Starting this week, Verizon Wireless will expand its long-term evolution high-speed data network from mobile users to home-based accounts, and customers can purchase the service from the carrier's stores.
HomeFusion Broadband, available in six markets since March, rolls out nationwide on Thursday and will allow customers to replace a designated server line for Internet access with a device that looks a bit like a kitchen appliance.
One Gadget Connects 24 Devices
The cylinder-shaped antenna, which must be professionally installed, taps into the 4G LTE signal and transmits it to up to 20 wireless devices and up to four wired devices in the home.
Verizon's LTE network is now available in 230 markets covering more than two-thirds of the population in the United States, the carrier boasts.
"With HomeFusion Broadband, customers across the United States, in towns large and small, will have the chance to link devices to the Internet and take advantage of the speed, coverage and connectivity offered by our 4G LTE network." said Tami Erwin, Verizon Wireless vice president and chief marketing officer said in announcing the service.
The carrier is promising customers the same average data speeds that mobile users with 4G devices expect: 5 to 12 megabits per second for downloads and 2 to 5 Mbps for uploads.
Internet addicts may pay a steep price, though. Like mobile, the service does not include an unlimited option. The cost is $60 a month for 10 gigabytes of data, $90 for 20 GB and $120 for 30 GB, with $10 per GB overage. The HomeFusion device costs $199.99, with free installation, and the data allowance is doubled for the first two billing cycles as a promotion.
"HomeFusion is a bit on the pricey side, especially when you compare its data limits to 'all you can eat' cable and DSL services," analyst Charles King of Pund-IT told us. "But for consumers and businesses with limited options -- say, those in rural areas and small towns where satellite service is the most common broadband technology -- it could be a pretty good deal."
Cellular Packages Ahead?
King sees the home plan as a way for Verizon to push its LTE service for mobile devices.
"It's pretty easy to imagine how Verizon could leverage HomeFusion into cellular service packages," he said.
But with a spectrum crunch looming and carriers scrambling to acquire more, Verizon may eventually have to worry about overburdening the LTE network, which has already seen some embarrassing outages.
"Ideally, when a carrier invests as much as Verizon has in an infrastructure like LTE, they want to maximize traffic without overburdening it," King said. "I suspect that in many communities -- mostly those that don't include major metropolitan areas -- Verizon's LTE network is somewhat or even significantly underutilized, so HomeFusion offers an opportunity to monetize those infrastructures.
"If over-trafficking becomes a problem, they can always add more bandwidth."