By Barry Levine / Top Tech News. Updated March 06, 2012.
If you live or work in a rural area and bemoan the lack of affordable, high-speed Internet, things might be changing. On Tuesday, Verizon Wireless announced a new service that offers in-home broadband access in rural areas, through the company's growing 4G LTE network.
Called HomeFusion Broadband, the service requires a cylindrical antenna which captures the LTE service, and then feeds it to a broadband router in the home. The router provides high-speed service for as many as four wired and at least 20 wireless devices in the home, via Wi-Fi.
5 to 12 Megabits Per Second Download
The company said that average download speeds should be 5 to 12 megabits per second, and 2 to 5 Mbps up. Tami Erwin, vice president and chief marketing officer, said in a statement that HomeFusion Broadband gives customers "a simple, fast and effective way to bring the most advanced wireless from Verizon into their homes."
Several usage plans are offered, starting at $59.99 per month for up to 10 GB of data, plus a one-time equipment fee of $199.99. There's no charge for installation.
Verizon Wireless will begin rolling out HomeFusion in Birmingham, Ala.; Dallas; and Nashville, and then other markets. HomeFusion is being provided by Verizon Wireless in collaboration with Asurion, which handles the installation.
The growing Verizon Wireless 4G LTE network covers more than 200 million people in the U.S., according to the company, and provides almost 108 million wireless connections.
Larry Hettick, an analyst with industry research firm Current Analysis who lives and works in rural Texas, said that he, like many other rural residents, currently must rely on satellite-delivered Internet services.
Comparison with HughesNet
Satellite service for rural users is relatively expensive and fairly slow, leaving a large growth opportunity for an LTE-based service. As an example, Hettick says his HughesNet satellite service offers 1.5 megabits down and about 400 kilobits per second up, with a limit of 500 megabytes of data traffic daily, for $90 monthly.
In comparison with HomeFusion, he said, HughesNet is providing 15 GB monthly, compared with 10 GB for the Verizon Wireless service, at somewhere between one-third to one-eighth of the speed, for 50 percent more in price each month.
Hettick said that LTE services such as Verizon Wireless could potentially solve the rural broadband problem, "assuming they have LTE coverage in those areas," and that he expects LTE to cover the entire country "eventually."
HomeFusion expands on such current services as Verizon Wireless' MiFi, which creates a portable Wi-Fi wireless hotspot for up to five devices from 3G signals, but which has been limited by the availability of 3G service in rural areas.
Hettick said the service potentially also could be used by rural businesses, although, in its current configuration, the data limits and available connections might be problematic for companies with several workers using the Net throughout the day.