Over the last few weeks, I have decided to embrace the future, starting with my home internet. Ifor an exaggerated next generation of wireless networks: 5G. The new technology was offered as a solution to many problems, but one of its first successes was to provide competition to companies such as Comcast Xfinity, Charter Spectrum, Altice’s Optimum, AT&T and Verizon Fios.
Within a few weeks of my testingand Services, both have shown a lot of promise that will eventually replace my home broadband. But neither has proven reliable enough to survive today, so for now I’m moving back to a more focused home ISP.
Here’s what I learned.
How Verizon and T-Mobile are compared
Although neither operator officially offers 5G home Internet service in my building, both providers have particularly strong 5G coverage in my New York City area.
On Verizon’s 5G ultra-wideband network, I often find download speeds in excess of 200 Mbps (and sometimes over 300 Mbps), an impressive connection that easily handles all the gaming, streaming, and work needs of me and my two roommates.
uploaded videoswere around 20 Mbps, or at the same level as my Spectrum cable connection.
T-Mobile, which has its 5G Ultra Capacity available where I live, has recently achieved similar download speeds in my area – the latest developments that give me confidence that the operator is still actively working to strengthen its network, even in areas where he has already deployed a lot of 5G.
T-Mobile’s connection is also faster, often offering lower latency and higher upload speeds on a regular basis of over 40 Mbps. That’s twice what Veriz 5G offered and my 400 Mbps spectrum plan.
Both operators charge $ 50 for their 5G home internet offerings and these prices include taxes, fees and modem / router at monthly costs. Neither has data limits and both offer discounts on monthly service if you also have certain wireless plans. T-Mobile reduces the price to $ 30 per month if you have the most expensive Magenta Max tariff. Verizon reduces the price to $ 25 per month if you have Play More, Do More or Get More wireless plans.
Compared to traditional broadband options, this could quickly contribute to serious monthly savings even without discounts on wireless packages.
Setting up both is also incredibly easy: Remove the modem / router from the box, place it near a window, and plug it into an electrical outlet. No technician visits are required.
T-Mobile modems have screens so you can instantly see if the area where you have placed your device has strong coverage without having to run any applications. The Verison box is more minimalist and instead relies on LED light. If it’s white, you’re good; if it is red, you need to move it to a new place in your home.
Personally, I prefer the functionality of T-Mobile over the Verizon form, although the gray cylinder of the first one is a bit of an eye pain. The carrier also offers a version of its router / modem in a black box that has a screen, but does not seem to be any more stylish.
Both providers allowed me and my roommates to stream 4K content, play games online on Xbox, make calls using Zoom and FaceTime, and live normally.
So why move back to a more traditional connection? Inconsistency.
Strong coverage does not always mean strong performance
While both providers have excellent services in my area, using either system has caused us random intermittent periods of Internet outages. My first week with Verizon was excellent, but during the week the two speeds and latencies were so unpredictable that I had to switch.
T-Mobile’s offer similarly shone more often than not, but it also accidentally went out when watching Grizzlies-Warriors on YouTube night on Saturday night or trying to work on Monday or Tuesday morning. A quick reset of the modem and my connected Eero put us back into operation, but unreliability is a problem.
To be fair to both carriers, I understand that my situation is a bit unique.
Verizon offers Fios in my area, so 5G home internet is not officially available in my area. If you want internet from Verizon and you have the option of Fios, it will quickly direct you there. Because its ultra-wideband network has improved so dramatically, the company sent me a device to test its network and its 5G home Internet product, even though the service is not technically available in my exact location.
Interestingly, Verizon’s 5G network in my area has been significantly worse for both the 5G home internet and traditional telephone connections over the past few weeks. Since then, it has started to return to normal operation, with some speed tests from my iPhone 13 Pro Max on Friday showing download speeds over the 5G network of almost 400 Mbps.
Verizon says there was a “backbone communication problem” on the cell tower closest to my apartment, which could have caused some of my problems in the second week. The second cell tower near my building may have been blocked by construction that rose in the area, which may have made the problem worse.
The carrier says the previous problem has been resolved in the meantime.
T-Mobile’s 5G home internet device is in a similar situation. I registered to subscribe to the product when I lived a few blocks away and it was available at this location. Although I have only moved six blocks since then, my new address is not technically listed as an address for T-Mobile Home Internet.
I still pay for the modem and it still works and connects to T-Mobile’s faster mid-band 5G network. This could explain some of the problems I had with speed. After resolving the issues with the operator, I noticed a solid increase in performance with download speeds that regularly ranged between 300-400 Mbps. However, this does not fully explain why the modem completely overclocked at random intervals.
“Home Internet today is not available to every household, and that is intentional,” a T-Mobile spokeswoman said in a statement to CNET when she was contacted about the issues.
“To ensure a great experience for everyone, we allocate access to the home Internet sector by sector, house by house. And we only offer it in places where we can provide sufficient network capacity to provide a great network.” performance for all our customers – wireless and broadband – both now and in the future, with an increase in data usage. “
Millimeter wave solution
My new provider is a company called Honest Networks, a startup founded in 2018 that ironically provides broadband connectivity directly to buildings around New York City using millimeter or high frequency wireless waves, which are one of the options for 5G.
Operators, specifically Verizon and AT&T, strongly promoted millimeter waves in their early implementations, and Verizon continues to offer 5G home millimeter-wave broadband in some markets today.
The honor similarly charges around $ 50 a month, but because it uses millimeter waves and a dedicated network, it offers gigabit-like upload and download speeds. This is a significant leap compared to the 5G midrange networks I have experienced with the respective Verizon and T-Mobile home broadband solutions.
Getting a fixed gigabit connection from Verison for Fios, by comparison, would cost me $ 90 a month, while Spectrum would cost me $ 80 a month.
Other companies like Starry similarly use millimeter waves to offer alternatives to home Internet in cities across the country. However, unlike mid-range 5G, this 5G version is much more limited in range and availability, and companies like Honest and Starry actually have to install the equipment in the specific buildings they offer services to make connections available.
My apartment building happens to be one that Honest supports, although the setup and installation were similar to the traditional cable or fiber process. We made an appointment via the company’s website and a technician came out for a few hours to contact us. Since the building is connected for the service, I don’t have a traditional modem and instead I just plug my router into an Ethernet port in the wall.
Although it took some time for it to start, after the launch, performance quickly dominated the capabilities of Verizon and T-Mobile.
Download speeds over my aging Eero network were often similar to the 100-400 Mbps I saw on Verizon and T-Mobile, but the uploads were consistently over 300 Mbps (I was trying to install an update to my Eero that should fix “Performance” and “stability”, but for some reason it does not constantly take).
Most impressively, the latency measured on Speedtest.net and Fast.com is consistently below 5 milliseconds, even over Wi-Fi. This is a more sensitive network than my Spectrum cable connection.
Given that I had good experience with fresh installations of all three services, I will not be too ahead of Honest yet. But this consistent, super low latency, even over Wi-Fi, is definitely among the most encouraging metrics I’ve seen so far, and it forces me that this 5G variant could really beat my traditional cable cable capabilities today.