We are on the cusp of seeing 5G network service being deployed, just not in the application that many of us would expect. That’s right, not the smartphone but rather for in-home wireless service and it’s from Verizon. Pretty interesting given that Verizon mostly stopped expanding FiOS fiber-to-the-home service in 2010 and since then has been focused on completing existing builds. Of course, rather than laying fiber to every home, a wireless 5G in-home service is far less costly to deploy and with speeds rivaling its wired speeds ranging from 100 to 500 Mbps vs. 300 Mbps to peak speeds of nearly 1 Gbps it looks to be an optimal solution as Verizon looks to combat Comcast and other cable providers.
Verizon’s 5G broadband internet service will go live later this fall, with installations starting on October 1st in Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, and Sacramento, the company announced today. This marks the first 5G commercial service to launch in the US, and it sees Verizon make good on its promise to do so in November 2017. Verizon is calling it simply 5G Home, quoting “typical speeds” of 300 Mbps and peak speeds of nearly 1 Gbps, depending upon location.
This isn’t true mobile 5G, which will be the more impactful rollout of the new internet speed standard that was finalized last December when all networks and phone manufacturers support it. But theoretically, it should bring faster broadband speeds for home internet that are on par with, or at least in the range of, gigabit fiber networks. It also helps Verizon in its rollout of mobile 5G in the future, which will involve a dizzying number of different technologies, hardware, and partnerships to get off the ground.
It will cost $50 a month for existing Verizon Wireless customers, and $70 for non-Verizon customers. If you’re one of the first members to sign up for the service, Verizon will sweeten the deal with free router installation, three months of complimentary service, a free Chromecast or Apple TV 4K, and three months of free YouTube TV. According to Verizon, the service will be up and running once installation is complete.
If we needed any confirmation that aspects of our Digital Lifestyle investing theme are bleeding over into in-person fun, here it is – theme parks are adding free Wi-Fi. Now, in some cases, it may be to stream videos, but more likely it’s to access maps, schedules, and tickets that one finds inside a theme park’s app that can also be used to book ride and dining reservations. Let’s not forget all the picture posting to social media.
Odds are that burst of activity spread across thousands of people degrades what cell signal there is, which means Disney (DIS), Comcast (CMCSA), SeaWorld (SEAS), Cedar Fair (FUN), Six Flags (SIX) and others are spending to pick up the connective slack.
Stand by the Hyperion Theater at Disney California Adventure Park and you may be able to connect to the internet with speeds fast enough to stream a video about your day in the park.But if you try that on the boardwalk at nearby Pixar Pier, you’ll find yourself on a less-than-nostalgic trip to a pre-internet age, said Paul Barrie, host of “Window to the Magic,” a biweekly podcast about Disney attractions and other happenings.“If I’m streaming, I have to be careful where I am to get best possible picture out of the park,” he said.In this pics-or-it-didn’t-happen era, a selfie unposted represents a financial opportunity squandered for theme park operators. For that reason, parks have begun investing heavily in improving internet access for visitors, primarily by expanding their free, in-park Wi-Fi systems.“People can’t live without Wi-Fi anymore,” said Dennis Speigel, president of the Ohio-based consulting firm International Theme Park Services. “They need access to it all of the time.”The Disneyland Resort recently has been adding new Wi-Fi hot spots throughout its two Anaheim parks, and Universal Studios Hollywood said it has worked over the last two years to expand and upgrade its Wi-Fi service throughout its park. Six Flags Magic Mountain began offering free Wi-Fi parkwide in 2016.None of the parks would disclose how much they have invested in such upgrades, but industry experts say such systems can cost millions of dollars, depending on how many park guests the system is expected to serve.
The dust has barely settled on the legal ruling that is paving the way for AT&T (T) to combine with Time Warner (TWX), and we are alread hearing of new products and services to stem from this combination. No surprise as we are seeing a blurring between mobile networks and devices, social media and content companies as Apple (AAPL), Facebook (FB), Google (GOOGL) and now AT&T join the hunt for original content alongside Netflix (NFLX), Amazon (AMZN), and Hulu, which soon may be controlled by Disney if it successfully fends of Comcast to win 21st Century Fox.
While we as consumers have become used to having the content I want, when I want it with Tivo and then the content I want, when I want it on the device I want it on with streaming services, it looks now like it will be “the content I want, when I want it, on the device I want on the platform I choose.” All part of the overlapping to be had with our Connected Society and Content is King investing themes that we are reformulating into Digital Lifestyle – more on that soon.
In short, a content arms race is in the offing, and it will likely ripple through broadcast TV as well as advertising. Think of it as a sequel to what we saw with newspaper, magazine and book publishing as new business models for streaming content come to market… the looming question in my mind is how much will today’s consumer have to spend on all of these offerings before it becomes too pricey?
And what about Sprint (S) and T-Mobile USA (TMUS)…
Taking advantage of the recent approval of its merger with Time Warner, AT&T on Thursday announced WatchTV, a new live TV service premiering next week — and initially tied to two new unlimited wireless data plans.
WatchTV incorporates over 30 channels, among them several under the wing of Time Warner such as CNN, Cartoon Network, TBS, and Turner Classic Movies. Sometime after launch AT&T will grow the lineup to include Comedy Central, Nicktoons, and several other channels.
People will be able to watch on “virtually every current smartphone, tablet, or Web browser,” as well as “certain streaming devices.” The company didn’t immediately specify compatible Apple platforms, but these will presumably include at least the iPhone and iPad, given their popularity and AT&T’s long-standing relationship with Apple.
The first data plan is “AT&T Unlimited &More”, which will also include $15 in monthly credit towards DirecTV Now. People who pay extra for “&More Premium” will get higher-quality video, 15 gigabytes of tethered data, and the option to add one of several “premium” services at no charge — initial examples include TV channels like HBO or Showtime, and music platforms like Pandora Premium or Amazon Music Unlimited.
&More Premium customers can also choose to apply their $15 credit towards DirecTV or U-verse TV, instead of just DirecTV Now.
WatchTV will at some point be available as a $15-per-month standalone service, but no timeline is available.