Rural homes – often a top pick for remote workers – may not have fast internet capabilities, which can ding the sales value. But buyers still have options.
NEW YORK – One of the many things we all learned from the pandemic is that high-speed internet, or broadband, service to your home is no longer a nice-to-have – it’s an essential utility. From working at home, learning at home, getting access to entertainment, and communicating with family and friends, you simply cannot function in our modern world without it.
Until recently, as with most utilities, there was unfortunately very little choice that individuals had when it came to what company they could choose to provide the service. Even worse, for many people living in rural areas, broadband wasn’t even available or a realistic option.
Thankfully, the range of home internet service options has exploded recently, with several different new wireless options, as well as even faster wired choices now available.
What are the broadband internet options available?
The exact range of options you’ll have depends on where you live.
Most of these companies offer coverage maps that let you know if you fall within their coverage area, although some of these maps are harder to find and use than they should be. In some situations, you may find that your first choice – say a 5G-based broadband service – isn’t available just yet in your neighborhood, but a slower fallback option might be – such as 4G LTE-based broadband.
The big factors to consider when selecting among your various options are speed and price. Older guidelines would typically suggest a minimum download speed of 25 Mbps (megabits per second), but realistically, you should probably shoot for 100 Mbps.
To put that into perspective, streaming a single 4K-quality TV show over Netflix or other streaming services requires about 25 Mbps, but any additional activity done simultaneously on your home network, such as web browsing, playing online games, videoconferencing calls, etc., will require more.
Keep in mind that bandwidth numbers that may initially seem high never are in retrospect. With the prospect of bandwidth-heavy applications such as virtual or augmented reality (e.g., the “metaverse”) on the horizon, as well as simultaneous streaming of multiple channels by different people in a household, ongoing higher-quality video calls for work or school, etc., there is a reason we’re seeing so many companies feature broadband services of 1 Gbps (10x higher than 100 Mbps) and more.
For most people, a broadband service choice is something that’s only made once every few years, so it’s always wiser to start at a level that might seem a bit higher than you initially need, because you’re unlikely to change it for some time.
What 5G offers broadband users
The most interesting new broadband options are wireless services using 5G cellular connections from both T-Mobile and Verizon. Again, these aren’t available everywhere.
However, the beauty of these is that you don’t have to drill a hole into your house to install any cables and you can do the installation on your own. Just set a router device near a window, plug it in, set it up via your phone, and your internet connection and a speedy WiFi6-based home network will come to life.
The T-Mobile version, priced at $50/month, claims average download speeds of over 100 Mbps, with typical speeds between 35 Mbps and 115 Mbps. The Verizon offering, which also starts at $50, has two different speed offerings, depending on whether you are within an area that has access to the company’s new C-Band-based 5G services or its millimeter wave-based 5G.
Unfortunately, you don’t get to choose – it’s just luck of the draw on where you live and what service (if any) Verizon has available to you.
If you’re in one of its C-Band areas, Verizon claims speeds of between 85 Mbps and 300 Mbps, while the significantly smaller areas with mmWave should see speeds between 300 Mbps and 1 Gbps.
By the way, even though Verizon offers two service options – the basic 5G Home and 5G Home Plus for $70/month – the difference is only in what content services are bundled with one or the other – there are no speed differences between the two.
Another great benefit of these 5G-based broadband services is that several of them reach out into rural areas of the country that haven’t had many broadband service options available.
Plus, for lower-income households, it’s possible to tap into the federal government’s new Affordable Connectivity Program, which can provide up to a $30/month subsidy for broadband service. Note that the ACP funds can be used with any type of broadband service.
What rural homes can do for internet
Another option that Americans living in more remote areas of the country can consider is satellite-based services. Companies such as Hughes and Viasat have had these services for years, but their speeds have been much lower (often 25 Mbps or less) and their costs much higher than other options, in part because of expensive installation fees.
A new entrant called Starlink is claiming speeds of 100 Mbps to 200 Mbps thanks to the use of lower-orbit satellites to deliver its service. However, its monthly plans start at $99, and it has a $499 equipment fee (versus zero for the new 5G-based services).
Finally, for those who want the highest possible speed both for download and uploads (and who are also willing to pay the highest prices), the top choice has typically been fiber-based broadband. Like cable-based internet, fiber requires a wired installation into your home.
One of the unique benefits of fiber-based Internet service is that its upload and download speeds are symmetrical, meaning you can upload just as fast as you can download.
For people who regularly stream high-resolution content to services such as Twitch, YouTube, and social media sites, or for those households doing lots of simultaneous Zoom, Webex, Teams, etc., video calls, these faster uploads can be beneficial. With all other broadband services, upload speeds are typically just a tiny fraction of download speeds (often 1/5 or even lower).
The views and opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.
Copyright 2022, USATODAY.com, USA TODAY. USA TODAY columnist Bob O’Donnell is the president and chief analyst of TECHnalysis Research, a market research and consulting firm that provides strategic consulting and market research services to the technology industry and professional financial community.
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