So I experimented with T-Mobile’s 5G home internet as the price is right and they recently dropped it to just $25 a month. This is a great move against the competition and incredibly smart when it comes to growing numbers quickly. For me, it was an opportunity to finally check it out without having to invest too much in it (in case it didn’t work for me).
My guess is that it would serve as a backup for now, with the slight potential of replacing my cable connection running home (thanks to the savings it would bring). It could also serve as a workaround possibly while traveling as a powerful hotspot, but I haven’t fully tested it yet.
That said, replacing my cable connection isn’t going to be easy since I have a gigabit plan which is incredibly powerful and doesn’t drop all that often. You still won’t find this kind of speed with 5G. That and reliability are not the same for some users (like me). I still have a lot of testing to do when it comes to long term reliability. For now, I can share what I’ve experienced so far (mind you, I’m a little more complicated than your typical internet user).
I also brought another user to the results that lead to this story (a friend of mine) who has also been using T-Mobile’s 5G home internet for about a month now. This allows me to see a little further than my home when it comes to performance.
Overall, in T-Mobile’s affluent areas, T-Mobile’s 5G Home Internet offers a consistent connection as it would your phone or any other device. It’s really just a huge hotspot with a built-in router and unlimited data. This is a great option to have, so thanks to T-Mobile for being there for your users.
My friend lives across the street from one of the company towers. It has gotten fantastic coverage over the past month while maintaining a connection close to 300Mbps (downstream). He hasn’t noticed any breaks yet and seems to be quite happy with them. However, even he won’t replace his primary cable connection just yet (and I’ll talk about that in the next section).
In my experience, things are a little different (so far). They check your eligibility for the plan using your address. This is to make sure you live in a 5G covered area and that it is worth your time and money. My address qualified as always for T-Mobile and I left with the router to bring home and set up.
However, there is something off about T-Mobile in my part of the neighborhood. There’s actually a tower in the mall across the street from my (small) neighborhood (it’s pretty close). This was confirmed by T-Mobile representatives over the phone who thought it was incredibly strange. Because, despite being so close to a tower, there’s almost zero connectivity to the house (that part of the neighborhood in general). So once against, despite them thinking the address is more than qualified, it actually gets nothing. This is even despite living in a major city that claims to be fully covered by solid 5G coverage (I don’t live in the middle of nowhere or BFE).
For this reason, a 4G LTE access point it was installed some time ago that taps into the cable connection to provide signal to nearby T-Mobile devices. The company has yet to fix anything in the area and has never offered to send a technician to hunt down the problem. So there was no surprise when I plugged the router in and found that it wouldn’t find a connection to the network.
I ended up having to get it as high as possible on the top floor and as close as possible to a window in the direction of the cell tower. Eventually, it finally got a connection and I was good to go. A type of. It didn’t keep the connection the best so I would eventually disconnect it.
So that eliminates it as an option to always replace the cable connection for me as it’s not as reliable thanks to network connectivity issues. Something that has never gotten better with T-Mobile so far and probably won’t until they send someone into the neighborhood to diagnose what’s causing the weird black hole of a spot in the neighborhood.
I had already mentioned that my friend was doing quite well with his connectivity and was getting up to 300mbps (downstream) on average with his account, he was not disappointed with his downstream as it is fast enough for what he needs throughout his house. However, this is also where he won’t be replacing his cable connection anytime soon, which is also another reason I wouldn’t replace mine with it.
Downstream is decent. I was getting up to 253mbps when it was able to see the network. This shows that T-Mobile has potential in my area, but something strange is blocking it at lower levels and intermittent at higher levels. So there might be something unusual about the neighborhood. Regardless, if it were sustainable, 253Mbps wouldn’t be all that bad for the average user. It just doesn’t compare to my gigabit plan through the cable company.
Where it really doesn’t compare, though, is upstream bandwidth. My cable connection offers double the speed on the upload side of things and even that is embarrassing compared to the direction some companies are heading in. Companies like Google have moved to offer 1 Tbps or higher in both directions (down and up). Meanwhile, many cable providers and apparently 5G providers are still stuck offering slow upstream.
Getting 17-18Mbps is not enough for me. I don’t drive my upstream limits constantly, but I sometimes do when I work because I sometimes need to move backup files or video content between locations. As a press, we shoot a lot of HD/4K content that needs to be pushed to a server somewhere so our editing teams can work on everything. If I was getting 300Mbps both ways with a solid connection, I’d say my cable company would have something to worry about despite the downstream not being as close to gigabit as it is.
Here because Google Fiber (and similar options) dominated some regions. Most of these other companies can’t keep up with what fiber has to offer.
T-Mobile 5G Home Internet isn’t really a good option for enthusiasts, professionals who move a lot of data, or 4K gaming. As well as any other category that requires a lot of bandwidth.
It should only be considered an option if:
- You already know you get great T-Mobile signal throughout your home
- You don’t have many devices connected to the internet
- You don’t see yourself moving large amounts of data back and forth
- You don’t like competitive games with high resolutions/specs
- You are not dependent on it to work from home with heavy internet usage
In fact, it’s fine for simple to intermediate home users who just need a simple Internet connection throughout the house. If you think a simple hot spot that you would carry in your pocket would be enough to give you the internet you need in your daily activities, this would work for you as it is a hotspot taken to the next level.
As mentioned, I’m a little more complicated than your typical internet user. Sometimes we play hard at home (when life permits leisure). There are dozens of devices connected to the internet in various ways (including 2K/4K security cameras). There is a lot of streaming media going on every week (eg. Amazon Prime videos, Netflix, Disney+, Plex, etc.). And there are a lot of large video files and other content moving both ways. So T-Mobile 5G Home Internet does enough for me. It would be a good alternative connection when the other is bogged down (i.e. too many IoT cloud devices), but only if it can maintain a reliable connection to T-Mobile.
But if you fit into the previously mentioned bullet points, this would be a great home internet workaround. There are so many consumers who could benefit from T-Mobile’s business plan. My grandparents would be a perfect example.
For now, I’ll take it with me to a few places when I get a chance to see how it performs here or there compared to my home. Maybe I’ll keep it if it works for travel or something, or maybe I’ll return it and come back at a later date once T-Mobile finally gets someone to investigate the neighborhood and fix something. Of course, I won’t continue paying him if all I’m doing is sitting around waiting for the day he offers a suitable solution for my home. If my experience changes in the future, I’ll have to come back with a new story highlighting what has improved.