After a long life in a pilot program, T-Mobile’s 5G home internet service has finally arrived. The bar for decent, reasonably-priced internet services in the US is embarrassingly low, so T-Mobile’s terms may sound like a dream: $ 60 a month, no contract, no set up appointment, no equipment rental fees, and no data caps. It is a service that is still in its infancy, and reviews so far note some inconsistencies in performance among other idiosyncrasies.
Even considering all of this, it may still sound worth the potential risks if you shoot nearly double Big Cable every month. But before you drop your Comcast router in the river, there are a few things to keep in mind when considering the switch.
First, and most clearly, you may not be eligible for the service. Home internet is not offered everywhere with mobile telephone services from T-Mobile; the company is introducing it as the local network capacity allows it. And even where it’s on offer, you may not necessarily be able to get it. To ensure that it can meet the additional requirements of home users, T-Mobile can limit the number of logins they allow in, for example, your neighborhood or apartment building.
Look at PCMag‘s card for an easy view of the areas where home internet is offered, but for the most accurate information you’ll want to check your home address with T-Mobile.
Setting up wireless internet isn’t quite the plug and play experience you get with traditional wired service. You are looking for the best place in your house to install the Internet Gateway, as T-Mobile calls it. Signal strength may vary from room to room, and even in the same room you may find a better signal near a particular window. A companion app walks you through the installation steps and allows you to self-evaluate your technical comfort level in the beginning to provide an appropriate amount of guidance through the process.
Reviewers and early testers have noticed that signal strength can also vary throughout the day, so keep an eye on your internet speeds. Be prepared to try moving the Gateway to other locations if you’re not happy with the performance when you need it – unlike traditional broadband, you may find that another place in your home offers you better service.
Home Internet is subject to the same “data prioritization” policy as most of the company’s mobile data plans, meaning customers may see their speeds drop temporarily during busy network times. On some plans, this isn’t applied until a certain data threshold is reached, but that’s not the case for home internet – users are always subject to this kind of delay.
That sounds like a deal breaker, but the T-Mobile executives I spoke to said it is “unlikely” that customers will experience this due to the way the company is expanding its service. They say home internet is only offered in places with sufficient network capacity, and that logins in a particular area or building may be restricted to avoid congestion. That’s reassuring, but still something to consider as a potential downside if you need guaranteed speeds at all times.
Hulu + Live TV is currently not supported
Tucked away in Home Internet’s fine print is a statement that it is “not compatible with some live TV streaming services.” T-Mobile clarified this for us by saying that while YouTube TV and Netflix will work, Hulu’s live TV service is currently down due to a technical requirement. The company says it is working with Hulu to fix the problem. If Hulu is your main source for live TV then it’s a good idea to wait for that to square.
You can’t take it with you
It may sound appealing to bring your internet with you when you are staying elsewhere, such as a vacation home, but the terms of service do not allow it. T-Mobile says this is to ensure the service is used in areas with adequate network capacity. Likewise, you cannot take the SIM card out of your modem and put it in your phone when you leave the house. T-Mobile does not let you stop your mobile subscription so easily.