Verizon launched its Verizon 5G Home service on October 1 in parts of four US cities, in what it says is the world's first commercial 5G broadband service. The claim may be somewhat overblown, given Verizon's service is based on proprietary rather than fully standardized 5G technology, but the launch of a 5G-like service by one of the world's largest service providers is nevertheless a major milestone for 5G and the telecoms market overall.
Verizon 5G Home is a milestone in the telecoms market because it is the first large-scale commercial launch of broadband services based on 5G technologies, albeit not on a fully standardized version of those technologies. The service is also important because it shows how one of the world's largest service providers plans to commercialize "5G" combined with some classic telecoms tricks – including bundling – to expand its footprint and take market share from competitors in the massive US home broadband market.
For Verizon, the launch is also vital because it gives it a basis for claiming to be the first to market with 5G, after making a huge and early bet on developing 5G for home broadband but then missing its previous well-publicized target of launching services in 2017. While other service providers claimed to launch 5G earlier this year – notably Vodacom in South Africa, Elisa in Finland, and Ooredoo in Qatar – those are far smaller deployments, and services are not being actively marketed.
5G Home is aimed squarely at the increasing number of cord-cutters or "cord-nevers" in the US market. The service is free for the first three months, then costs $50 per month for Verizon Wireless customers on certain smartphone plans, and $70 per month for everyone else. In addition to bundling 5G Home with its wireless service, Verizon is bundling YouTube TV free for three months, charging $40 per month thereafter. 5G Home, which offers average speeds of nearly 300Mbps with peaks near 1Gbps and no data caps, is launching in certain neighborhoods in Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, and Sacramento. The service comes with free professional installation of an indoor 5G home gateway with Wi-Fi, and potentially with an outdoor antenna where required.
That and the other details of 5G Home make it a competitive but not groundbreaking offering. For example, AT&T's fiber broadband service costs $50 per month for 100Mbps and $70 per month for 300Mbps (both with a 1TB data cap), and $40 per month is the standard price of YouTube TV. There are also many smaller wireless internet service providers that offer similar internet services (using proprietary technology) in rural markets for $60 per month.
What is groundbreaking about the service is that Verizon is offering it outside its traditional fixed-line footprint – which it says means that over time, it will expand its addressable market by around 30 million homes. Verizon is the fourth-largest fixed broadband provider in the US, with 6% market share at end-2Q18, behind Comcast with 24%, Charter with 22%, and AT&T with 14%. Verizon had 7 million fixed broadband subscriptions at end-2Q18, out of a total US market of 110 million subscriptions.
Verizon 5G Home, which runs in millimeter-wave spectrum in the 28–39GHz range, is based on the proprietary specifications of the 5G Technology Forum, which Verizon created in 2015 to accelerate the commercialization of 5G for fixed wireless broadband services. Verizon says that as equipment based on the 3GPP 5G NR standard comes to market, it will upgrade subscribers to that equipment at no charge and expand network coverage using standards-based equipment.
That reinforces the point that Verizon 5G Home is a major milestone for 5G and the telecoms market, because it means that 5G is here – almost.
5G: Regional and Global Approaches to a Technology Step Change, GLB007-000092 (July 2018)
5G Service Provider Tracker: 2Q18, GLB007-000101 (July 2018)
Mike Roberts, Research Director, Service Provider Markets