Verizon surprises with fixed wireless access on 4G for rural areas

In a surprise move, Verizon today unveiled a new fixed wireless access (FWA) home internet service built on its 4G LTE network. The company has been touting its 5G Home service for a while, but apparently the high demand for home internet, spurred by Covid-19, also spurred Verizon to quickly deploy FWA on its LTE network.

Not only will its new LTE Home Internet service provide internet connectivity to rural areas, but it also gives Verizon the opportunity to expand its broadband footprint outside of its Fios and 5G Home footprints.

The new broadband internet service is now available in parts of Savannah, Georgia; Springfield, Missouri; and the Tri Cities in Tennessee, Virginia and Kentucky.

The company isn't yet saying where the service will be deployed next.

The FWA service provides unlimited data, with download speeds of 25 Mbps and peak speeds up to 50 Mbps. It costs $40 a month for most existing Verizon wireless customers and $60 a month for non-Verizon customers. It also requires the purchase of a $240 router, and customers will have to self-install the device, which Verizon describes as “easy self-setup.” A Verizon video makes it look like customers just need to plug a cord into the router.

The carrier is pitching the service as a way to deliver decent internet speeds to rural areas, especially for work-from-home and school-from-home needs during Covid-19.

Frank Boulben, Verizon’s SVP of consumer marketing and products, said in a statement, “With LTE Home Internet, our most awarded 4G LTE network will provide internet connectivity for customers in more rural parts of America who may not have access to broadband internet service - a critical need, especially now, when so many are counting on reliable connectivity for remote work and educational needs.”

4G Home versus 5G Home

In an email to FierceWireless today, Verizon said, "Verizon’s 4G LTE network currently covers over 98% of the population. We are one year into the rollout of 5G, and it’s going to be a years-long effort to fully deploy 5G technology, just as the deployments of 4G LTE and 3G were. We will continue our aggressive rollout of 5G, however we wanted to provide a product that will benefit our rural customers now. With more and more people working from home and engaging in distance learning, we wanted to make this resource available now.  

Speaking at a J.P. Morgan investor conference in May, Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg talked about 5G Home, but he didn’t mention anything about a 4G Home product. He said Covid-19 had reinforced that 5G fixed wireless access “is a great solution and again, using the network that we already have built… It just reinforces a good monetization of the multi-purpose network.”

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

For its 5G Home product, Verizon is using the same network it uses to offer 5G mobility services on mmWave spectrum. However, the mobile 5G service is available in more than 35 markets and the company expects to offer it in more than 60 markets by the end of the year. The 5G FWA service is available in only a handful of markets, and plans call for offering it in 10 markets by year's end.