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Verizon 5G Hype vs. Reality: Widely Unavailable and More Like a “Live Beta”

Phillip Dampier September 18, 2018 Consumer News, Verizon, Wireless Broadband No Comments

A Verizon 5G small cell installed in Sacramento. (Image courtesy: ZoraQ)

Consumers hoping for the imminent arrival of a “cable killer” from Verizon’s new millimeter wave 5G fixed wireless broadband should not hold their breath.

Verizon executives have been paraded out to celebrate its debuting 5G service as “revolutionary/game changing/transformational” at the same time Qualcomm, which helped define the forthcoming 5G standard claims it will be “as transformative as the automobile and electricity.”

But the ‘Revolution of 5G’ will not be the next fall of the Berlin Wall or Arab Spring. Those revolutionary changes happened almost overnight. Instead, 5G will be quintessential American capitalism at work: overhyped promises to excite the public and attract investors, tempered by the reality that massive amounts of money and at least a decade of work will be needed to blanket only parts of the country with small cells and the newly ubiquitous fiber optic networks required to connect them together.

Verizon already offers hints of that reality, but only in the fine print where it acknowledges its wireless home broadband replacement service, set to launch on October 1, will be only available in parts of four U.S. cities. Verizon isn’t saying what percentage of Sacramento, Los Angeles, Houston, and Indianapolis will be covered, but enthusiastic would-be customers are crowdsourcing their own coverage maps, and the results are underwhelming.

The City of Sacramento released this map showing Verizon’s planned 5G coverage in the city, but customers dispute it. (Image: City of Sacramento)

“Lightning has hit more homes than Verizon 5G will in Sacramento,” reports Jack Del Vecchio, who spent an hour entering addresses on Verizon’s website looking for service. “The city of Sacramento, trying to placate homeowners worried about more cell equipment visually polluting the city, released a map where Verizon claimed it would be offering 5G service by the end of 2018. That clearly is not happening, at least not yet, because most of these neighborhoods do not have small cells installed yet.”

In Indianapolis, reddit user rycummin_IU scanned almost 17,000 addresses and found Verizon service available to just 179 homes and businesses. Only a fraction of customers in Houston and Los Angeles are qualified for service as well.

The vast unavailability of Verizon 5G service in Indianapolis. (Image courtesy: rycummin_IU)

“When they said Houston would be part of the rollout I didn’t think they meant one street,” commented another reddit user. In reality, Verizon 5G will debut in parts of low-income neighborhoods like Acres Home, Gulfton, Second Ward, Third Ward and Near Northside, at the behest of city officials, among a few others. But availability is very scattered, and based on search results, Verizon is only qualifying customers that live within approximately 500 feet of a small cell antenna.

This map shows the limited range of Verizon 5G small cells. In this case, this neighborhood is likely served by one or two small cells, probably in the vicinity of Sugar and Brady and/or Eastwood or Jenkins St. Notice coverage is often unavailable across streets. (Image courtesy: SmokeyTuna)

The most unlikely choice for limited range 5G is notoriously sprawling Los Angeles, and frustrated residents reported service was least likely to be found there.

“I spent 30 minutes plugging in random addresses all over Los Angeles and I finally found one that works,” reports reddit user chantasic. “It’s the big apartment building at 1108 7th Street, Los Angeles, CA, 90017 in [downtown Los Angeles]. If you go just one block west from there on Garland Ave, it’s not available. If you enter in ‘1127 Lucas Ave Los Angeles, CA 90017’ which is a high-rise, then it starts asking you what floor you live on and whether you have any windows that face 7th St. So one of the antennas must be on 7th St.”

“I put in my work address and it worked at 555 South Flower street, which is across from the library on West Fifth Street,” shared another user. A third reddit reader in Los Angeles managed to track down service at Medici Apartments, a complex next to the 110 freeway in the South Westlake area.

Those customers who are lucky enough to live in a qualified service area report the sign-up process to be orderly. A full credit check is done on prospective customers, and assuming one passes it, an appointment for “white glove” installation is scheduled. Verizon has confirmed no self-install option will be available for the time being. Verizon’s installers are trained to find the best possible place to install its 28GHz antenna, which does not perform well penetrating heavy foliage, certain building materials, and low-energy insulated window glass. Verizon plans to monitor the performance of these early 5G installations to gather more information about how the service is working and how to get the best performance from it.

Verizon has released terms and conditions for the service and provided more insight into the installation process, which takes several hours. Customers interested in more information can call this special Verizon 5G hotline — 1-866-217-2223 to order and schedule installation, or find out about 5G Home.

Verizon 5G Home Terms of Service

Two pieces of 5G Home equipment will be installed at your home:

  • Indoor or outdoor 5G receiver
  • 5G router

The type of receiver (indoor or outdoor) you get depends on the 5G signal strength. If needed, Wi-Fi extenders will be installed in the home, at no charge, to ensure adequate Wi-Fi coverage for the entire house.

What will happen during the 5G Home installation?

An Asurion (third party contractor) technician will complete the following installation process for your 5G Home service and connect your devices:

  • Verify and explain the areas in your home where the 5G signal is received.
  • Conduct a test to determine whether the 5G receiver can be installed inside or outside your home. The strength of the 5G signal can vary inside and outside your home.
  • Conduct a test of the Wi-Fi signal strength of each device throughout the house that is connected to the 5G Home router. A Wi-Fi extender may also be installed at no charge to strengthen the Wi-Fi signal throughout your house or for devices that have a weak Wi-Fi signal.
  • Install the receiver, with your approval, either inside or outside on the side of your house.
  • Depending on the locations of the receiver and the router, the technician may need to run wires through walls, floors or ceilings.
  • Ensure that all your previously Wi-Fi connected devices are now connected to your Verizon 5G Home router.
  • Demonstrate how you can use the My Verizon app to manage your router, such as how to restart it when you are away from home, and check the signal strength of the devices connected to the router.

Service Availability. Unfortunately, we can’t guarantee that our 5G Home service will be available at your address, even if we accepted your order. The 5G Home service does not support static IP addresses.

Equipment. We’ll provide you with equipment, which may include an indoor or outdoor receiver, a router, a Wi-Fi extender, and other equipment, to use with your 5G Home service. That equipment will continue to be owned by us, and you can’t use it for any other purpose, move it to a different location or position, tamper with or intentionally damage it, or allow anyone else to service it. We will repair and maintain that equipment at our expense, unless we determine that you misused, abused or intentionally damaged the equipment, in which case, you will have to pay the replacement cost of it. If any of that equipment is stolen, please provide us with a copy of your police report, so that you are not charged for it.

Installation and Access to Your Premises. We will attempt to install the 5G Home service at the address that you provided to us at the time of sale. From time to time, we may access your outdoor receiver to service, inspect, upgrade and/or remove it. If 5G (or 4G LTE backup) coverage is not available at your address, or if we cannot perform installation for any reason, then we will cancel your order.

Changing Service Location. You may not move the 5G Home service to another address. If you are moving to a new address at which the 5G Home service is available and you wish to continue using it, then please contact us to install it at your new address.

Service Cancellation and Equipment Returns. Upon termination of your 5G Home service, you should return the equipment to us in an undamaged condition (subject only to reasonable wear and tear) within 21 days after service cancellation, or you may be charged an unreturned equipment fee, which may be substantial. If you don’t cancel your 5G Home service, then your service charges will continue to apply, even if you return the equipment. If we ask you to leave the outdoor receiver in place, you will not be charged an unreturned equipment fee.

Comcast & Spectrum Open Up Free Wi-Fi Service in Georgia and the Carolinas

Hurricane Florence

Comcast and Charter Communications are providing free and open access to more than 12,000 Wi-Fi hotspots in Georgia and the Carolinas as Hurricane Florence begins impacting the three states.

“In response to Hurricane Florence, we have opened up more than 5,100 Spectrum Wi-Fi hotspots in North and South Carolina. These hotspots are open to all users until further notice in coastal communities like Wilmington, N.C., and Myrtle Beach, S.C., as well as inland to the Charlotte, Raleigh-Durham, Fayetteville and Greensboro areas,” Charter said in a statement.

To connect your device, look for the “SpectrumWiFi” network under your device’s WiFi settings in Charter service areas, “xfinitywifi” in Comcast country.

“It’s critical that impacted residents are able to communicate during challenging weather events such as Hurricane Florence,” said Doug Guthrie, regional senior vice president for Comcast.

As a result, Comcast is opening up almost 7,000 hotspots in Augusta and Savannah, Ga., and Charleston, S.C. Both cable companies are welcoming subscribers and non-subscribers alike.

Hurricane Florence, although currently downgraded to a Category 2 hurricane, remains a vast hurricane with a large wind field of hurricane force winds, and will likely pummel the region until Saturday. Combined with intense rainfall and catastrophic storm surges, devastation is likely along coastal regions of all three states. Duke Energy, which serves North and South Carolina, anticipates extended outages for at least three million customers during Hurricane Florence.

As of 5 p.m. ET Thursday, the center of Florence was 100 miles east-southeast of Wilmington, N.C. and 155 miles east of Myrtle Beach, S.C. The hurricane has slowed to just 5 mph.

Other states likely to be impacted by flooding rains, storm surge, and winds are Maryland and Virginia.

Actual landfall of Florence is not expected until at least Friday afternoon, according to Neil Jacobs at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Cable outages are often a result of power outages. If electricity goes out in an area, cable services will go as well, and remain unavailable until power is restored. If cable infrastructure is also damaged, service won’t return when electricity does and outages should be reported to the cable company. Traditional landline service is powered independent of the electric grid. Report any service outages to the telephone company.

If infrastructure is severely damaged, it could take several weeks to restore electric, phone, and cable service after a major hurricane.

N.Y. PSC’s Diane Burman Objects to Special Session Voting Charter/Spectrum Out of New York

Phillip Dampier September 12, 2018 Charter Spectrum, Consumer News, Public Policy & Gov't, Video No Comments

Burman

New York State Public Service Commissioner Diane Burman today voted against motions to give Charter Communications more time to develop its six month exit plan to leave New York and a motion to get more time to file a rehearing request about Charter’s alleged violations of merger conditions governing its behavior in the state.

Burman’s opposition was rooted in her irritation over PSC Chairman John Rhodes’ decision to hold an unscheduled special session of the Commission on July 27 (which Burman did not attend because of a scheduled family vacation) where the three remaining commissioners all voted to cancel approval of the Merger Order allowing Charter Communications to acquire Time Warner Cable in New York State.

“I believe it was wrong to have that special session and I don’t believe that the rationale for it is the right one,” Burman told her fellow commissioners this morning at a regularly scheduled Commission Session. “I think it is a slippery slope that there was a special session without me present and that is concerning.”

Burman argued the Commission’s recent approval of time extensions in the Charter case could set a precedent that could take the regulatory agency down a road where companies like Charter and other utilities could delay proceedings by having informal private talks with Commission staff. As a result, Charter has effectively stopped the Commission’s clock on pre-determined deadlines like a 30-day limit to file a petition asking the Commission for a rehearing.

“The message that I fear we are sending is if there is an order that someone disagrees with and they are going to file a petition for rehearing […] if they are engaged in ‘productive’ dialogue, whatever that term may be, between the staff, we can wait for the petition for rehearing to be filed past the 30 days,” Burman argued. “For me, the impactful piece of it is that by saying ‘don’t file now’ we are blocking the [regulatory and public notice] process and the opportunity to start that clock so that people have the opportunity to comment on what we may be doing, which may be helpful.”

Because the Commission has approved delays allowing Charter company officials and the Commission to continue privately discussing matters, none of those conversations are on the public record and no groups, including Stop the Cap!, can scrutinize the discussions and file comments about those conversations, Commission decisions that may result from those talks, or suggest alternative corrective measures to consider.

The PSC’s counsel this morning admitted the Commission and Charter were engaged in active settlement discussions, but it isn’t known if those talks relate to overturning the Commission’s decision to banish Charter from the state or are about more procedural matters such as how Charter plans to hand over cable service to another entity.

“I think there are lessons to be learned from having the special session without me there and I do think that going forward, we need to be more cognizant of taking into consideration what the perception is by not having the full Commission body, minus one because there is a vacancy, [vote together on matters of great consequence like this] regardless of whether counsel believes there is an appropriate quorum or not,” Burman added.

The final vote on both measures extending deadlines in Charter’s favor was 3-1. Both measures passed.

N.Y. PSC Commissioner Diane Burman opposed the extension of the deadline for Charter Communications to file its plans to leave New York State and to request a rehearing of a July decision revoking their merger with Time Warner Cable in New York. (29:26)

Investigation: Spectrum’s Best Discounts Go Only to Areas With Robust Competition

Spectrum customers living in areas wired for fiber optics get substantially better discounts for longer periods of time than those living in areas where anemic phone company DSL service is the only competition.

Charter Communications, like many cable operators, asks all prospective customers to enter their complete mailing address, claiming prices “vary per location.” What the company does not say is that it maintains a database of addresses where fiber-fast competition is currently available and only offers the best deals to those locations.

In Rochester, N.Y., Spectrum competitor Greenlight Networks has made headway installing fiber to the home service in select neighborhoods in the city and suburbs. As fiber service becomes available, some Spectrum customers start switching to Greenlight, which markets 100/20 Mbps service for $50/mo, 500/50 Mbps for $75/mo, or 1,000/100 Mbps for $100/mo. In response, to keep customers, Spectrum offers 24 months of reduced pricing on its internet package. But your address must match Spectrum’s database as being within a competitive service area. Otherwise, the deals will not be so good.

Stop the Cap! found dramatic differences in prices between addresses nearly across a street from one another – one wired for Greenlight Fiber, the other not.

Competitive Area (Spectrum, Frontier DSL, Greenlight fiber-to-the-home service)

Spectrum Ultra (400 Mbps): $44.99/month for 24 months (free upgrade from Standard 100 Mbps package)

All promotions last 24 months

Free Wi-Fi Service

No installation or set up fee*

Non-Competitive Area (Spectrum, Frontier DSL)

Spectrum Standard (100 Mbps): $44.99/month for 12 months (for Ultra 400 Mbps, add $25/mo)

All promotions last 12 months

Wi-Fi Service is $5/month

$49.99 professional installation fee required for Ultra 400 Mbps service*

In Greenlight service areas, Spectrum now undercuts Greenlight’s pricing by offering Spectrum Ultra 400 Mbps service for $5 less than what Greenlight charges for 100 Mbps.

“Racerbob,” a DSL Reports reader in Webster, N.Y., discovered the same “enhanced offers” as an ex-Spectrum customer. He switched to Greenlight three months ago. He discovered if he added a Spectrum cable TV package, the price for 400 Mbps Ultra internet service dropped even lower, to $39.99 a month for two years.

In all, a sample package he assembled delivered dramatic savings, but only if a robust competitor like Greenlight was also offering service to his address:

Addresses used for comparison were in zip code 14618, with verified access to Greenlight at a street address to represent the “competitive” service area and verification Greenlight was not available at the address used for “non-competitive” service area. *-Although a setup fee was found on the final checkout page in both competitive and non-competitive service areas, it was only actually charged in non-competitive service areas during our investigation.

Verizon Starts Taking Orders Thursday for 5G Home Internet in Houston, Indianapolis, LA and Sacramento

Verizon 5G Home will begin accepting new customer orders for its in-home wireless broadband replacement as of this Thursday, Sept. 13, with a scheduled service launch date of Oct. 1.

The new high-speed wireless service will be available in select parts of Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, and Sacramento.

Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg is calling the service part of Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband network. Initial reports indicate speed will range between 300-1,000 Mbps and existing Verizon Wireless customers will get a $20 price break on service — $50 a month instead of $70 for non-Verizon Wireless customers. We are still waiting word on any data caps or speed throttle information. Verizon informs Stop the Cap! there are no data caps or speed throttles. Service is effectively unlimited, unless hidden terms and conditions introduce unpublished limits.

Interested customers can determine their eligibility starting at 8 a.m. ET on Thursday from the Firston5G website. If you are not eligible initially, you can add your email address to be notified when service is available in your area.

Early adopters will be awarded with a series of goodies:

  • Free installation (a big deal, since it could cost as much as $200 later. An external antenna is required, as well as in-home wiring and equipment.)
  • 90 days of free service (a good idea, considering there may be bugs to work out)
  • 90 days of free YouTube TV (a welcome gift for cord-cutters)
  • Free Chromecast or Apple TV 4K (a common sign up enticement with streaming cable-TV replacements)
  • Priority access to buy forthcoming line of 5G-capable mobile devices

Customers in the first four launch cities will be using equipment built around a draft standard of 5G, as the final release version is still forthcoming. Verizon is holding off on additional expansion of 5G services until the final 5G standard is released, and promises early adopters will receive upgraded technology when that happens.

Verizon is clearly providing a greater-than-average number of enticements for early adopters, undoubtedly to placate them if and when service anomalies and disruptions occur. Although Verizon has done limited beta testing of its 5G service, it is very likely the 5G network will get its first real shakeout with paying customers. Unanticipated challenges are likely to range from coverage and speed issues, unexpected interference, network traffic loading, the robustness of Verizon’s small cell network, and how well outside reception equipment will perform in different weather conditions, particularly heavy rain and snow. With a large number of freebies, and no charges for 90 days, customers are likely to be more forgiving of problems, at least initially.

Chromecast

Verizon’s 5G network depends on millimeter wave spectrum, which means it will be capable of providing very high-speed service with greater network capacity than traditional 4G LTE wireless networks. But Verizon will have to bring 5G antennas much closer to subscribers’ homes, because millimeter wave frequencies do not travel very far.

Verizon will combine a fiber backhaul network with small cell antennas placed on top of utility and light poles to reach customers. That explains why Verizon’s initial 5G deployment is unlikely to cover every customer inside city limits. There are substantial deployment costs and installation issues relating to small cells and the optical fiber network required to connect each small cell.

Verizon’s existing FiOS network areas will offer an easier path to introduce service, but where Verizon does not offer its fiber to the home service, it will need to bring fiber optic cables deep into neighborhoods.

AT&T sees a similar challenge to 5G and is openly questioning how useful wireless 5G can be for urban/suburban broadband service, considering it can simply extend fiber optic service to those homes and businesses instead, without a costly 5G small cell deployment.

Verizon introduces 5G wireless in-home broadband in four U.S. cities and starts taking new customer orders on Thursday. (1:00)

Article updated at 6:28pm ET with information about data caps and speed throttles provided by Verizon.

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  • Mark Wilkinson: This is a nightmare. Life was good until Verizon sold us to Frontier. Our service has been cut off twice for non-payment of an "non-returned equipme...
  • Don: I don't even have Greenlight available yet at my address. I am in Gates and Greenlight is taking orders for my address so I look up to see what would ...
  • Jon Belkin: Since it launched, XFINITY Mobile (and likely Spectrum Mobile) have been unable to accept any Android devices on its plans that were not bought direct...
  • J.B.: Thanks, but I don't have their phone service; can barely stomach having to have them as my ISP, but there are no other REASONABLE options where I live...
  • Anthony Aguilar: I ordered the internet service only through Spectrum on 06/21/2018. I was given a 12 month promotional offer of 14.99 + an additional 5.00 monthly f...
  • Ron Fink: I pay my Spectrum Bundle bill at my local Spectrum store monthly. I have Spectrum as my Tv, Internet, and Phone provider because they do not require ...
  • Racerbob: Well Racerbob had nothing to do with the TV part of the findings here. That was my friend and neighbor hotshot187 who also is at DSLReports in the thr...
  • Phillip Dampier: If you have TWC/Spectrum phone service, dial 611 from that phone and see if that connects you. Or you can try 1-833-694-9259....
  • Phillip Dampier: I will be looking for the fine print terms and conditions and scrutinize it when it is available. I expect to see boiler plate language about the righ...
  • J.B.: I agree that your advice ("... or call your local cable office and ask for a service outage credit") would be a great way to easily request a credit b...
  • Dylan: Seems like a good deal. However, I’m curious about the caps. Even if a 1 terabyte or lower cap is instituted, I might not be interested in said servic...
  • Corey: Perhaps its in the contract already in the new service...

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