Broadband internet in the U.S. is atrocious. There’s so little competition that you’re forced to sign up for whatever internet service provider (ISP) has a monopoly in your neighborhood and pay whatever prices they charge. It’s like having a gun to your head.
I live in Flushing, Queens in New York City and for 10 years I paid for Spectrum (called Time Warner before it was purchased by Charter Communications in 2015) home internet. My monthly bill came out to $60 for around 50 Mbps download and 5 Mbps upload. That price was with a $15 promotion applied, meaning it would normally cost me $75. It was total shit. According to the FCC, the median download speed for broadband in the U.S. was 72 Mbps… in 2017. My ISP was serving up such slow data that I wasn’t even meeting the national average from four years ago.
Last month, after weeks of thinking about it, I switched to T-Mobile’s Home Internet and — holy shit — my life has been transformed. Not only is my home Wi-Fi really fast now — I’ve seen up to 950 percent faster download and 2,100 percent faster upload speeds (these numbers aren’t typos) — but setting up the free Nokia-made “T-Mobile High-Speed Internet Gateway” wireless modem took no more than a few minutes and I no longer have to deal with blinking lights like I did on my maddening Motorola ARRIS Surfboard-whatever-model it was called.
And to top it all off, I’m only paying T-Mobile $50 per month for this sweet home internet, which works out to $120 saved in a year. Faster internet, lower cost, and easier setup? T-Mobile Home Internet is exactly what signing up for home internet should look like.
I switched to T-Mobile’s Home Internet and — holy shit — my life has been transformed.
You’d think a tech reviewer such as myself would have a faster internet connection — Verizon Fios or some kind of gigabit? Well, I didn’t need anything faster before COVID, since I worked in an office. Working from home for the past year was the last straw. It literally took 10 minutes to upload a high-res JPEG (around 10-15MB). Every time I uploaded a photo or video (I work with a lot of mixed media) I’d go make a coffee, watch a YouTube video on my phone (connected to T-Mobile 5G ‘cause Wi-Fi would slow the upload even more), or squeeze in a few extra pushup and situp sets while I waited for it to take forever to finish. Video was the worst; even short clips that were only a few seconds, I’d need to either compress through Handbrake to reduce the file size or just wait, and wait, and wait.
I would have ditched Spectrum sooner if I could choose another ISP like Verizon Fios, but I don’t because broadband in the U.S. is backward and broken. If you suffer from shitty internet service like I did and T-Mobile Home Internet is available in your neck of the woods, get it. I promise you it’s gonna be one of the best decisions you’ll ever make.
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The entire process to get T-Mobile Home Internet was dead easy — almost too easy. I started a chat with T-Mobile’s customer care to check my eligibility. The kind and patient rep confirmed the service was available in my area and told me the offers: it’s normally $60 per month, but they could knock it down to $50 with auto-pay. Since I’m already a T-Mobile customer for my phone and smartwatch, I didn’t need to do any additional signup — the rep just added T-Mobile Home Internet to my account.
A few days later, a silver cylinder measuring 8.5 inches tall by 5 inches wide arrived; it reminds me of Google’s OnHub router from way back. This is the wireless gateway modem thingy that connects to T-Mobile’s 4G LTE and 5G network and converts the wireless signal into Wi-Fi for your home. I plugged it in, downloaded the T-Mobile Internet app, followed a few prompts to set up a new Wi-Fi network, and within a few minutes was up and running. The top of the gateway has a screen to show signal strength (in bars just like on a phone) and notifications, but I’ve honestly never looked at it in over a month.
There are two parts to the setup that take a little bit (but not too much) work: figuring out the best place to put your gateway and reconnecting your devices to the new Wi-Fi network. T-Mobile recommends placing it near a window or as high as possible so there’s little signal obstruction. I put the gateway on the top of my bookshelf next to my other silver cylinder, my first-gen Echo Plus. They’re shelf buddies now. Reconnecting all of my devices to the new Wi-Fi network took the most time — phones, computers, consoles, smart speakers and smart home devices, etc. all need to be connected to a new network. (Update: Reader James Dolan wrote in to say that you can simply setup your Wi-Fi network with the same name and password as your old one and all of your devices will automatically connect to it. Definitely would have saved me from re-entering a new hard-to-guess password!)
But once all of that’s done… and you run your first Speedtest, it’s all worth it. Now, I want to be clear: your network speeds will likely vary from mine. Different locations have different coverage and advertised speeds. You may find out that you see slower speeds because your location maybe doesn’t have a 5G cell tower or a 4G LTE one that supports faster speeds. In my neighborhood, T-Mobile’s 4G LTE and 5G are outstanding so I had a strong feeling the speeds for the Home Internet service would impress. And indeed they do.
A flashback to my excitement last month:
Faster home internet is one of those seemingly small quality of life upgrades that makes a huge difference especially when you spend the entire day online. A month later and my average download and upload speeds have only climbed; I just did a speed test and got 247 Mbps down and 91 Mbps up. These are speeds during peak hours. Off-peak hours, like when everyone’s sleeping at 3-6 a.m., I’ve ran speedtests and seen as high as 525 Mbps downloads and 110 Mbps uploads. Compared to the trash Spectrum speeds I previously got, during peak hours, that’s 400 percent faster downloads and 1,720 percent faster uploads than their advertised speeds. And off-peak, T-Mobile Home Internet is giving me a whopping 950 percent faster downloads and 2,100 percent faster uploads. Photos now upload almost instantly. Videos process in a timely fashion. I’ve been streaming 4K (and even 8K video) on YouTube with no issues. I’ve downloaded a whole bunch of massive games including the Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade onto PlayStation 5 and the “Intermission” episode. The numbers don’t lie; Spectrum was ripping me off big time.
The numbers don’t lie; Spectrum was ripping me off big time.
Now, you’re probably wondering: what are the downsides? There are a few that might be dealbreakers for you. First, though there’s no cap on how much data you can use — T-Mobile’s calling it “unlimited” and in my first month, I blew through 788.58GB of data — there may be some deprioritization aka slower speeds if the network is congested during busy hours. This is the same policy T-Mobile has for its mobile data plans. Should you be worried? I have not noticed any slowdown even during peak hours and I’ve got dozens of phones, computers, tablets and smart home stuff sucking down data all day long.
The second, based on my chat with T-Mobile’s agent from my T-Mobile, the gateway might not play well with Wi-Fi mesh networks such as Google Wi-Fi or Eero. Emphasis on might not. Some users have reported Eero works fine with T-Mobile Home Internet. Input reader Edward King emailed me after this story was published to say Eero works “flawlessly” on his T-Mobile Home Internet. “I’ve also heard on Facebook groups and Reddit that other brands work as well,” he added. Doesn’t hurt to try!
And third, there are only two Ethernet ports on the Nokia gateway. However, you can use a Wi-Fi Extender like this TP-Link AC1750, which has an Ethernet port, so that you don’t need to run your Ethernet all the way to the gateway itself. (Thanks for the tip Dave!)
Power users who want more control over their home network will be disappointed by the gateway’s limited configuration features. But if, like me, you just want fast home internet — mostly Wi-Fi — to “just work” without any fuss, T-Mobile’s Home Internet has been a downright game-changer. I know people say Gigabit internet is life-changing, but since I can’t get that from any ISP other than Spectrum, it might as well not exist for me.
Before signing up, I asked the T-Mobile rep what if I didn’t like my Home Internet experience… what if the speeds were worse than Spectrum. I was told that if I didn’t like it after a month, I could return the gateway and get a full refund. After my first weekend, I tossed the cardboard packaging for my gateway out and immediately canceled my Spectrum account the following Monday. There’s no going back to internet piped through an optic cable. Switching to T-Mobile Home Internet felt eerily familiar — right, it was the same triumphant feeling I got when I left AT&T a decade ago and switched to T-Mobile for its better mobile plan offerings.
On a somewhat related note, anyone want this TVision HUB that T-Mobile threw in for free? I have no need for it. It’s worth $50. I’m also giving away my old Motorola modem that I no longer need; it’s dusty, but I’ll ship it free to anyone in the U.S. since it’d be better than tossing it into a landfill. The first person to email me at [email protected] gets them.