T-Mobile 5G Home Internet: A Complete Failure [Part 1]

The headline already tells you where this is going, but come with me on an August 2021 journey that started with hope and ended in despair.

By way of background, I have two choices for home internet service where I live in a suburb of Renton, Washington: CenturyLink or Xfinity. Because I run a Plex server at home, and do a lot of video/photo uploads, having decent upload speeds and no data cap is important to me. Xfinity is off the table as even their fastest plan in my area (1200 mbps for $80/month) still has a 1.2TB data cap and the upload speeds are 35mbps (and Xfinity hides this fact). Plus, Comcast is the devil 👿 and I don’t want to give them my money.

So for 10 years I’ve stayed with CenturyLink’s DSL-based product. My community of 38 homes is too small for them to run fiber to, so I’m stuck with 80mbps down and 40mbps up. I long for more competition in the Internet provider space and it’s frustrating to me there isn’t more choice — though I often remind myself at least I have two options, many people in the USA have one or no access at all.

On the plus side, the CenturyLink connection is very stable, costs $50/month, and there’s no data cap. 80mbps is generally enough for my household, though I of course long for something better — and when I received an email from T-Mobile sharing that their 5G home Internet service was available in my ZIP code I signed up immediately…after I confirmed I could cancel if it didn’t work because I was hugely skeptical of their claims.

Why? People using TMO that come to my home get very weak signal. In early 2021 I tried a TMO mobile WiFi hotspot and had terrible signal and speeds. So it was with a large grain of salt I took TMO at their word their 5G signal was going to work great in my home. At the time, their speed claims were a minimum of 100mbps up and down, with the reps telling me verbally I should speeds around 300mbps. This was enough to lure me into testing it. It’s worth noting their web site now says typical speeds are 35-115mbps which is a dramatic downgrade to their initial marketing.

What the TMO site now says about speeds.

Their sign up process was incredibly invasive – at one point I wondered if I was being phished because they were asking for so many pieces of ID and information.

It took a few months for me to get the combo modem/ WiFi router (more demand than supply), but when it finally showed up I was excited to give it a try. Setup was fast and easy; after a couple of minutes I’d booted it up, applied a firmware update, and was ready to test it. I put it in the window of my main floor office and was immediately concerned, but not shocked, then I saw I only had two bars of signal.

Well this isn’t off to a good start…

Signal strength and speed are not linked though (despite what you might think), so I ran a speedtest on my phone connected to the TMO router. The results? 😩

This isn’t the 5G speed I was hoping for.
Continue reading T-Mobile 5G Home Internet: A Complete Failure [Part 1]