T-Mobile’s 5G Home Internet: I tried it, and it tried me (2024)

I was interested in T-Mobile’s Home Internet service from the first time I heard about it: it’s $50 (a price that includes the specialized router), contract and data cap-free, and is powered by 5G and LTE instead of phone lines or cable. As many people in the US can probably relate, I’m not in love with my traditional ISP — I often push up against its 1.2TB data cap, and $80 per month feels like a lot to pay for the supposedly 400Mbps service I get. So I wondered: could I, a remote worker and heavy internet user who likes to stream video, play multiplayer games, and do cloud backups, actually be fine with internet delivered through the air instead of a cable?

After a few weeks of testing, it seems like the TL;DR answer is no; despite T-Mobile’s site telling me my address is eligible, the router almost always had a “weak” cellular signal, and there were so many drop-outs and slowdowns that even my non-techie wife was fed up with it after a few weeks. The thing about cellular internet, though, is that my experience won’t necessarily be the same as yours, even if you live a few blocks away from me. So take this review for what it is: one person’s experience with what the service is like in one tiny, non-specific part of eastern Washington state.

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  • Five things to consider before you sign up for T-Mobile Home Internet

T-Mobile’s 5G Home Internet: I tried it, and it tried me (1)

T-Mobile’s 5G Home Internet: I tried it, and it tried me (2)

Photo by Mitchell Clark / The Verge

Before we get into the particulars of my experience, though, let’s start with what’ll be universal to those using the service: the router hardware and setup process. The router supports Wi-Fi 6, which is nice to see, and has a small circular touchscreen on top that you can use to see various statistics like how many devices are connected to your network and how good its cellular connection is. On the back, there’s a place to plug in the (frankly massive) power brick, two Ethernet ports, a power button, and a few pins that let you plug in a battery backup.

Looking at that picture, you may be just as excited as I was when you see that there’s a USB-C port. I have no idea why the router’s manufacturer, Nokia Solutions & Networks, put it there, but it and the RJ-11 phone port are currently non-functional, according to the router’s manual (pdf). Bummer!

After you plug the router in and turn it on, it’ll prompt you to download T-Mobile’s app using a QR code displayed on its screen. I had a lot of frustrations with the app at first, until I realized that I had to connect to the router’s Wi-Fi network before hitting the “setup device” button. As far as I can tell, that step isn’t included in the quick setup guide, nor is it hinted at in the app itself. The setup process was a breeze after I figured that out, though, with the app prompting me to choose a name for my network and to set a password (the default name and password are printed on the bottom of the device if you’d rather just leave it as-is). Then, the app told me it was time to find a good spot to put the router where it could pick up a strong signal.

That process was actually quite fun. The router has a battery in it, so you can walk around with it and test out the signal strength in different spots. (The battery doesn’t seem to work as a backup power source, though. If it’s not plugged into power, you won’t be getting any Wi-Fi.) As I mentioned before, though, this feature didn’t help me out much; upstairs or downstairs, right next to a window or in the absolute middle of my house, I got a steady two bars of service (out of five) — even taking it outside didn’t help, not that I could’ve left if there had I gotten perfect signal.

The app doesn’t make it clear if you’re using LTE or 5G, but digging into the router’s web GUI, you can see what cellular bands it’s making use of. After Googling band designations, I was able to determine that, at time of writing, the router was primarily connected to LTE and was using 5G as a secondary connection. Of course, as T-Mobile says on its site, that could change based on “signal strength and availability, time of day, and other factors.”

I ended up putting the router in what I felt like would be the most advantageous place: on a windowsill upstairs, facing the city. From there, all that was left to do was unplug my current access point (I didn’t want it to talk over the T-Mobile router) and plug my switch into my new cell-powered router to get all of my hardwired IoT devices connected to my new home network.

At first, everything seemed all right. I was getting download speeds anywhere from 73 to 135 Mbps, and I even saw upload speeds as high as 20 Mbps. For the first day or two, I really didn’t encounter any issues — when it came to actually using the internet, it seemed to be the exact same experience as when it was coming in over the wire (and Siri could even play Apple Music on my HomePods, something that’s completely broken on my normal setup for some reason). The router also performed admirably — my laptop’s internet was just as fast in my office right next to the router as it was in my living room, which is downstairs and across the house.

T-Mobile’s 5G Home Internet: I tried it, and it tried me (9)

T-Mobile’s 5G Home Internet: I tried it, and it tried me (10)

Slowly, though, hiccups started to pile up. Webpages would occasionally struggle to load, or I’d switch channels in Slack and notice that everybody’s profile pictures were grey squares until their actual smiling faces loaded in one by one (which is how I learned that Slack doesn’t seem to cache those images, for some reason). Once, the speeds were so abysmal that it took Twitter a literal minute to load.

There were even a few periods where the internet would seemingly just be gone for a few minutes at a time, with my web browser immediately telling me that it couldn’t connect when I tried to navigate to a site. The frequency of the outages or slowdowns varied — some days, I only had occasional glitches, and a few days, the internet was basically unusable. There weren’t a ton of perfect days, but they did happen.

T-Mobile’s 5G Home Internet: I tried it, and it tried me (11)

T-Mobile’s 5G Home Internet: I tried it, and it tried me (12)

From what I can tell, this was almost always an issue with the actual service and not the router (though there was one abnormally long outage that did appear to be a router issue, as it was fixed as soon as I rebooted the machine). I could send packets between the devices in my house just fine — I was just cut off from the outside world. I asked T-Mobile what could’ve caused these issues, and it told me that “while you might see slower speeds during times certain times of the day, due to network congestion, 30 seconds to load a webpage doesn’t sound like a normal experience.” I asked for ideas as to what may have caused it but didn’t receive a response.

As someone expected to be ready to jump on breaking news at any moment, this was obviously not ideal for my use case. I’m sure my boss and coworkers got annoyed with how often I said something along the lines of “okay, I’ll grab that as soon as my internet starts functioning again.” The unreliability also caused issues in my personal life, too — when trying to watch YouTube with my wife, she’d occasionally comment on the “potato resolution.” (Mind you, this is someone who is perfectly content watching DVDs.) I would also run into issues trying to play online games, with my ping swinging like a pendulum from a usable ~30ms to an unplayable 900ms. You can see the results of that in the video below.

What that kind of performance looks like in-game. As a heads up, there is some violence in the clip, so you may not want to watch it if you’re sensitive to that kind of thing.

It’s not that T-Mobile Home Internet never worked. I’d say the majority of the time, it was perfectly fine. I was able to play several hours of multiplayer CoD during my testing, and for the most part, I was shocked that the experience could be as good as it was over cellular. I was also able to do some perfectly acceptable video calls with friends and family. When my service was working, I genuinely couldn’t tell the difference between it and my normal cable provider. It’s just that I couldn’t rely on it working that well, and as someone who works from home, that’s a big problem.

Agree to continue: T-Mobile Home Internet

Every service now requires you to agree to a series of terms and conditions before you can use it — contracts that no one actually reads. It’s impossible for us to read and analyze every single one of these agreements. But we started counting exactly how many times you have to hit “agree” to use devices when we review them since these are agreements most people don’t read and definitely can’t negotiate.

You have to agree to T-Mobile’s Internet Service Terms of Use and its general Terms and Conditions. There are a few notable agreements:

  • While T-Mobile says there’s no data caps, it reserves the right to slow, suspended, terminate, or restrict your access for misuse, abnormal use, or interference with its network
  • T-Mobile can also slow your service “to provide quality service to other users”
  • The $50 price is dependent on you having AutoPay on — without AutoPay, it’s $55 a month
  • You could face a $370 charge if you cancel your service and don’t return the included internet gateway
  • T-Mobile says its Home Internet service is “not compatible with some live TV streaming services.” This means you can’t use Hulu Live TV, the company told us in April.
  • You may be subject to a credit check when you sign up.

I was hoping to switch to T-Mobile’s home internet if my tests went well — I’m not the type of person who needs to have a screaming fast 200 Mbps plus connection and am even willing to put up with a little spotiness if it means not having to pay $80 a month for Comcast and its data caps. But the first time I got the notification on my computer telling me that my phone’s battery was dead because I’d been tethering to it all day, I knew those hopes had been dashed. (It would’ve been awkward if my phone ran off T-Mobile, but I’m on the Verizon-powered Visible.)

Yes, it did feel ironic having to use cellular internet because my cellular internet wasn’t working

That doesn’t mean T-Mobile’s internet won’t work for anyone — I may have had a better experience had I been able to get more than two bars of service at my house (though the app usually showed that it still had two bars of signal during outages), and for some people, even the worst of what I experienced would be better than what they’re currently using.

When I was using DSL a year ago, I still probably would’ve chosen T-Mobile over it — the two connections were similarly reliable, but I got faster speeds over cellular when it was working than I used to get over the phone lines. For people who live in an even more rural setting than I do and rely on the internet less, T-Mobile’s internet could be a huge upgrade from dial-up or extremely spotty satellite internet.

Speaking of satellite internet, there’s an obvious comparison between T-Mobile’s service and SpaceX’s Starlink; both promise home internet without the need for infrastructure coming to your house. Verge editor-in-chief Nilay Patel wasn’t pleased when he tried out the Starlink beta, and the service is significantly more expensive than T-Mobile’s: you have to pay $499 plus shipping for a satellite dish and $99 a month for the service. But Starlink does promise higher speeds, saying you can expect 100Mbps to 200Mbps downloads. While T-Mobile says that many users can expect “speeds in excess of 100Mbps,” it says that the average is “between 35-115 Mbps.”

Neither service excelled for us, but they could get better if they continue to compete

There are other pros and cons for each service. Installing Starlink’s satellite dish is significantly more invasive than plugging in T-Mobile’s router, and I doubt my apartment complex would ever be okay with me sticking something on the roof (even with Starlink’s new, smaller design). And T-Mobile’s service uses the cell towers that also provide service to our phones — Starlink wants to put 12,000 satellites into orbit to power its service, potentially obstructing our view of the cosmos. But if your house is in an area without reliable cell service, T-Mobile obviously isn’t going to be an option.

It’s conceivable that T-Mobile’s home internet could get better over time — when compared to building out traditional internet infrastructure, adding 5G capacity to cell towers requires much less physical labor. I want to break up with my ISP so badly that I may give T-Mobile another chance every year or two to see if it’s improved to the point that I could use it. The company makes that easy — it’s a no-contract service, so it’d only cost me $50 to get an entire month to give it another shot. If you live at an eligible address and are curious about cellular internet, it may be worth at least giving it a shot. You may end up having a much better experience than I did.

For now, though, I’ll be sadly trudging back to Comcast. It seems that my dream of $50 unlimited internet was just too beautiful to come true in 2021. If you’re thinking of trying it out for yourself, be sure to read our list of considerations before you do.

T-Mobile’s 5G Home Internet: I tried it, and it tried me (2024)


Why is my 5G T-Mobile Internet not working? ›

Check that you're looking for the correct name for your T-Mobile network. If you already have your T-Mobile Wi-Fi network saved on your device, try deleting the network from your device and then reconnect with a fresh start. Restart your device. Lastly, try connecting on a different device.

How many devices can T-Mobile 5G home internet handle? ›

How many devices can I connect to my T-Mobile home internet? T-Mobile's internet gateway can connect up to 64 devices to your T-Mobile home internet connection.

Why is my T-Mobile 5G home internet so slow? ›

If you're utilizing an advanced wireless 5G Gateway device like the one offered by T-Mobile Home Internet, the fix is often simple. Just place your gateway close to a window or high up on an upper floor or bookshelf facing the nearest T-Mobile cell tower.

Does T-Mobile 5G home internet have a contract? ›

Unlike traditional ISPs that often require an annual contract, as well as equipment and service fees, T-Mobile offers affordable Home Internet starting at just $60/month with AutoPay discount (requires eligible payment method). No annual contracts. No extra fees.

Why isn't my T-Mobile home internet working? ›

Try to refresh the list of available Wi-Fi networks on the device you want to connect to the LTE Wi-Fi Gateway . Switch off the LTE Wi-Fi Gateway and turn it on again using the Power OFF/ON switch. Restart your device or your computer. Position your device and the LTE Wi-Fi Gateway closer to each other.

How to fix T-Mobile 5G Wi-Fi? ›

I keep losing / dropping Wi-Fi signal
  1. Check that the power cable is securely plugged into the device and outlet.
  2. Move the device to within 15 feet of the gateway to ensure there is no interference.
  3. Use the T-Mobile Internet app to set up separate 2.4 and 5GHz networks.

Is T-Mobile's 5G internet Unlimited? ›

T-Mobile 5G Home Internet has one internet only plan: Unlimited internet with home Wi-Fi and up to 245 Mbps download speed for $60/mo. This price includes all taxes and fees. A credit check is required before starting T-Mobile service, and a deposit may also be required based on the results.

Can I watch Netflix with T-Mobile Home internet? ›

It's no problem. After you opt-in to Netflix ON US, you'll be prompted to create a Netflix account if you do not have one. This links to your T-Mobile account. T-Mobile will then pay your Netflix Standard with ads subscription.

Is T-Mobile 5G home internet good for streaming? ›

T-Mobile 5G Home Internet and Home Internet Plus customers receive consistent speeds of at least 25 Mbps and see typical download speeds between 72 – 245 Mbps, which is great speed for streaming video, surfing the web, working from home and most types of online gaming.

How to boost T-Mobile 5G home internet? ›

If the signal on the gateway is strong, try moving it to a more central location to increase Wi-Fi coverage within the home. If the gateway needs to be in a specific spot to receive a strong connection, adding a mesh network or Wi-Fi extender may help. Learn more about connecting Wi-Fi extenders.

Does weather affect T-Mobile 5G home internet? ›

Most satellite, fixed-wireless, Wi-Fi, and 5G signals fall into these frequencies, which means that if there's rain or clouds between the transmitter and your receiver, some of the signal will be absorbed.

Why is T-Mobile internet so slow at night? ›

Network congestion and throttling are the most common reasons for internet slowdowns in the latter part of the day. There is an internet rush hour that usually runs from about 7-11 pm on weekdays. This can interfere with your use of the internet for streaming, movies, and more.

Is T-Mobile internet really $50 a month? ›

Yes. One of the appealing aspects of T-Mobile Home Internet is that its monthly fee -- $60 to $70 a month (or $40 to $50 monthly for eligible Go5G Plus and Magenta Max mobile customers) -- includes a 5G Gateway (a modem/router combo device).

Is the T-Mobile 5G gateway also a router? ›

Before we get started, it's worth mentioning that if you're a T-Mobile Home Internet customer, you have a wireless 5G Gateway device, which is an advanced router-modem and one that utilizes the next generation of Wi-Fi technology (Wi-Fi 6) to keep you connected at home.

Is T-Mobile home internet considered Wi-Fi? ›

If you're a T-Mobile Home Internet customer, it works differently. Our Home Internet utilizes a wireless 5G Gateway that works in tandem with Wi-Fi 6, the next generation of Wi-Fi technology, and is compatible with T-Mobile's nationwide 5G network – no cable necessary to connect to the internet.

Why is my 5G suddenly not working? ›

It could be that you've only been temporarily shunted off of 5G, say because of network congestion. Switching Airplane Mode on and off forces your phone to reconnect to cellular networks, and you might luck out. Look for an airplane icon in Quick Settings (Android) or Control Center (iPhone).

What is wrong with my 5G network? ›

Another common cause of 5G network issues is outdated software or settings on your device. To ensure optimal performance and security, you should always keep your device software and apps updated to the latest versions. You should also check your network settings and make sure that 5G is enabled and preferred.

How do I get my T-Mobile 5G to work? ›

Turn on your 5G connection
  1. From the Home screen, select Settings > Cellular or Cellular Data.
  2. If you have an iPhone using Dual SIM with eSIM, choose the line you're making changes to.
  3. Select Cellular Data Options > Voice & Data.
  4. Choose 5G Auto.

How to boost T-Mobile 5G home Internet signal? ›

If the signal on the gateway is strong, try moving it to a more central location to increase Wi-Fi coverage within the home. If the gateway needs to be in a specific spot to receive a strong connection, adding a mesh network or Wi-Fi extender may help. Learn more about connecting Wi-Fi extenders.


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