn’t have to use millimeter waves and small cells, but that’s where much of the speed improvement comes from.
Verizon promises typical speeds of about 300 Mbps and peak speeds up to 1 Gbps (1000 Mbps)—and no data caps. The service costs $70 a month if you’re not already a Verizon customer and $50 per month if you are.
I pay Comcast about $70 per month for about 150 Mbps, and that’s with a contract—Comcast will charge me more for this speed in the future. Comcast enforces a 1 TB data cap on me, too. So I’d jump at the chance to switch to 5G for home internet if it worked as promised.
Verizon is launching its 5G Home service starting October 1, 2018, in Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, and Sacramento.
When Can I Get It?
If you don’t live in Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, or Sacramento, you’ll have to wait a bit longer. Verizon hasn’t said which cities will be next for its 5G Home service or when it will expand. Verizon hasn’t announced the first cities it will launch mobile 5G in yet, either.
AT&T, however, is focused on rolling out its mobile network. AT&T’s CEO recently said Verizon is “fixated” on home internet. AT&T has been running internet service over 5G trials to households and businesses in South Bend, Indiana and businesses in Waco, Texas and Kalamazoo, Michigan, but those are just trials. AT&T plans to launch mobile 5G service in a variety of cities later in 2018.
T-Mobile says it wants to be the USA’s fourth-largest in-home internet service provider by 2024 if only the government will let it merge with Sprint. T-Mobile has announced plans to roll out mobile 5G in a variety of cities so customers can use it when the first 5G phones launch in early 2019. However, T-Mobile and Spring have announced no concrete plans for home internet service yet.
Sprint has also announced plans to launch its 5G network in a variety of cities and to bring the first 5G smartphone to the US in 2019.
What About Fiber?
Look, fiber is great. But it’s a significant investment. To lay fiber if it’s not already present, providers might have to dig up the streets. To lay fiber out to every home, they’ll have to dig up yards. Providers also need access to the utility poles, and that’s been a huge ordeal. Google Fiber has stalled because of the difficulties in getting access and the sheer investment required.
Wireless 5G internet service promises to be much easier and faster to roll out without all the digging up yards and political fights over utility pole access. All the last-mile connections to houses and businesses could happen wirelessly. Heck, if you’re putting the small cells on street light poles, you don’t even need to deal with utility poles.
Will 5G Bring Better Internet to Rural Areas?
We’re still not sure exactly how well 5G will work when extending service to less-dense rural areas and smaller towns. Verizon’s initial rollout is occurring in a few bigger cities, and those super-fast speeds will require nearby small cells.
5G could be a viable connection method for home internet service in rural areas, but it’d be slower without those small cells nearby. However, it could still extend dependable internet access to areas that don’t have a good alternative right now. It’s easier to roll out wireless internet access in a rural area than fiber—or even cable.
We look forward to seeing what happens with 5G in the next few years. We hope it will transform the way we access the internet. The US badly needs more competition between internet service providers, and wireless service could be the solution.
Image Credit: Verizon