T-Mobile

I switched to T-Mobile Home Internet to get away from my local ISP

During the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, when everyone in my family lived and worked at home, we hammered the internet and constantly went over the assigned internet data usage limits of our service provider, Cox. It was a real turning point in terms of considering what we wanted and needed from our home ISP.

Distance learning, distance teaching, streaming shows, and more created a lot of extra charges for overages. In 2022, I decided to double down and upgrade our Cox internet service, but new issues, along with unfulfilled promised speeds, caused the experience to range from annoying to bad. So finally exhausted by traditional cable internet, I switched to T-Mobile’s Home Internet service to see if it could live up to and live up to its hype.

I first tried T-Mobile’s wireless internet service in 2021 when it first launched in my area. It performed fine, but I only had the LTE modem on loan as a test device. This time I completely disconnected my cable modem and then canceled our Cox Internet service altogether.

T-Mobile advertises unlimited data usage and 5G speeds, whatever that means. My service through Cox was so unreliable that I only hoped that T-Mobile’s 5G home wireless internet could deliver a download speed of at least 150 Mbps. If that happened, it would be better than the inconsistent speeds I saw from Cox. So far I have been pleasantly surprised.

There should be a big disclaimer that location is everything with mobile networks, so you can have different results. This ongoing review reflects my experience with T-Mobile Home Internet service in suburban Southern California.

TL;DR

Pros

  • Fast enough for multiple simultaneous video streams
  • Can handle many WiFi devices on the network

cons

  • 5G speeds slower than my phone gets in the same location
  • Mobile app for service is very simple and restrictive

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Internet speeds from T-Mobile Home

There are some major concerns people have when considering moving to a cellular network for their home internet, including myself. My two main questions were: will it be fast enough and will it be consistently reliable, even with heavy use?

In terms of speed, the 5G modem T-Mobile provided as part of the service regularly showed four out of five bars, and I routinely saw download speeds around 250 Mbps. I check network speeds regularly, whenever something feels slow. The slowest speed I saw was about 50 Mbps, but that was just one of hundreds of checks. At least 90 percent of the time, I was getting download speeds between 150 and 250 Mbps.

On my 5G T-Mobile iPhone 13 Pro, I sometimes see network download speeds of up to 500 Mbps in my house. I’ve never noticed that on my home network, but maybe I’ll see those kinds of speeds in the future. That’s in stark contrast to Cox’s firm grip on never allowing speeds beyond your plan tier.

Upload speeds averaged around 31 Mbps. In my experience, the upload speed stayed at least 30 Mbps almost every time I checked. The upload speeds seemed very consistent.

Another benefit for me was the ability to place the 5G modem wherever I want in my house. The coaxial cable Cox uses for his modem was in the corner of a room on one side of my house. This meant that my router had to start broadcasting from that other side as well. Mesh networks have relieved a lot of Wi-Fi headaches, but now that I have a cellular modem I’m free to place the router in the best location for signal strength or where it’s most central in the house.

Heavy network usage

T-Mobile Home Internet
T-Mobile aggregates data usage across telephone services and home internet within a subscriber’s account, and can then be searched individually. This graph gives an idea of ​​how much more internet data is consumed at home than on a mobile phone alone.
TYLER HAYES

At the last check, I had about 65 devices on my WiFi network. There are many connected speakers, TVs, computers and tablets, as well as multiple streaming security cameras. If our household didn’t exceed Cox’s 1.5 TB data usage limit every month, we’d be getting close. Just four years ago that seemed absurd, but today streaming video comes in higher resolutions, music streams in lossless audio formats, and more devices do more internet stuff to increase data usage.

Video streaming is easy to pinpoint, but mobile apps are another example of increased data usage. google mobile apps, facebookUberInstagramSnapchat and many more, they are all around 200 MB in size and consume so much data every time they are updated, sometimes weekly. If you update 20 apps a week on your phone that are 200MB or larger, that’s at least 16GB a month of internet data that you use just to do that. AppleGarageBand’s app is a whopping 1.6 GB in size. Needless to say, I was looking forward to T-Mobile’s advertised unlimited data usage.

In the first month, while relying solely on T-Mobile’s Home Internet service, I only had one short-term outage with our Internet. A streaming show paused and a web page said unavailable, then about 45 seconds later things were streaming again.

During that first month, I pushed the service as hard as any normal family, but probably a little more. There have been times when three people streamed three different shows at the same time. Music is constantly streamed as I test speakers and headphones. Video meetings take place regularly. Remote security cameras stream video when someone approaches the house. Because of all this, everything performed as expected.

So far I haven’t noticed any difference in how fast streaming video services load and start playing. I didn’t notice any delays in meetings. I connected to my robot vacuum’s camera and streamed video of it cleaning the kitchen at the same speed as using Cox’s service.

I worried that under the weight of kids coming home from school in the summer, a 5G home internet service would be unreliable, but it hasn’t been. Of course I would have liked to download files like Netflix shows to my iPad or huge product images – to have been faster, but maybe that will come with time.

Additional comments

  • I used a different WiFi router than the one built into the 5G modem. I plugged my own mesh Wi-Fi system into the back of the modem and didn’t rely on the single black box to reach every corner of my house.
  • T-Mobile Internet’s mobile app is useful for setting up the service, but the feature set is very basic and limiting. Devices can be scheduled to block internet from children’s devices, for example, after bedtime, but that’s about it. There isn’t even a guest wifi network feature that I could find.
  • You cannot see the data usage via the mobile app, but you can on the T-Mobile website.
  • The cost of $50 per month is when you have autopay activated on your monthly bill. The price is slightly higher if you do not use automatic payment.

Do you need to sign up for T-Mobile’s home internet service?

One of the most frustrating things as a consumer is being taken for granted. And it felt like Cox took me for granted as an internet customer. I spoke to a rep at one point this year and said I wasn’t getting the speeds I paid for. Despite the company seeing the same on their side, I was told I had to pay to have someone look at it.

My disappointment with either of the two ISP choices in my area is not because of a single point of failure, but a constant trickle of little things. I suspect I am not alone here, and many people are dissatisfied with their ISP. Consumers rely on AT&T, Spectrum, Cox, Comcast, Charter or Verizon for their Internet service, but often do not have the choice between more than two providers.

Let me be clear that T-Mobile’s 5G wireless home internet isn’t a savior in the vacuum of home internet services, but it is at least a breeze of fresh air coming in through the window. It’s a touch of competition in metropolitan areas.

(I’ve heard from many people in the past that this T-Mobile service is more important to them in rural areas, where Internet service is harder to find. In that case, going from zero to one is a big deal.)

For my location, the service was reliable and the speed turned out to be good enough. Perhaps this third ISP option puts a little bit more pressure on incumbents in certain areas to reliably deliver faster speeds at a reasonable cost, but that seems like too much to ask.

For now, my next step is to just see how the service fares in the long run. My more realistic hope is that I could just forget dealing with home internet services: I could be streaming a postseason in October MLB game and don’t worry about how much data it consumes or whether it has to buffer every few minutes.

Sign up at T-Mobile from $50 per month

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