Verizon enters the rural home Internet market with 4G wireless

Verizon announced a modest entry into the rural home Internet market with a service using its 4G LTE wireless network in three areas.

The service is available starting on Thursday in Savannah, Ga., Springfield, Mo., and Tri Cities, Tenn., Va., and Ky. Offering download speeds of up to 50 megabits per second, the service costs $60 per month or $40 if the customer is also a Verizon wireless phone subscriber. Verizon also adds a $10 per month charge for the required router.

The carrier has previously offered wired home Internet service via its Fios brand in nine states and 5G wireless home Internet service in parts of six cities. But by using its widespread 4G network, Verizon can reach many more customers at a much lower cost—the 4G network covers 98% of the U.S. population. Still, the promised top download speed is about one-twentieth as fast as the best speeds available via Verizon’s Fios or 5G services.

But the slower top speed shouldn’t matter much to the targeted customers of the 4G service. The goal is to go after “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,” Frank Boulben, senior vice president of consumer marketing and product, said in a statement.

People who live in rural areas have had to make do with subpar Internet service for decades. About 80% of the 24 million Americans who lack wired home Internet options live in rural areas, according to a report last year by the Department of Agriculture. Satellite Internet is available, but can be too expensive for many rural households.

If the Verizon 4G service catches on, it could face competition soon from Elon Musk’s upcoming satellite Internet service. Called Starlink, the service will offer speeds up 1 gigabits per second, comparable to the fastest wired services, the company says. But Starlink is expected to charge $80 per month.

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