During the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, when everyone in my family was living and working from home, we cordoned off the internet and constantly exceeded the internet data usage limits assigned to our service provider, Cox. It was a real turning point in terms of looking at what we wanted and needed from a home ISP.
Distance learning, distance education, streaming offerings, and more have caused additional overage fees. As 2022 approaches, I’ve decided to double down and upgrade our Cox internet service, but new issues, combined with promised unfulfilled speeds, have made the experience range from annoying to poor. So finally exhausted by traditional cable internet, I turned to T-Mobile’s home internet to see if it could deliver and live up to the hype.
I first tried T-Mobile’s wireless internet in 2021, when it first launched in my area. It performed well, but I only had an LTE modem on loan as a review unit. This time, I completely unplugged my cable modem and then completely canceled our Cox internet.
T-Mobile advertises unlimited data usage and 5G speeds – whatever that means. My service through Cox was not reliable enough that I was just hoping that T-Mobile’s 5G wireless home internet would provide download speeds of at least 150Mbps. If it did, it would be better than the inconsistent speeds I was seeing from Cox. I have been pleasantly surprised so far.
There should be a big disclaimer that the site is all about cellular networks – so you may have different results. This ongoing review reflects my experience with T-Mobile Home Internet in a Southern California suburb.
- Enough speeds for multiple simultaneous video streams
- Capable of handling a lot of Wi-Fi devices on the network
- 5G speeds are slower than my phone in the same location
- The mobile application for the service is very basic and limited
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T-Mobile home internet speeds
There are some big concerns people have when considering switching to a cellular network for home internet, myself included. My primary questions were: Will it be fast enough, and will it be consistently reliable, even with heavy use?
In terms of speed, the 5G T-Mobile modem offered as part of the service regularly played four bars out of five, and I’ve routinely seen download speeds of around 250Mbps. I check network speeds frequently, the minute anything seems slow. The slowest speed I’ve seen was around 50Mbps, but that was only 1 time out of hundreds of times. At least 90 percent of the time I got download speeds between 150 and 250 Mbps.
On my 5G T-Mobile iPhone 13 Pro, I sometimes see network download speeds of up to 500Mbps in my home. I’ve never noticed this on my home network, but I’ll probably see these kinds of speeds in the future. This is in stark contrast to Cox’s firm understanding of not allowing speeds above your plan level.
Download speeds were around 31Mbps on average. In my experience, the upload speed has stayed at least 30Mbps almost every time I check in. Download speeds seemed very consistent.
Another advantage for me is the ability to put a 5G modem anywhere I need it in my house. The coaxial cable Cox uses for the modem was in the corner of a room on one side of my house. This means that my router has to start streaming from that far side as well. Mesh networks have taken away a lot of the Wi-Fi hassles, but now with a cellular modem, I’m free to put the router where it’s best for signal strength or wherever it’s central in the house.
Heavy use of the network
On my last scan, I had about 65 devices on my Wi-Fi. There are plenty of connected speakers, TVs, computers and tablets as well as many streaming security cameras. If our household hasn’t exceeded Cox’s data usage limit of 1.5TB each month, we’ve come close. Just four years ago that would have seemed silly, but nowadays video streaming comes in higher resolutions, music is streamed in lossless audio formats, and more devices are doing more things online to increase data consumption.
It’s easy to point out the video stream, but mobile apps are another example of increased data consumption. The Google mobile apps, FacebookAnd the UberAnd the InstagramAnd the snap chat And much more that all hovers around 200MB in size and consumes that much data every time it’s updated – sometimes weekly. If you update 20 apps per week on your phone that are 200MB or larger, that means at least 16GB of internet data per month that you use to do it on your own. appleThe size of the GarageBand app is 1.6 GB. Needless to say, I was looking forward to the advertised unlimited data usage from T-Mobile.
During the first month, while I was relying exclusively on T-Mobile’s home internet service, I only had one case when there was a temporary internet failure. Streaming display paused, webpage said unavailable, after about 45 seconds things were streaming again.
During that first month, the service pushed as hard as any normal family, but maybe a little more than that. There were times when three people streamed three different shows at the same time. Music streams continuously while I am testing the speakers and headphones. Video meetings are held regularly. Outdoor security cameras stream video when someone approaches the house. Through it all, everything works as expected.
So far I have not noticed any difference in the speed of loading and startup of the video streaming services. I did not notice delays in meetings. I hooked up my robot vacuum cam and streamed a video of it cleaning the kitchen just as quickly when using Cox.
I was worried that under the weight of kids coming home from school during the summer, 5G internet for the home would be unreliable, but it wasn’t. Of course I would love to download files — like Netflix Shows up on my iPad or bulky product photos—that’s faster, but that may come with time.
- I used a different Wi-Fi router than the one built into the 5G modem. I plugged my Wi-Fi system into the back of the modem and didn’t rely on the single black box to get to all corners of my house.
- The T-Mobile Internet mobile app is useful for setting up the service, but its feature set is very basic and limited. The devices can be scheduled to block the internet from kids’ devices after bedtime, for example, but that’s it. There is not even a guest Wi-Fi feature that I can find.
- You can’t see data usage through the phone app, but you can on the T-Mobile website.
- A $50 per month fee is charged when automatic payment of your monthly bill is activated. The price is a little higher if you don’t use automatic payment.
Should you sign up for T-Mobile Home Internet?
One of the most frustrating things as a consumer is taken for granted. And I felt that Cox was taking me for granted as an online customer. I spoke to a rep sometime this year and she mentioned that I didn’t get the speeds I was paying for. Although the company sees the same on their end, I was told I would need to pay someone to come out to look into it.
My disappointment with one of my two ISP choices in my area is not because of any one point of failure, but because of the constant dripping of the little things. I guess I’m not alone here, and a lot of people were unhappy with their ISP. Consumers must rely on AT&T, Spectrum, Cox, Comcast, Charter or Verizon for their internet service, but often don’t have a choice between more than two providers.
Let me point out that T-Mobile’s 5G wireless home internet isn’t a lifesaver in the home internet vacuum, but at least it’s a breeze of fresh air coming in through the window. It is a reference to urban competition.
(I’ve heard from a lot of people in the past that this T-Mobile service is more important to them in rural areas, where internet is hard to come by. In this case, going from zero to one is huge.)
For my site, the service was reliable and proved to have sufficient speeds. This third ISP option in certain regions may put a little more pressure on incumbents to deliver faster speeds at reasonable costs in a reliable manner, but that seems like too much.
For now, my next step is to just find out the pricing for the long-term service. My most realistic hope is that I can simply forget about dealing with my home internet service altogether: By October, I can stream postseason content. MLB The game and don’t worry about how much data it consumes or whether it will need to be cached every few minutes.
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