Verizon, T-Mobile and My Personal Attempt to Replace Cable Internet With 5G

Over the past few weeks, I ditched my Spectrum cable home internet and television services and embraced the future: 5G. The overhyped next generation of wireless has been labeled a solution to plenty of problems, but one of its early successes has been providing competition to the likes of Comcast Xfinity, Charter Spectrum, Altice’s Optimum, AT&T and Verizon Fios. 

Through several weeks of my trying out T-Mobile’s and Verizon’s respective $50-per-month solutions, both showed plenty of promise for eventually replacing my home broadband. But neither proved reliable enough to keep today, so for now, I’m switching back to a more focused home internet provider. 

Here is what I’ve learned. 

How Verizon and T-Mobile Compare 

The Verizon 5G Home Internet box on a table

The Verizon 5G Home Internet box. 


Eli Blumenthal/CNET

Although neither carrier officially offers 5G home internet services in my building, both providers have particularly strong 5G coverage in my area of New York City. 

On Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband network I can often find download speeds greater than 200Mbps (and sometimes over 300Mbps), an impressive connection that can easily handle all the gaming, streaming and working needs of myself and my two roommates. 

Uploads, at least in the early days of my use, were around 20Mbps, or on par with my Spectrum cable connection. 

Read more: Everything You Need to Know About Verizon 5G Home and T-Mobile Home Internet

T-Mobile, which has its 5G Ultra Capacity available where I live, has lately hit similar download speeds in my area — something that has become a more recent development and gives me confidence that the carrier is still actively working on bolstering its network even in areas where it has already deployed plenty of 5G. 

The T-Mobile connection also has been more responsive, often offering lower latency and higher upload speeds regularly over 40Mbps. That is double what Verizon’s 5G and my 400Mbps Spectrum plan were offering. 

Both carriers charge $50 for their 5G home internet offerings and those prices include taxes, fees and a modem/router in the monthly cost. Neither have data caps and both offer discounts on monthly service if you also have certain wireless plans. T-Mobile lowers the price to $30 per month if you have its priciest Magenta Max plan. Verizon drops the pricing to $25 per month if you have its Play More, Do More or Get More plans.

Compared to traditional broadband options, this could quickly add up to serious monthly savings even without the wireless bundle discounts. 

Setting up either is also incredibly simple: Take the modem/router device out of the box, place it near a window and plug it in. No visits from a technician are required. 

T-Mobile’s modems have screens on them so you can immediately see if the area where you placed your device has strong coverage without going into any apps. Verizon’s box is more minimalist and instead relies on an LED light. If it’s white you’re good, if it’s red you need to move it to a new location in your home. 

Personally, I

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T-Mobile Charts Out Better Home Internet Options

T-Mobile’s home internet service provides a big boost for people in areas where they’re otherwise stuck with lackluster cable or DSL, but it could use some upgrades. In a conversation with PCMag, T-Mobile’s President of Technology Neville Ray mused about how the system could be improved in the future.

“There’s way more demand for this product than we imagined. Its performance is pretty strong, and its price point is great, and folks hate their cable companies,” Ray says.

I reviewed T-Mobile Home Internet in June, and I found its weakest point to be its Nokia home modem. My first unit failed, and I needed a replacement. Several commenters on my review agree: they say the modem is unreliable and they’ve often needed replacements.

“We’re absolutely expanding the number of vendor solutions that will be available,” Ray says, pointing out that when the service first launched, “we didn’t have a ton of choice.”

The Nokia modem also has no easy option to add an external antenna, which could really improve signal strength. (You can in fact add one, but it takes some hardware hacking.) Ray says that T-Mobile was extremely focused on ease of use at the beginning of its rollout, but it’s now trying to see how it can offer more flexible solutions.

He didn’t give any time frame for offering more options; he was just pointing out that T-Mobile is thinking about them. “We didn’t want to have to do the Verizon thing of sticking it up in the window,” he says. “We’re trying to avoid inconveniencing the consumer with truck rolls and that sort of thing. We need something…that most average consumers can deploy quickly.”

Even without extending coverage further, though, T-Mobile is pretty thrilled about the demand it’s seeing. While Verizon has taken three years to get to 150,000 wireless home subscribers, T-Mobile is aiming for 500,000 by the end of this year, the company has previously said.

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According to our review, T-Mobile’s now-$50/month home internet service offered me speeds between 150-300Mbps with no contract, installation, or equipment fees. That’s better than DSL, on par with cable, and not as good as fiber. Coverage for the best speeds is reliant on T-Mobile’s mid-band 5G network, which now covers about 185 million people.

T-Mobile has plenty of capacity on its mid-band network for more signups, and won’t need to dip into its cache of millimeter-wave spectrum soon, Ray says.

“The volume of capacity we’re generating with that mid-band deployment, and our ability to start extending the reach and availability of that 5G home router product, that’s pretty immense over the next two or three years,” he says.

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