Verizon will expand its LTE data service to residential customers starting Thursday, giving consumers another option for home broadband service. HomeFusion Broadband is available "nationwide," but check to see if you are covered by Verizon's LTE network and think about whether you can deal with rather stingy data caps.
The carrier previously launched the service in six test markets in March, but Wednesday's announcement makes HomeFusion available anywhere where Verizon has LTE service. That's about 230 markets covering two-thirds of the U.S. population.
HomeFusion customers can expect rates of five to 12 Mbps and upload rates of two to five Mbps, in line with your average DSL or low-end cable Internet connection. The customer is responsible for purchasing a $200 antenna which needs to be professionally installed, and the package includes a wireless router capable of connecting four wired and 20 wireless devices to the network. You must sign a two-year agreement.
Verizon doesn't give you much data to work with, so watch what you download or stream: 10GB of data will cost you $60 every month, 20GB, $90, and 30GB, $120. For every gigabyte you go over these limits, Verizon will zap you an extra $10. That's not the only bad news: The carrier will also not install the antenna above the second story of a building, so apartment dwellers are out of luck.
Regardless of where the antenna needs to be or how much the data costs, the biggest concern here is coverage. Carriers love to tell us how its ultra-fast network covers "the most people," but that doesn't mean widespread coverage. The majority of the country's population lives relatively close to each other, so geographically the area covered by Verizon LTE is quite small--and so is the potential market for HomeFusion.
Verizon spokesperson Debra Lewis says that will change, though. "By the end of this year, we'll have LTE in at least 450 markets and by 2013, our LTE footprint will match our current 3G footprint, as we've previously stated," she tells PCWorld. In other words, if you never had fast data in the first place it's never coming, and if you have 3G now, LTE is on the way--eventually.