Verizon launches 5G Home in Detroit

Verizon said it’s now offering its fixed wireless access (FWA) 5G Home Internet to customers in parts of Detroit, making it the sixth city to get the service.

Up next for the enhanced Home service based on the 5G NR standard: select areas of Los Angeles and Indianapolis. These two cities were part of Verizon's early launch in 2018, but the service was based on proprietary pre-standards equipment. 

The Detroit service costs $50 a month for Verizon customers and $70 per month for non-Verizon customers. The operator is sweetening the deal with an offer of various content options at no cost when customers sign up, including Disney+ and YouTube TV.

The new service in Detroit comes with the latest Wi-Fi 6 router, promising peak speeds up to 1 Gbps and allowing multiple devices to run at the same time. The router also features Amazon Alexa built-in, so customers can control their smart home devices and ask questions, hands-free.

Verizon is also making a point of saying customers don't have wait for a cable installer; customers can do a self-setup install on their own time with “minimal effort.” Getting the service to a place where it can be self-installed is an important piece of the overall FWA puzzle.  

To entice people even more, Verizon is offering customers who sign up for 5G Home Internet a free Stream TV device, which gets them access to a library of OTT channels, apps and entertainment, including Netflix and Amazon Prime.

Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg last month said the COVID-19 crisis reinforced the carrier’s FWA strategy as home broadband usage skyrocketed. He reiterated that the FWA service uses the same network the operator is building for mobile 5G, and theoretically, everywhere it has a millimeter wave deployment, it can also have a 5G Home or FWA offering.

RELATED: Verizon CEO: COVID-19 crisis reinforces FWA strategy

Verizon has said it plans to expand 5G Home Internet to 10 cities this year and it still aims to have coverage for 30 million households, which is going to take a couple of years.

Cable’s aspirations

While wireless operators like Verizon are intent on targeting the homes and offices where cable traditionally has served, cable companies are encroaching on the wireless space through their MVNOs and they’ve signaled their intent to acquire spectrum.

In the first quarter of 2020, the cable industry collectively added 547,000 phone subscribers, and that was enough to bring their cumulative total to more than 3.7 million subscribers, a gain of 2 million over the past year, according to MoffettNathanson Research.

Analyst Craig Moffett notes that cable seems to be using the COVID-19 crisis to push even harder for subscriber gains. Altice USA, whose value proposition has grown with the completion of the T-Mobile/Sprint merger as it will now run on a much better network, reintroduced its $20 per month wireless offer. While that offer is no longer “for life,” it remains one of the industry’s most aggressive, he said.

“Given the levels of economic hardship that have accompanied the lockdowns, one can reasonably imagine that these kinds of hyper-aggressive pricing plans won’t have much trouble breaking through to capture market share,” he wrote in a June 8 report for investors.

Update: Story updated to reflect that parts of Los Angeles and Indianapolis already had 5G Home but are getting the standards-based version.