Verizon will roll out 5G wireless home internet service in Baltimore on Thursday, going head-to-head with Comcast for internet customers in the city and touting the new technology’s speed and affordability.
Verizon launched 5G “Ultra Wideband1″ technology for home internet in January in more than 1,700 cities and is expanding this week to parts of downtown and neighborhoods in East, West and South Baltimore.
The telecommunications giant earlier this month introduced the service to a national TV audience during the Super Bowl, airing an ad starring Jim Carrey reprising his role in “The Cable Guy” and depicting 5G as a modern replacement for cable internet.
“The same company that has brought you Fios is leveraging 5G to bring a new option, a new choice to customers,” said Andrew Testa, a Verizon spokesman. “It takes the 5G service that’s outside the home and turns it into Wi-Fi that powers all devices at home, without messy wires that come with a typical cable solution.”
The company said the newer technology, which provides wireless internet access from 5G towers, or small cell sites, offers speeds up to 10 times faster than 4G technology.
Customers are charged by the month with no annual contracts or equipment fees and given a plug-in router that powers smart TVs, tablets, phones, gaming consoles and other devices. Unlimited data service costs either $50 a month for speeds of 85 to 300 megabits per second or $70 per month for 1 gigabit per second. Half-price deals are available for some Verizon mobile customers.
Verizon offers limited availability of its Fios wired internet service in Baltimore, where Comcast is the sole, city-approved franchise provider of cable television service. Fios wired internet is part of its bundled internet, phone and television services over Verizon’s fiber-optic network.
Testa said the carrier is offering the new 5G service in areas where Fios is unavailable, promoting it as a replacement for traditional cable. The company plans to continue to expand Fios in the city, he said, but he had no specific information about where or when.
Comcast said it has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in making its fiber-based network available to every street in Baltimore.
“We will continue to invest in our network to offer consumers and businesses an unbeatable internet experience that includes gigabit speeds, the best WiFi coverage and controls in the home, 5G mobile service as well as free and low-cost internet options,” Kristie Fox, a Comcast spokeswoman, said.
On Tuesday, Comcast announced it is expanding its participation in the federal Affordable Connectivity Program and offering Internet Essential Plus, which includes 100 Mbps download speeds, a cable modem and WiFi router, to eligible customers for free after the federal program’s $30 month credit is applied.
The Evening Sun
As mobile carriers around the U.S. are rolling out wireless internet upgrades, benefits for consumers often depend upon the specifics of deals being offered and the reliability of service in specific areas, said Jason Hardebeck, director of the Mayor’s Office of Broadband and Digital Equity in Baltimore.
“In general, having any additional choices is a good thing for consumers,” Hardebeck said. But, he added, “the promise of 5G has yet to be realized. It has not really lived up to expectations.”
For one thing, “affordability is still a specific concern of mine for any mobile products,” said Hardebeck, whose office focuses on developing citywide strategies for expanding fiber-optic networks. “They tend to be more expensive for data over a mobile connection.”
“I’m not a huge fan of mobile data as a long-term solution for high-speed fixed internet in homes,” he said.
Testa contends that Verizon’s technology, using a millimeter-wave spectrum, is tested and proven “and it works.”
Verizon says it’s aiming to become the top internet provider in the U.S. Its 5G option is available to more than 30 million households nationwide and more than 2 million businesses. It will be available in parts of Baltimore neighborhoods such as Charles Village, Broadway East, Canton, McElderry Park, Sandtown-Winchester, Mount Clare, Pigtown, Federal Hill, Fells Point and Locust Point.
Besides Baltimore, Verizon is expanding the option in parts of Boise, Idaho; El Paso, Texas; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Panama City, Florida; and Omaha, Nebraska.
An earlier version of the article incorrectly described what Comcast did with the federal Affordable Connectivity Program. The company expanded its participation in the program. The Sun regrets the error.