CLEVELAND, Ohio Few things are more infuriating than negotiating a bill with your cable provider. And what makes it even worse is that for many people, said cable provider is the only option for high-speed Internet.
But in the last year or so, things have changed. Cell phone networks like T-Mobile, Verizon and AT&T are using their 5G networks to introduce competition to the internet market. And it could save you money.
Are these options good? Companies are advertising a lot, which has led to questions from readers.
We are investigating T-Mobile’s Internet usage when it becomes available in our zip code, which is 44136. Do you know anything about T-Mobile’s Internet? -Dennis
The other day I received a flyer in the mail advertising a new Internet service called AT&T Internet Air. So, I was wondering what do you know about AT&T Internet Air? – Richard
I currently have a promotional deal with Breezeline, a cable provider formerly known as Wow! Cable and get their 1000 Mbps (megabits per second) service for $29.99 a month. There are two problems. First, that promotion ends this summer. And secondly, the speeds are never even close to what is advertised.
Using the Breezelines 1000Mbps service, I usually get 80Mbps download speeds over Wi-Fi. But when I used T-Mobile’s home internet, my download speeds were close to 130Mbps.
And while Verizon’s home Internet connection wasn’t available in my area, a friend who lives in the Clevelands Flats neighborhood has been using it for over a year and is getting about 250 Mbps per second.
In short, for $50 a month, these aren’t bad options. Especially if you don’t have a fiber network in your area. But let’s go deeper.
What is going on?
To reiterate one of my biggest annoyances, your internet options can be very limited depending on where you live. The reason is simple. A company usually has to physically install the cables in your city in order for you to purchase their service.
Yes, there were always other options, like dial-up internet. But in reality, you usually only have one real option.
But in recent years, companies traditionally known for cell phone service like Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T have rushed to build 5G networks.
Cell phone companies have extra capacity on these new networks and are fast enough that they can be used for an entire home internet instead of just one phone. So… that’s what they’re doing.
And because they don’t need physical wires, it’s much easier for them to service large areas, said Andrew Testa, a Verizon spokesman.
Growing up in Parma, Cox Cable was the only option for internet and TV. Later Wow! Cable moved (and was eventually bought by Breezeline). When I moved to Cuyahoga Falls I had access to the holy grail fiber optic internet.
Unfortunately, AT&T Fiber is not available where I live in Berea. And while I have more options than I did 20 years ago, it’s still not great.
T-Mobile let me try out its home internet service for a few weeks in December and January. Two people could work from home without noticing any problems. We streamed TV shows. Used our phones. And that was fine.
Once the device is set up, it basically works like a normal Wi-Fi network. No wires enter or leave the house. Log in, enter your password. Nothing extraordinary.
Verizon was not available in my home at the time (I didn’t even know AT&T Internet Air existed at the time). But my friend Mike has been using it for a while and says it’s significantly better than the alternative.
Being in an apartment building, like Mike, you’re basically limited to any company that runs cables through the building. And his traditional cable company that was available could only get him 15 Mbps.
With Verizon, he just has to place a device near his window. Its service gets around 250 Mbps.
Truthfully, I don’t know anyone with AT&T Internet Air. But they seem to have a specific customer in mind, people who want but can’t get AT&T fiber. The fastest service AT&T can offer me is 50 Mbps.
We are currently offering it to a limited group of copper-based customers in locations where we have wireless coverage and the ability to deliver a high-quality customer experience, said Phil Hayes, a spokesman for AT&T. He said eligible customers should receive something in the mail telling them how to sign up for the service.
Is T-Mobile or Verizon Internet available in my area?
So, that’s the maddening part of the column. As none of these companies can provide a clear answer like “All customers in X city or postcode are eligible”.
Trust me, I pressed and pressed and pressed. And many of you will probably email me asking, is this available where I live? You will have to check yourself.
Part of that is because it’s over-the-air networks do not follow city boundaries. Part of that is that these networks are expanding. And I guess part of that is the thinking of the companies Well, we don’t want to limit the number of customers who visit our website. So be vague.
Another wrinkle, at least with T-Mobile, is that they don’t want to overrate the network.
When thousands of people use their cell phones during a Guardians game, the network slows down. What if every single house on your street had the same internet problem at T-Mobile’s house.
T-Mobile is countering this by limiting availability. Once the company reaches a certain number of customers in an area, they tell me they will stop selling the service.
Verizon and T-Mobile are both widely available in the Cleveland-Metro area.
How fast are they?
Speeds vary depending on how close you are to a cell tower. But…
Verizon advertises download speeds of 85 to 300 Mbps and upload speeds of 10 to 20 Mbps.
T-Mobile advertises download speeds of 72 to 245 Mbps and upload speeds of 15 to 31 Mbps.
AT&T advertises download speeds of 40 to 140 Mbps and upload speeds of 5 to 25 Mbps.
The FCC publishes a broadband speed guide detailing the speeds needed for different businesses. You can find it at fcc.gov/consumers/guides/broadband-speed-guide.
How much do they cost?
T-Mobile Home Internet costs $50 a month. The company advertises it as a flat rate with no taxes, fees, or equipment rentals. If T-Mobile is your cellular service provider, it may be discounted to $30.
Verizon has two options, 5G Home and 5G Home Plus. The basic option is $50 or $25 for Verizons cellphone customers. Plus it’s $70 or $35 for cellular customers. Verizon also advertises as a flat rate, with no taxes or fees.
AT&T Internet Air costs $55 a month, plus tax.
To get these prices you will need to set up automatic payment and proceed with cardless billing.
If you’re stuck with a cable provider or other Internet company, both T-Mobile and Verizon say they’ll cover early termination fees up to a point. Verizon says they will lock in your price for two years. T-Mobile said they’re shutting it down for life.
How do I install them?
Every company said that their Internet connection is easy to set up. I can only speak from experience with T-Mobile Home Internet.
We recommend finding a space roughly in the center of your home, preferably where the device can be placed near a window. It doesn’t need to be connected to a coaxial cable or other cables, but it does need to be plugged into an outlet.
From there, the app you use to set up your network is pretty self-explanatory.
Can I hide the router?
In most cases not. These devices work best when placed near windows and unlocked from furniture. Companies have tried to make them attractive so you don’t have to hide them. But you can’t stick the device in your basement.
Any network issues, lag, etc?
In my short test, I noticed few differences between T-Mobile Home Internet and the actual service I get from Breezeline. And that’s the best you can hope for.
Wi-Fi is something you only think about when it’s bad. But my family called Teams, watched shows, and did everything we normally do, no problem.
The only problem was a bit of lag and higher than normal ping when playing video games.
Ping is essentially how many milliseconds it takes for your device to share information with a server or another person’s device. I haven’t tested it thoroughly, I’ve only played one game and external factors may have caused issues, but I’ve noticed it a little more than usual.
My understanding is that the wired connection you get from cable providers or a fiber optic network has better latency (another fancy word for ping) than a cellular based internet. In some cases.
One other thing to note. Gateway devices provided by T-Mobile and Verizon have fewer Ethernet ports than a standard router. If you like to wire all your devices, this could be a problem. If you don’t know what ethernet is, it’s not something to worry about.
So, should you try it?
If you’re in the home internet market and a cell phone company offers an option, I say go for it. T-Mobile is also offering a 15-day test drive. Verizon has a 30 day satisfaction guarantee.
Interested in T-Mobile Home Internet? t-mobile.com/home-internet.
Interested in Verizon? Go to verizon.com/home.
Interested in AT&T Internet Air? Go to att.com/internetair.
Honestly, I would prefer fiber optic internet if it was available. Or if Breezeline sees this and you want to skip the three hour call where I threaten to cancel I will listen.
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