Watch out, Starlink — T-Mobile just launched 5G home internet

T-Mobile 5G logo
(Image credit: Alex Tai/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

T-Mobile is launching a new home internet service that piggybacks off its existing 5G infrastructure. Titled T-Mobile Home Internet, the service aims to bring unlimited data for $60 a month with speeds topping 100 Mbps.

The move means that T-Mobile is aiming to bring its Uncarrier smack talk to the likes of Comcast, Spectrum and Time Warner Cable. That $60 monthly price includes taxes, fees and equipment costs. (As part of your service, T-Mobile supplies you with a wireless router.)  Those interested in T-Mobile Home Internet can head to T-Mobile's site to see if the service is available in their area.

Chances are, it will be. T-Mobile says at launch that its internet service can reach more than 30 million homes. More significantly, a third of those are in what T-Mobile describes as rural areas or small towns.

“Since the beginning of the digital age, connectivity for rural America has been an afterthought,” said T-Mobile Senior Vice President Edwige Robinson in a press release detailing T-Mobile Home Internet. “One of our most important goals is to ensure that small town America is not left behind during the transition to 5G. This is why 5G for All will span across the country — small towns as well as big cities, rural communities as well as the suburbs.”

Here's what you need to know about T-Mobile's home internet service.

T-Mobile Home Internet coverage

Because T-Mobile's new home internet service does not require the laying of fiber optic cable, like with Verizon Fios, it's all based on the company's existing wireless infrastructure. An interactive coverage map of T-Mobile's network can be found here

Even then, just because you have T-Mobile coverage in your area, you may not be eligible for T-Mobile Home Internet. The company says its service reaches one in five U.S. homes, including coverage in areas often shut out of high-speed service. It's the same strategy being pushed by Elon Musk's Starlink satellite internet service.

You can see if you're home qualifies on T-Mobile's ISP website. For what it's worth, a Tom's Guide editor living in the San Francisco Bay Area checked his eligibility and learned that T-Mobile Home Internet isn't available at his home, though T-Mobile says it will provide notifications as the service expands.

T-Mobile Home internet speed

T-Mobile 5G speeds can vary widely when you're connecting with a smartphone, with speeds in some areas actually slower than LTE, despite the promise of better performance with 5G. T-Mobile's working on improving that by incorporating more of Sprint's 5G spectrum into its existing network. Consistency of performance is likely why T-Mobile is limiting its Home Internet service reach for now.

To that end, T-Mobile is promising average download speeds that top 100 Mbps for most new T-Mobile Home Internet customers; at a minimum, all eligible households should see an average of 50 Mbps, T-Mobile says. Those speeds can vary based on time of day and how much traffic is on the network, though.

T-Mobile Home Internet cost

The most appealing thing about T-Mobile's new home internet service is the price. For a flat $60 with Autopay enabled, which includes taxes and fees, customers will get unlimited internet. That includes T-Mobile's High-Speed Internet Gateway, a device that will convert 5G signal into Wi-Fi. There's also no contract and no annual fees.  

You don't have to be a customer for T-Mobile's wireless service to qualify for Home Internet Service. (Contrast that with Xfinity Mobile, where you need to use Comcast's Xfinity internet service in order to sign up for cellular coverage.)

T-Mobile Home Internet restrictions

T-Mobile says that there are no data caps on usage — a welcome policy given that some ISPs are beginning to enforce data caps while we're still stuck at home due to to the coronavirus pandemic.

But while T-Mobile boasts that customers can stream as much video as they want, there are restrictions with what can be done on the network. Per the T-Mobile Home Internet FAQ, "Home Internet is not intended for unattended use, automatic data feeds, automated machine-to-machine connections, or uses that automatically consume unreasonable amounts of available network capacity."

So as long as you're using T-Mobile Home Internet for home internet activities, you should be fine.

How does T-Mobile Home Internet stack up against Elon Musk's Starlink? T-Mobile is positioning its home internet to ride off its existing cellular internet infrastructure. That means connectivity stems from T-Mobile towers, which then ping your High-Speed Internet Gateway.

Starlink, on the other hand, uses a dish that directly communicates with low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellites. Right now Starlink is still in beta, but already users are seeing anywhere between 80 Mbps of download speed to more than 200 Mbps. But Starlink is still young. And when its megaconstellation is complete sometime next year, it will offer speeds globally in excess of 300 Mbps.

T-Mobile, by comparison, won't get much beyond 100 Mbps, at least for now. And latency is surely going to be higher than that of Starlink. But T-Mobile's service is also much cheaper. At $60 flat, it's a much more affordable option than the $500 Starlink equipment cost plus the $100 a month on top of that for coverage.

Starlink still isn't available in all areas. So, if you are eligible for T-Mobile Home Internet, it would be best to try that out rather than waiting for Starlink to become available in your area. And remember, T-Mobile Home Internet has no contracts, meaning cancelling the service and switching should be hassle-free. 

Imad Khan

Imad is currently Senior Google and Internet Culture reporter for CNET, but until recently was News Editor at Tom's Guide. Hailing from Texas, Imad started his journalism career in 2013 and has amassed bylines with the New York Times, the Washington Post, ESPN, Wired and Men's Health Magazine, among others. Outside of work, you can find him sitting blankly in front of a Word document trying desperately to write the first pages of a new book.