The way you get and use both TV and internet in your home is about to change drastically.
Verizon detailed a bit about how the next stage of home TV and internet will work when it discussed its 5G rollout plans on Tuesday evening. Lots of buzzwords get tossed around with 5G, so I'll try to explain how it's going to change how you get TV and internet at home as easily as I can.
How it works now
Right now, you probably have a cable wire running from the telephone poles on your street to your house. It might come in the attic and then, thanks to some drilling done by the cable guy, snakes its way from room to room connecting to cable boxes. Those cables also need to connect to a modem and/or router to provide wireless internet to your house. That means even if you "cut the cord" and ditch cable, you still need the same coaxial cable line for internet at home.
The current wireless standard offered by Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint — 4G LTE — is fast but not quite fast enough for an entire house of people to play games and stream 4K movies at the same time. It makes a poor replacement for wired broadband.
The technology for 5G is fast enough for that, and you can forget the cords. It's just as reliable as the wired broadband internet you're used to, and it could save you a lot of headaches.
How it will work
Verizon said Tuesday that instead of giving you a bunch of cable boxes and other gadgets, it's going to simply give you an Apple TV 4K and a wireless modem. Since Verizon isn't going to run a standard cable line to your house, it's also going to include a subscription to YouTube TV, YouTube's streaming service that will provide access to TV channels. YouTube TV normally costs $40 per month, but Verizon's deal is likely only a limited-time offer.
You'll still have a modem at home, but it'll connect to Verizon's wireless 5G signal and then serve as a home Wi-Fi router, complete with standard Ethernet ports. This is how devices like the Apple TV 4K, your smartphone, computer and other internet gadgets will connect to Verizon's 5G wireless network. PCMag had a look at one of the routers Verizon said it was initially considering in 2017.
This means you won't need to run a cable throughout your home to each TV, since you won't be using cable boxes to get your TV content. No more drilling through walls. No more waiting for the cable guy. Just plug in your Verizon modem and get online.
Some early caveats
This won't be for everyone, at least not at first. To start, Verizon (and other 5G providers) are only going to roll out slowly in select cities around the United States. Verizon says it will be in four cities — Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles and Sacramento, California — by the end of 2018. More cities will get Verizon 5G next year. AT&T is also planning to expand its consumer 5G network. AT&T has its own streaming TV service, DirecTV Now, which it could theoretically offer through a 5G connection.
Meanwhile, T-Mobile and Sprint are attempting to merge in order to build a 5G network that can compete with AT&T and Verizon.
As for TV streaming services like YouTube TV, there aren't as many TV channels as you get today with regular cable, which means this won't be the ideal solution for folks who need every last channel. While a typical cable subscriber might have access to hundreds of channels of content, services like YouTube TV only provide dozens. That's bound to change over time, since 5G is the future of how we'll get internet and TV in our homes.
Finally, and most importantly, it's unclear how much all of this will cost. Verizon's initial 5G offer will give you a free Apple TV 4K ($179) and a subscription to YouTube TV ($40 per month). It's unclear how much the 5G service will run you each month, and there will likely be a monthly equipment fee to use the modem.