T-Mobile’s Home Internet, which makes use of excess ability on T-Mobile’s 4G and 5G networks, brings clean competition to the home internet provider space, at $60 in keeping with month with no contract. We tested it for 2 months and discovered that it is a best opportunity to any cable or DSL tier of 100Mbps or much less. However, it can not compete with high-velocity fiber connections—as a minimum not but.
The New ISP in (Every) Town
We do not usually overview ISPs at PCMag, for diverse motives. Internet services are hard to get set up and tough to cancel, new services are frequently no longer to be had at our checking out places (that is why we have not examined Starlink), and it takes months to check them properly. Instead, we rely on our readers in our annual Fastest ISPs story, as well as different information, for a huge picture of the ISP market.
But T-Mobile’s new domestic 5G providing is so new and important that we needed to make an exception. Rural 4G internet carrier has existed for years, and Verizon has sold 5G domestic provider on a confined foundation for 2 years now. T-Mobile’s aims are a lot larger: close to-national, easy-to-set up home net for urban, suburban, and rural customers alike.
The service is designed for individuals who don’t have smooth fiber access but aren’t up to now out inside the woods that that they had must rely upon Starlink. That’s a extensive swath of city, suburban, and exurban America. This map shows the 634 metro areas in which T-Mobile advertises that Home Internet is available. (Each metro location is represented through one factor, even if it’s pretty massive.)
The organisation’s ISP presenting is not officially segregated from its cell network. It uses excess potential, and the amount of excess varies plenty. T-Mobile might also experience it has ability for one character in your block, for example, so if someone else symptoms up first, you will be put on a ready list or informed to attempt again later. Availability also changes with community upgrades, so punching your address into T-Mobile’s website online will provide you with unique outcomes over the years.
If the mobile community around you will become congested, your own home network will slow down, too. T-Mobile is promising common download speeds of at least 25Mbps, which is not a lot, but it is the federal minimal for broadband. For maximum net browsing and asynchronous responsibilities, it is without a doubt first-class. Streaming tune is commonly 1Mbps or less, a 1080p Zoom call will fee you about 4Mbps, and a 1080p Netflix circulation will run you around 7Mbps. As lengthy as your family would not have more than one humans doing all those matters immediately, 25Mbps will suffice.
On the opposite hand, 4K video streams may be 15Mbps each or extra, and 4K cloud gaming with Google Stadia uses 35Mbps. If it is your jam, T-Mobile’s service may fall quick. It became plenty fast enough for those makes use of in our testing, however it can now not be in regions with a weaker network.
It’s critical to word that you cannot tote your T-Mobile Home Internet carrier from place to area. That is, you physically ought to, however sooner or later T-Mobile will seize you and forestall your provider. You’ve been offered your carrier due to the fact the tower serving your home has sufficient capability. Other towers might not. T-Mobile desires to provide this service wherein it will paintings, and not wherein a pile-on of domestic net customers will deliver the network to its knees.
Why get Home Internet and not a hotspot, which you can use anywhere that your service provider has a network? It’s in the end approximately the carrier plan. Hotspot plans have a tendency to be very constrained. T-Mobile’s quality modern hotspot plan expenses about the same as the Home Internet carrier, provides 100GB of statistics per month, and bounds video streams to 480p. But its ISP plan is in reality unlimited—I used 10 times that amount of statistics with none trace of speeds being throttled, and watched 4K video consistently.
No-Nonsense Installation and Billing
I subscribed on a retail foundation, like any other client, and soon received a field with the whole lot I wanted. Setting up the modem, which comes with its SIM already installed, is extraordinarily clean: You download an app in your cellphone, turn the modem on, and use the display at the pinnacle of the modem to find a location with good signal. Then you are pretty plenty equipped to move.
Billing was further a breeze. $60 become tacked on to my monthly T-Mobile invoice, taxes and costs blanketed. There is not any condo charge for the modem.
The modem wishes to be in a gap with robust T-Mobile sign. I tested it along a Galaxy S21 Ultra (additionally on T-Mobile’s community) and determined that the two devices saw equal sign strength on band forty one 5G; on band 2 4G, the modem’s reception was slightly higher than the telephone’s. There aren’t any apparent external antenna ports, but if you want higher reception and you are a little available, it’s feasible to open the modem and hook it up to a bigger antenna from Waveform. A properly one prices $219.ninety nine.
The router has ports, however many are disabled.Very Basic Hardware
T-Mobile’s Nokia modem can perform as an 802.11ax, Wi-Fi 6 hotspot, but you are probably going to need to hook up a separate Wi-Fi router. The modem may be very stripped down and has few features or options.
There are practical Ethernet ports, in conjunction with a USB-C port and an RJ-eleven smartphone jack that are disabled. There’s also an extraordinary-searching power port for UPS gadgets (I could not discover a UPS that could be compatible), and a integrated however non-operational battery. In different phrases, you need to keep the modem plugged into a wall outlet and connect with it over either Wi-Fi or Ethernet; there aren’t any other options.
The popularity screen is not awful.
There’s a primary web-based management web page that lets you see the popularity of your connection and configure the modem’s very few settings. Bizarrely, you could have up to 12 overall SSIDs (wi-fi networks) on the 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi bands—I cannot think of any state of affairs wherein you would need greater than three or 4—and you can set their electricity degrees and channels, however you won’t discover port forwarding, DMZ, VPN settings, or parental controls, all of which I’ve taken into consideration primary router functionalities for at least five years.
Many common Wi-Fi settings are lacking.
There’s excellent information, though: You can connect a higher router or a mesh device to one of the Ethernet ports for the range, flexibility, and controls you need. As the T-Mobile modem doesn’t have a bridge mode, search for a router to be able to avoid creating a double NAT state of affairs, that could confuse a few on line offerings. Recent Wi-Fi 6 routers need to be exceptional; I used a Netgear Nighthawk AX8 without a hassle.
To be frank, I am concerned approximately the reliability of this hardware. I had to get my first modem replaced because it had so many troubles, as specific below. Unfortunately there is no different modem that works with this carrier, so you simply have to assume that sooner or later you’ll run into difficulties and need to ask T-Mobile for a alternative tool.
A Rough Start, Then Smooth Sailing
I used T-Mobile as my number one work connection for 2 months. I additionally hooked up a small PC to the modem via Ethernet. The PC ran Ookla Speedtest every 20 minutes, together with pings to at least one.1.1.1 and eight.8.eight.8, Cloudflare and Google’s domain name servers, every minute. That gave me heaps of records factors for an standard photo of each day. (Ookla is owned by way of PCMag’s figure business enterprise, Ziff Davis.)
I really struggled with my first month of T-Mobile service. Google and Yahoo internet pages would stall out. Video calls kept being interrupted through latency spikes. Sometimes the network might drop out absolutely for mins at a time. When I went seeking out extra facts online, I observed many similar proceedings from T-Mobile Home Internet clients on Reddit.
I spent every week speakme to aid techs as they made network-facet modifications that failed to make any difference. Then T-Mobile swapped out my modem and the entirety got better, so I’m comfortable blaming the hardware instead of T-Mobile’s network.
With a new modem, all the mysterious stalls, freezes, and lag disappeared. During the first month, I had 11 days where at least one take a look at showed download speeds underneath 20Mbps. During the second month (with the brand new modem), there were best 3 days where the rate dropped beneath 20Mbps.
The chart beneath indicates the distribution of download, add, and ping speeds across all the assessments I did once I had a functioning modem. You can see that download speeds were commonly in the one hundred fifty–300Mbps range, uploads had been round 60–120Mbps, and pings were around 10–20ms.
Wireless broadband fluctuates—on June three, as an instance, my download speed various from a low of 22.5Mbps to a high of 531Mbps—however I found I should depend on getting more than 50Mbps down and 20Mbps up nearly all of the time. About 42% of my slower effects occurred between four and 9 PM, which makes experience (this is peak time for T-Mobile’s clients to be using its 4G and 5G networks).
Your speeds might not look like mine. I stay in an area with sturdy T-Mobile mid-band 5G sign and masses of potential. If you don’t, you won’t see overall performance it really is almost as properly. I’m in particular worried approximately folks who will rely upon T-Mobile’s low-band (band seventy one) 5G, which has a whole lot less capacity than its mid-band (band 41) 5G does. If you are curious about what sort of connection you are in all likelihood to get, go to Cellmapper and notice whether or not there has been a band forty one sighting reported close to you.
You don’t want to worry approximately facts caps or prioritization in this carrier. I used extra than a terabyte a month and did not stumble upon some thing that seemed continuously like deprioritization. Download all you need.
In practice, T-Mobile Home Internet is identical to service from a cable-based totally home ISP. Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, and Netflix all streamed to my Roku TV in crystal clear 4K with HDR. I turned into able to use Wi-Fi calling over the router with both T-Mobile and Verizon phones, however the modem does not improve your cell sign or have an effect on your direct mobile calls.
Fiber continues to be a long way extra steady than this wi-fi connection. My number one net hyperlink is Verizon Fios, and I pay for a 500Mbps tier. Over 3 days of testing Fios each 20 mins, I by no means noticed a velocity decrease than 486Mbps, with pings almost totally between three and 5ms. Fiber is genuinely the gold fashionable, and even mid-band 5G can’t compete with its consistency and reliability.
Ping and VPNs: Some Concerns
If you need low, regular pings, this service is not for you.
With the Google and Cloudflare area call servers, each day I despatched some pings that took over 100ms. Pings to eight.eight.eight.8 were commonly across the 30ms variety; pings to one.1.1.1 varied greater. Pings to the nearest Ookla server had been between 10 and 20ms. (Ookla tends to choose servers which are bodily and logically near you, even as 22.214.171.124 and 8.eight.8.eight may be farther away.)
The chart underneath indicates my pings to 126.96.36.199 and eight.8.eight.8 over a six-week period. You can see that maximum pings were under 30ms, however there had been a number of pings mainly to at least one.1.1.1 within the 120–180ms range.
The 20–30ms pings are what I anticipate from a network that mixes 5G and 4G. This is as proper as you’ll get with this era. My connection stood as much as hours of Zoom and Google Meet video calling every day with out sizeable lag or problems. However, in case you rely on sub-10ms pings for gaming or excessive-frequency buying and selling, no gadget with a 4G wireless element will be sufficient; you will need some thing greater like my Verizon Fios connection. Future 5G networks have to be able to get down to a few–5ms ping instances the usage of standalone 5G and community reducing, but the ones technology are not to be had to the general public yet.
If you’re a heavy VPN user, you need to additionally be careful. For all VPNs, you need to apply TCP in preference to UDP if viable. With the PIA VPN used towards a Canadian endpoint, I noticed download speeds drop to 20Mbps from 100Mbps. With PIA on a UK endpoint, download speed changed into more like 10Mbps. OpenVPN, then again, had nearly no impact on speeds. I did all my paintings over a company OpenVPN set up for a week without a trouble.
Helpful, But Not Revolutionary
As some distance as our checking out can determine, T-Mobile fulfills its promise of delivering as a minimum 25Mbps net connectivity for $60 in step with month with out a contracts and smooth setup. The US ISP market is so fragmented that whether this is a superb purchase relies upon very tons on where you live. In most cases, assuming accurate sign on band 41, the information pace from T-Mobile Home Internet will possibly be higher than DSL and equal to cable. It might not be as excellent as fiber, however if fiber is not to your region or in your budget, that assessment doesn’t count.
The one huge drawback is that the Nokia modem T-Mobile makes use of isn’t top notch. It lacks many common router options, my first one become mysteriously faulty, and many other customers have complained approximately it on boards.
Americans need broadband choice, and T-Mobile is bringing it. If you’re used to very stable wired ISP overall performance, the fluctuations of wireless will be a bit weird, but they never got in the way of my Zoom calling or Netflix streaming. Dedicated gamers and heavy VPN customers ought to stay with fiber each time viable, but if you simply need to send emails, stream movies or TV, and make video calls, this is a incredibly viable alternative.