Verizon, T-Mobile get ready to rumble with cable

home internet
Among the advantages both cellular carriers cite: No waiting around for the cable installer. (Getty Images)

Challenging cable companies on their home turf, both Verizon and T-Mobile used their respective investor events this past week to outline plans to extend their home broadband offerings.

Verizon kicked things off on Wednesday, saying it will use its newly acquired C-band spectrum to help increase total wireless broadband services to nearly 15 million homes by the end of the year.

Before that, however, it’s using existing spectrum to offer 5G Home in 10 more cities this month, bringing its total 5G Home markets to 28.

Here are the latest to be added: Cleveland, Ohio; Louisville, Kentucky; Omaha, Nebraska; Charlotte, North Carolina; Hartford, Connecticut; Kansas City, Missouri; as well as Cincinnati, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas and San Diego.

The earlier 18 markets to get 5G Home are Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, Phoenix, Sacramento, San Francisco, San Jose, St. Louis and St. Paul, as well as Arlington, Texas; and Anaheim, California.

Verizon at one point said it wanted to reach 30 million homes with its 5G Home internet service, but didn’t always attach a specific timeframe to that. Now, it says it will increase total fixed wireless internet services to 15 million homes by the end of 2021; 30 million by the end of 2023, and 50 million by the end of 2025.

Among the advantages that Verizon touts about its 5G Home Internet: no data limits and no throttling; speeds up to 1 Gbps; plans that start at $50/month; and easy self-set-up, with no waiting for a cable installer.

For the past few years, Verizon worked to perfect the fixed wireless access (FWA) home broadband experience and get the product into a form factor that was self-installable. Late last year, the company reported that 70% of the people doing the self-install on the 5G Home product were completely successful and didn’t need assistance from a third party.

RELATED: Verizon shrinks 5G Home install time to under an hour

Meanwhile, T-Mobile is gearing up to for a wider commercial launch of its home internet service in a couple of weeks. The “un-carrier” is targeting 7 million to 8 million subs in this category within five years.

T-Mobile: Plenty of capacity 

The merger with Sprint created new opportunities for T-Mobile to improve the home broadband experience for consumers. While T-Mobile’s 5G network is aimed at mobility, it’s going to have plenty of capacity to serve millions of consumers in their homes, providing an alternative to cable, according to Dow Draper, EVP of Emerging Products at T-Mobile.

“As we look at the market dynamics, we believe there’s a huge opportunity to disrupt this space,” as high-speed options are limited and consumer dissatisfaction with the incumbent cable providers is high, he said during the company’s investor meeting on Thursday. It will be targeting rural markets, where choices are extremely limited or non-existent for consumers, but it’s also looking to serve larger markets.

T-Mobile has been offering a pilot home internet service, primarily using LTE, where it accepted more than 100,000 customers and experienced demand that was far more than that, according to Draper. They’ve seen average customer usage in the hundreds of gigabytes per month, including about 20% of customers using more than 500 Gigabytes, and that’s all on LTE.

It plans to move out of the pilot later this month and expects serve over half a million customers by the end of this year, and significantly ramp up in 2022 and 2023, reaching 7 million to 8 million customers by  2025.  

RELATED: AT&T starts offering 5G fixed wireless for business customers

There was a time when AT&T sounded more bullish about using mid-band spectrum for FWA to serve homes, and while it’s not completely ignoring the FWA segment, it’s clearly banking on fiber to carry the heavy load and wireless where it makes sense.

The large consumption that AT&T anticipates over the next five years will be hard to meet with a wireless-only solution, said Jeff McElfresh, CEO of AT&T-Communications. “That’s why our hybrid fixed and mobile approach is … the appropriate strategy with our network architecture.”