The T-Mobile internet to the home alternative

We get regular queries on the status of a municipal network for the city. Unfortunately we have no news to report at present. We are eagerly awaiting the city to report on the Design Nine feasibility study. We are hopeful the final report will be available to city residents in the near future. 

Meanwhile, another alternative to Comcast has emerged. T-Mobile is marketing a 5G Home Internet service. The best part is the price: $50/month forever for internet only, or so T-Mobile says, and just $30/month if you are already a T-Mobile customer and enroll in Autopay. By enrolling, you can add internet telephone at $9.99/month through Ooma and 60+ live TV channels through Philo for $15/month. You can test it for fifteen days at no charge. A number of people on Bear Hill in Florence have tried the plan and the feedback has been good. If available, you can save considerable money compared to most Comcast plans. You might want to read our concerns about 5G services outlined on our website’s FAQ page.

Despite marketing it as a 5G service, it’s likely not the sort of speeds most would consider high speed as 1 gigabit per second download speeds appear unlikely. It’s a wireless-only service so there are limitations on how much speed can be delivered, particularly in denser neighborhoods where there are lots of buildings and obstructions. It’s likely not available in remote areas of Northampton or in parts of the city that are just too distant for efficient 5G transmission. Our coalition is pushing for high speed (1 gigabit per second or higher upload and download) for all parts of the city. It’s likely that T-Mobile cannot meet our upload and coverage requirements. For most households, if they can get the service, the download speeds should be more than adequate. As more people discover this as an option, it is likely to become popular and at some point it could get saturated by demand. So if you want to try this service, you might want to try it soon.

If you are thinking of using T-Mobile, we recommend first doing a number of internet speed tests at various times during the day to get a sense of how fast you are actually downloading and uploading now. Note the time of the tests and the result for uploading and downloading. Tests during periods of high usage, like in the evenings when lots of streaming is happening, are the most meaningful. In many cases, your actual speed is much lower than the plan you are paying for. If you connect over a local Wifi to a mobile device and run the test on your mobile device, it will typically be slower than a device plugged directly into your cable modem.

Paying for 300 megabit per second downloading, but getting about a third of that.

Paying for 300 megabits per second from Comcast and getting about a third of that.

Replicate these tests when you are on the T-Mobile network and compare. Both Comcast and T-Mobile work with a shared bandwidth approach. Comcast typically delivers data to the home over a coaxial cable network, and this bandwidth is shared among all customers on a local cable loop. T-Mobile is wireless only and the 5G specification limits the amount of data that can be transferred to one device over a given period of time. That’s why these services claim an “up to” speed. In our testing, your “up to” speed is rarely achieved. There is no point in paying extra for an “up to” speed you will rarely achieve.

Meanwhile, there are ways to save up to $10/month on your Comcast bill. You can save $5/month if you use autopay, and $5/month if you pay automatically with a debit card. Contact Comcast customer service for more information. In the case of one of our coalition members, his 300 megabits per second service monthly cost went from $92 to $82 with this approach. That’s a 10% discount.

Comments 4

  • FWIW, I contacted the Mayor’s office several week’s ago, expressing interest in city-owned broadband and asking where development stood. I never got a reply. Does Northampton have a serious interest in pursuing this?

  • We expect to find out on August 28 when we’ve been invited to meet with the mayor.

  • What happened at the meeting?

    • It was a good meeting. The report on the feasibility of a municipal network should be made publicly available soon. The mayor is planning a public meeting by the end of September to get public comment on various tradeoffs in creating a municipal network. We expect this meeting will be announced soon.

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