Cellular home internet: Who is offering it? What should you know
T-Mobile and Verizon are expanding the access to cellular home internet, with plans that include 5G. Before you sign up, here are some things to consider.
Access to a reliable home internet connection has become vital for many households, and a growing number of cellular providers are responding to that need by introducing residential internet plans.
Cellular internet works in the same way as your cell phone. It uses a hotspot or router to connect to a provider’s cellular network. The speed of your connection will depend on where you are from a tower and network congestion. It also depends on how many connected devices that you have, as well as other factors like how fast you have. These speeds are usually slower than those of a faster cable or fiber connection. However, cellular internet might be the best option if you don't have any other options.
Since many big telecommunication companies offer these plans -- and 5G technology promises to make some of them even better -- let's see how they compare in price, speed and other aspects.
Verizon will expand its LTE and home internet service 5G in 2021.
Verizon LTE is for those households who don't have internet access to Verizon Fios or other services like Verizon Fios. Verizon LTE will allow you to connect to its 4G network with upload speeds of up 5Mbps and download speeds up to 25Mbps. This is comparable to DSL speeds and sufficient for basic web browsing, HD streaming, and light online gaming. Like the rest of Verizon's home internet offerings, Verizon LTE comes with no data caps.
Pricing for Verizon's LTE service is dependent on whether or not you have Verizon cellular service. LTE residential internet service costs $40 per month if you have a Verizon Mobile plan that is $30 or more and if you are enrolled in autopay, paperless billing, and if you are enrolled in autopay. If you don't already have a Verizon mobile plan, the cost of LTE residential internet service will rise to $60 per month. This puts Verizon LTE at par with the prices that cable internet providers charge. There are providers that can provide faster connections than Verizon's LTE network, so it is possible to get one if they are available.
Verizon LTE is available in 189 markets across 48 states, but you'll need to check with Verizon to see if coverage is available at your address.
What about 5G?
Verizon 5G Home, the company's latest home internet service, promises an impressive speed boost due to 5G ultra wideband technology. Although it is only starting in 2021, the service will be available in 28 markets. However, we expect this footprint to expand. Verizon says that it expects 5G Home service to be available to 100 million Americans by the end of 2021.
Speeds are excellent with 5G Home downloads reaching speeds of 1Gbps (or 1,000Mbps), and average speeds at 300Mbps. Upload speeds are still modest at 50Mbps. 5G Home costs $70 per month or $50 for Verizon subscribers.
T-Mobile Home Internet
T-Mobile's Home Internet gateway can be used as a modem or router. However, you can also connect an existing router or mesh network.
T-Mobile claims simplicity is a benefit to its home internet service. You can get the fastest cellular speeds at your location for $60 per month by signing up with autopay. Your location will affect the speed, but most customers experience download speeds up to 50Mbps and upload speeds around 4Mbps.
The best thing about the service is the fact that everything is included in its price. There are no monthly rental fees for Wi-Fi equipment (Verizon charges $10 per month per router), no data caps, annual service contracts or data caps and you don’t even have to choose a plan.
T-Mobile has undergone aggressive expansion to serve more rural communities, and its home internet service is currently available in 27 states using the company's 5G and 4G LTE networks. T-Mobile has not yet shared details about its plans for expanding the service, which is still quite new.
AT&T Fixed Wireless
Although some routers or hotspots can tap into AT&T cellular networks to convert the signal into a Wi-Fi connection, AT&T does not currently offer dedicated cellular home internet plans such as Verizon and T-Mobile.
AT&T also offers DSL and fiber internet plans. However, fixed wireless internet service is available to rural areas. It brings your home online via a wireless signal. It is easy to set up. All you need is an antenna that can be seen from outside. The antenna will connect to an AT&T access station nearby and pipe the signal into your router. This will allow you to download speeds up to 25Mbps and upload speeds around 1Mbps.
AT&T fixed wireless has some limitations. AT&T limits data usage to 350GB per month. For every 50GB of data used after that time, AT&T will charge a $10 overcharge and additional fees up to $200.
AT&T requires you to sign a 1-year service agreement. Current promotional pricing is $60 per month. To cancel your service within the first 14 days of contract, you will have to pay an early termination charge. These issues aside, it's a viable internet service for people who live in areas that have few alternatives.
As for 5G, AT&T's executive vice president of technology operations, Chris Samba, told CNET in March that the company plans to roll out its own AT&T cellular broadband offering later in 2021 using a combination of LTE and 5G technology. This space will be updated as soon as we have more information.