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T-Mobile Unlimited Home Internet Test Ride - It’s Got Bugs, But It Seems to Beat Comcast

T-Mobile Home Internet gateway
(Image credit: T-Mobile)

Can T-Mobile and Verizon fixed 5G services chip away at the nearly 70% market share cable companies currently have for home wireline internet service in the U.S.?

If CNET’s review of T-Mobile Home Internet is any indicator, these wireless companies have a shot. Maybe. CNET's Michigan-based reviewer, Rick Broida, describes replacing his current Comcast home internet service, speed tier not disclosed, and replacing it with T-Mobile’s fixed home service.

For starters, Broida describes a huge price break: He paid $55 a month for the T-Mobile service, which could have been $50 if he signed up for autopay, while his Comcast service had set him back $106 a month. (Notably, the current nationally advertised price of the T-Mobile service is $60 a month.)

The writer describes a somewhat tortured self-setup process, during which a simple reset of the T-Mobile Home Internet gateway erased every device connection he’d already established, ultimately putting him on the phone with high-level tech-support staffers who were unable to resolve certain issues. 

Fortunately, connecting the gateway to his established home mesh WiFi network seemed to solve most of Broida’s connection issues, and he was able to use the service. So once he got all his devices connected to the internet, how did the performance match up? Unevenly.

T-Mobile offers the service in 5G where available—Broida himself wasn't sure if he is connecting through the new network standard or 4G LTE. 

For the most part, the service seemed to work: “After more than a week of business as usual--working online during the day, streaming video at night, FaceTime calls to parents and so on--I've encountered scarcely a blip in connectivity,” he wrote. 

But connection speeds, as gauged by Speedtest, varied wildly. 

“Early in my testing, I recorded download/upload speeds as high as 145Mbps/80Mbps,” Broida said. “In subsequent days they dropped as low as 15Mbps/8Mbps. This was despite the gateway's little touchscreen display showing four or five bars and the app reporting 'very good' or 'excellent' connection quality.”

There were few other issues—notably, the gateway seemed fussy in terms of placement, working best when positioned on the second floor where it, perhaps, connected to some distant 5G tower (again, Broida wasn't sure).

In the end, however, the reviewer declared that he’s keeping the T-Mobile service. "There’s no contract, so I can always go back to Comcast if things don't work out. And even if it's not perfect 100% of the time, well, neither is Comcast--and imperfection is a lot more tolerable when you're paying less than half what you were before.”

For their part, cable companies probably still aren’t too concerned about this competitive threat. For starters, that price differential—really, half?—doesn’t seem like it holds water on a national scale. The price of high-speed cable internet has been creeping up. But $106 a month seems like a pretty high quote. Comcast advertises its 400 Mbps service at $65 a month—a price that undoubtedly inflates with taxes and if you lease a modem, but not to the $106-a-month level.

And again, the current advertised price for T-Mobile Home Internet is $60, not $50.

Then there’s the issue of whether T-Mobile’s network could handle home internet usage on a mass scale. Speaking Monday at the virtual Deutsche Bank Media, Internet & Telecom Conference, Charter Communications CFO Christopher Winfrey said that the average Spectrum Internet customer is using 700 megabytes of data per month

“The average wireless customers uses only 10 gigs a month,” Winfrey said. “The difference in utilization rates is significant. I don’t think that current wireless networks are designed to handle that kind of traffic.”