AT&T has brought wireless home Internet to nine more states, offering rural and underserved customers a faster alternative to old DSL lines.
“Our Fixed Wireless Internet service provides a home Internet connection with download speeds of at least 10Mbps and speeds of at least 1Mbps,” AT&T said in a statement. announcement yesterday. “The connection is from the wireless tower to the fixed antenna on the customer’s premises or companies. This is the best way to deliver high power, high quality Internet to customers who live in underserved rural areas.”
The service is new in parts of Arkansas, California, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Ohio, Texas, and Wisconsin. Wireless internet was already available earlier this year in parts of nine other states, namely Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. These reports are for 18 of the 21 states in AT&T’s wireless coverage.
AT&T now provides fixed wireless Internet to 160,000 residential and small business locations, and it plans to increase that number to more than 400,000 by the end of this year and to 1.1 million locations in 18 states by 2020 .
Standalone Wireless Internet service costs $60 a month with a 1-year contract, or $70 a month without a contract or after the contract expires, AT & T told Ars. Customers can get a $10-per-month discount on home wireless service by connecting with either DirecTV or AT&T smartphone service.
Installation fees for the outdoor antenna and indoor gateway are up to $99, but the fee is waived if service is purchased with DirecTV. Home Wireless Internet service has a monthly data cap of 160GB, version AT&T FAQ says. Customers must pay a fee of $10 for each additional 50GB, up to a maximum of $200 per month. Data caps on AT&T cable services are either 150GB or 1TB.
Government funding, from your phone bill
If you live in the US, you probably helped pay for this launch because it’s funded by the federal government’s Connect America Fund, which draws from surcharges on American phone bills to help rural Internet service. . In 2015, AT&T entered into an agreement with the US government to receive $428 million per year for six or seven years, almost 3 billion US dollarsto bring 10Mbps Internet service to parts of rural America.
Although the Federal Communications Commission uses 25Mbps downstream and 3Mbps upstream as the standard for measuring broadband performance, America’s connectivity only requires 10Mbps/1Mbps.
United States Treasury recipients are required to meet 40 percent of their production requirements at the end of 2017. AT&T wrote to “over 400,000” of the 1.1 million locations this year it will meet the threshold if it is at least 440,000. AT&T says it is still on track to meet the 100 percent goal by the required date of 2020.
AT&T is also doing a multi-year fiber-to-the-home expansion to 12.5 million customers, which it required as a condition of its acquisition of DirecTV. So America Fund’s wireless deployments reach more underserved areas where AT&T doesn’t build cable because costs per customer are higher.
Many customers stuck with much slower speeds
Even 10Mbps download speeds will be acceptable to customers in the AT&T area who have DSL service rated in kilobits or not at all. But as noted in this previous story, even after wireless expansion there may still be millions of customers in AT&T’s copper wire area with Internet service slower than 10Mbps.
1.1 million customers is still a far cry from the amount that AT&T said its fixed wireless service could cover a few years ago. In 2014, AT&T tell that in order to get its joint DirecTV approval, it will commit to bringing “fixed area wireless connectivity to 13 million new customer locations, particularly in underserved, rural areas” within four years of the joint closing . About 85 percent of the 13 million wireless locations will be outside of AT&T’s traditional wireline coverage; The deadline for that commitment will be July 2019.
But the Federal Communications Commission has not made that commitment joint approval. The FCC said AT&T estimates how many uninsured rural households are in its maximum coverage area.
AT&T apparently “engaged in some puffery when they were selling the deal” and “the FCC is serious that they’re out on it,” Harold Feld, senior VP of consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge, told Ars. But even in 1.1 million homes, “getting fixed wireless broadband to Americans at an affordable price is a good thing,” Feld said.
We asked AT&T today if it would try to hit the 13 million target anyway. In response, an AT&T spokesperson noted that the wireless proposal was not approved by the FCC and said the company would meet the wireless obligations required by the FCC. The cables, combined with AT&T’s existing broadband services, will bring speeds of at least 45Mbps to at least 25.7 million customer locations, AT&T said.
But that means a major wireless deployment outside of AT&T’s telecom coverage area may not materialize, or at least not by the 2019 deadline that AT&T has proposed. Separately, AT&T has been testing a new wireless system that could deliver multi-gigabit Internet speeds for either smartphone data or home Internet service, but did not say when it would be commercially available or how many people it would cover.