T-Mobile Home Internet review: Putting 5G to good use

Android Central Verdict

Bottom line: If you have good T-Mobile coverage at your home and want a simple-to-set-up home internet with an excellent companion app, this can be a great service for you.

Pros

  • +

    Low-cost

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    No data caps

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    Equipment is included

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    The Wi-Fi gateway has a battery backup

  • +

    Great companion app

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    Potential for excellent data speeds

Cons

  • -

    Spotty signal means unreliable internet

  • -

    The Wi-Fi gateway's range could be better

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    The built-in battery only powers the LCD display

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After spending over a decade living in rural Kansas with little to no decent internet, I was ecstatic to try and, after four months, give a T-Mobile Home Internet review. As I discussed in my look towards 5G in 2021 to help rural internet, one of the most considerable sacrifices that people who want to live the country life face is a complete lack of legitimate broadband access.

It's been a couple of years since T-Mobile announced its Home Internet service, and when the slow rollout made it to me, I jumped on it. The mobile carrier has been my cell provider for about seven years and has been pretty good. Admittedly, where my home is, no carrier is great — no matter what the coverage maps say.

Did I believe that T-Mobile's Home Internet offering could be the fast and reliable internet savior I was looking for — no. However, the carrier's been making speedy upgrades to the towers in my area, with my nearby town even getting 5G. With these expansions, I decided to take the chance and get the service. I figured that for $50 a month, it was worth taking a flyer to see how it panned out. I originally put in a request for the 5G gateway, but since it took several months for me to receive that unit, I initially reviewed the 4G service. Now that I've spent some time with the 5G gateway, I can offer a more complete picture of T-Mobile's Home Internet aspirations.

T-Mobile Home Internet: Price and availability

Tmobile Home Internet 5g Lifestyle

Source: Chris Wedel/Android Central (Image credit: Source: Chris Wedel/Android Central)

In areas where the service is available (opens in new tab), T-Mobile Home Internet is $65 per month or $60 with AutoPay. This rate includes all taxes and fees, along with the equipment. When T-Mobile Home Internet initially launched, the price was $50 per month and the LTE WiFi Gateway was provided. New customers will only be offered the High-Speed Internet Gateway with service.

T-Mobile Home Internet: What you'll like

Tmobile Home Internet 5g Lifestyle

Source: Chris Wedel/Android Central (Image credit: Source: Chris Wedel/Android Central)

As soon as the sign-up page for T-Mobile's Home Internet service went live, I signed up. I have waited for almost two years until the email finally arrived saying the service was available for my house. I couldn't have been more excited.

When the LTE WiFi Gateway arrived, inside was a simple white box with a pre-installed SIM card and a power adapter. So, I plugged it in, downloaded the companion app onto my phone, and began setup.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Header Cell - Column 0 T-Mobile LTE WiFi GatewayT-Mobile High-Speed Internet Gateway
Dimensions170mm x 124mm216mm x 120mm
Battery5200mAh5000mAh
Display
ColorsWhiteSilver
Wireless standard3GPP LTE , LTE Category 12
802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
IEEE 802.11ax Tri-Band 4+4+4 (Wi-Fi 6)
Seamless roaming (IEEE 802.11k/v)
Ports1 x WAN
2 x LAN
2 X GbE LAN

The T-Mobile Home Internet companion app is used to initialize and set up the gateway, regardless of which gateway is being set up, and get the network details. Within the app, I had to assign passwords to each of the networks, 2.4GHz, and 5GHz, and if you choose, you can rename the networks. Although, with the 5G gateway, there's only a single SSID that dynamically changes from 2.4GHz and 5GHz as needed. Either way, the setup process is relatively simple, and once complete, the app gives some helpful info.

Tmobile Home Internet Lifestyle

Source: Chris Wedel/Android Central (Image credit: Source: Chris Wedel/Android Central)

The app's home screen tells the connection status as well as connection quality. This is shown as you'd expect it to be from a cellular carrier, bars are filled left to right just like a smartphone. There's a device list to see what is connected to your network, and clicking on a device lets you see its connection info, and schedule times it's allowed online.

Source: Chris Wedel/Android CentralT-Mobile companion app homepage, LTE gateway network options, 5G gateway network options.

The app's final tab is where the user guide, gateway information, cell tower connection metrics, gateway restart, and more can be found. Using the cell tower connection metrics, you can get a lot of information that directly correlates with your internet experience. While much of it can seem like technical nonsense, the info is available if you decide you want to dig into what it all means — or if you call tech support.

The T-Mobile Home Internet app is an excellent asset to the overall experience.

Each gateway has a built-in battery, the LTE option has a 5200mAh battery whereas the 5G gateway uses a 5000mAh, which is maintained to full-charge while plugged in. However, those batteries are utilized very differently between the two options.

When I lost power at my home, I was using the LTE gateway and it was able to keep me online for a few hours until electricity was restored. The battery acts as a full system backup allowing all functions to operate from the built-in cell. The High-Speed gateway, on the other hand, the battery only powers the LCD touch display to see signal strength. While I appreciate the gateway being mobile to find the best location, I'd much prefer the battery approach from the LTE gateway.

There are three status lights on top of the LTE Internet Gateway are used to show information on the battery, Wi-Fi, and LTE state. The front of the gateway has a power indicator light and a button that, when pressed, uses the power light to indicate LTE signal strength.

Tmobile Modem Rural

Source: Chris Wedel/Android Central (Image credit: Source: Chris Wedel/Android Central)

In terms of the status indicators, the High-speed Internet Gateway gets a big upgrade. That previously mentioned LCD touch display is about the size of a quarter and is on the top of the gray-colored cylindrical gateway. The display allows you to swipe through six pages to view connection strength, the number of connected devices, battery status, system language, alerts, and text messages — hopefully only from T-Mobile. Of course, most of this is visible in the T-Mobile Home Internet companion app, too.

My experience using the service was a bit mixed. Over four months using the LTE gateway and a month with the High-speed gateway , I streamed my YouTube TV, Netflix, and ran all of my smart home devices, and all other online experiences, that averaged to about 425GB per month of usage. There's no data cap, so I was never concerned about that.

While the signal my booster sent to the gateway helped my internet, it wasn't the same type of signal T-Mobile sends.

Usually, my signal strength was two bars, or weak, according to the app. This equated out to about 6 Mbps down and 2 Mbps up. I installed a signal booster designed to improve T-Mobile frequencies, and it did give me some improvements. With the T-Mobile Home Internet app showing I had full signal strength, I would average speed tests of 15 Mbps down with 12 Mbps up for both gateways. Although, I could find areas in my yard where I could get up to 37 Mbps down and 20 Mbps up.

Source: Chris Wedel/Android Central

Both gateways offer two two ethernet ports on the back and an RJ-11 phone jack, with the LTE also including a dedicated WAN port. The 5G gateway drops the WAN port and brings a USB-C and dedicated UPS battery backup plug. However, that USB-C port on the 5G gateway, and with both gateways, the RJ-11 port is currently only for looks. Perhaps in the future T-Mobile will enable them for use, but for now, the ports are useless.

I was able to use the ports on the back of the gateway to plug in my Nest WiFi so that I wouldn't have to reset the network for all of my smart home devices. I didn't notice any issues when using my own network over the T-Mobile option, so that was a nice bonus.

T-Mobile Home Internet: What you won't like

Tmobile Home Internet 5g Lifestyle

Source: Chris Wedel/Android Central (Image credit: Source: Chris Wedel/Android Central)

As you could see in the section above, the biggest downside is the speed. This issue will be subjective on where you live and what type of T-Mobile signal coverage is available at your home. T-Mobile says that most customers will get download speeds over 50 Mbps, and while this may be true, it will be very dependent on what the coverage is at your home.

Walking around the inside of my home, I could go from 12 Mbps to 2 Mbps by moving the gateway only a few feet. I would get a similar experience taking the gateway with me outside and walking around my yard. I found pockets of good to great coverage where I could get consistent 20 Mbps down and 8 Mbps up.