I have 5G on my phone at home, so why can’t I get 5G Home Internet?


It’s been a few years 5G has started to roll out, but I have to admit that it still confuses me sometimes as we enter 2023. One question I’m often asked is: “My provider says I can’t get their 5G home internet service — even though I can get 5G on my phone when I’m at home. Why not?”

I faced this myself when I changed the operator in 2022. I went AT&T for T-Mobile and I was immediately impressed with the 5G performance on my phone. But even though I have T-Mobile 5G cell service at home, my address wasn’t eligible for it. Home Internet service. My immediate reaction: What?

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It’s not just T-Mobile. It refers to the same thing Verizon, also. Its 5G home internet product is also definitely not available in all the addresses covered by the company’s own 5G coverage map. Even if you have Verizon Ultra Broadband service in your neighborhood, it’s not a sure thing you can sign up for Verizon 5G Home Internet.

Did you say that T-Mobile and Verizon are offering 5G home internet?

Yes. T-Mobile and Verizon use mobile airwaves to offer special 5G home internet plans. Each provider’s plan has simple, all-inclusive pricing that eliminates equipment fees, data caps, fixed-term contracts, and other added hassles often associated with ISPs.

T-Mobile Home Internet offers a plan for $50 per month ($30 for eligible Magenta Max customers). Verizon offers two plans — Verizon 5G Home ($50 per month) and Verizon 5G Home Plus ($70 per month). Eligible Verizon mobile plans can also save 50% off the price of both plans. Simplicity and a straightforward approach seem to be key for both companies.

AT&T currently does not have a 5G home internet offering.

Is home broadband just a side hustle for these carriers?

I was quick to think that getting into the ISP game was just a job for these companies, but telecom insider Jeff Moore, director of Wave7 Research, sees more.

“Mobility is a core business for T-Mobile, and for the most part, it’s a core business for Verizon,” Moore said. “But T-Mobile in particular is telling Wall Street in addition to selling [home internet] services to businesses, he says, is increasingly moving toward rural America. I don’t think this is just publicity.”

T Mobile 5G Wi-Fi Gateway

T-Mobile includes its gateway device in the monthly fee.

T-Mobile

Some of the early numbers support Moore’s assessment. In mid-April, T-Mobile proudly announced that it has reached 1 million customers just one year after the product was launched nationwide. Moving to 2023, T-Mobile Home Internet now has more than 2 million customers and is available to more than 40 million households. A third of those homes are in rural communities and small towns, according to T-Mobile.

Overall, T-Mobile has been pretty aggressive with customers. It started in May Internet Freedom to push Americans’ dissatisfaction with providers and T-Mobile encourages consumers to “break from the Big Web” by testing Home Internet. To attract customers, it offers a free, 15-day test drive (so you can test your current provider without switching), a price lock guarantee (you pay $50 a month as long as you stay a customer. As with many ISPs, the price increases after a year fear) and an additional $20 per month in savings with eligible Magenta Max mobile plans.

Verizon is also ambitious with its offerings, but less so on the “ISPs are bad” note. That’s probably why Verizon Fios — the company’s fiber-optic Internet service — is an ISP and one of the few services that consistently has high ratings. In their case, 5G home internet seems less of a jab at the “Big Internet” and more of a play to expand the Verizon home internet game out of the Northeast (Verizon’s Fios playground) and into the rest of the country.

If T-Mobile and Verizon are serious about home internet, why isn’t their overall 5G coverage as widespread yet?

When I have a colleague Eli Blumenthal tested the Verizon 5G Homehe noted that the 5G connection on the iPhone is better than the one for his 5G Home hub.

I think he’s on to something.

A Verizon spokesperson told me via email that it designs its network with its mobile customers in mind. “We continue to allocate spectrum to ensure our mobile customers have the reliability they expect from Verizon,” they said. “We are also able to offer 5G Home service as we deploy more spectrum than our models show we need for the highest reliability for our mobile customers.”

Verizon 5G Home Gateway router on orange background

Verizon also includes a 5G gateway in your monthly fee.

Sarah Tew/CNET

5G allows for greater connection density than previous generations of mobile communications—nearly 1 million devices per square kilometer. Is that too much? Yes, there is talk 100 times better than 4G, but not unbounded. Because the home internet product drives high-capacity usage on the mobile network, Moore believes T-Mobile has also been smart about how it sells home internet.

He pointed me to a recent YouTube interview by T-Mobile’s director of geospatial engineering and analytics, Kendra Lord, in which she likened the availability of 5G home internet to the number of seats on an airplane.

“It’s not just the number of households we can reach [T-Mobile Home Internet]”,” he said, “but how many people can we say yes to in a certain sector.”

When I contacted T-Mobile for more information, a spokesperson confirmed this thought. “There are still many households that aren’t eligible for home Internet even though they can get 5G on their mobile devices — and that’s intentional,” they told me via email.

“Our fixed wireless Home Internet works on this network addition capacity on our wireless network. We have extra capacity on the network in some areas and not in others. Thus, we allocate access to the home Internet by sectors, from house to house.”

In other words, it’s entirely possible that I could get 5G cellular service at my house, and my neighbor might even have T-Mobile Home Internet. However, my address may still not work for that home internet product due to capacity limitations for mobile coverage in my area.

So the next time you ask, “Why can’t I get 5G home internet even though my phone has 5G at home?” I advise you to hold on tight — both operators are actively working to optimize their networks for mobile first and home internet second, in a dynamic process that changes from month to month. 2023 could be the year to try 5G for your home broadband connection.





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