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T-Mobile TVision Launches, But What the Heck Is It?

Another day; another alternative to traditional cable subscriptions. Today, T-Mobile’s TVision service enters the ring.

A rebranding of T-Mobile’s Layer3 TV service, TVision delivers more than 150 channels, some of them at 4K resolution, directly through the broadband Internet lines you (probably) already have in your home. According to T-Mobile, the new name is simply the first volley in a campaign to “[take] on Big Cable later this year.”

Credit: T-Mobile

(Image credit: T-Mobile)

But TVision isn’t a cable replacement, in the traditional sense of the term. It’s much more akin to an old-fashioned cable subscription that just happens to come via broadband lines. To find out more about Tvision, and whether it could have a place in your home someday, read on.

What is TVision?

TVision, formerly called Layer3, is an Internet Provider TV (or IPTV) service from wireless carrier T-Mobile. The company boasts that you can watch more than 150 channels, many of which are available in HD, and some of which are available in 4K. This includes on-demand content, local sports and premium movie channels.

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How does TVision work?

If TVision is available in your area, and you have a broadband connection, you theoretically have everything you need to facilitate the service. A technician installs a TVision box in your house – essentially, a cable box – and then you use it just like you would a traditional cable subscription. (A T-Mobile representative contacted me to let me know that customers can also install the box themselves.) The only difference is that T-Mobile is not laying proprietary cable lines; it’s simply using whatever you already have in place.

What channels are on TvVsion?

TVision offers all the usual cable suspects, such as ESPN, USA, TNT, FX, CNN, Comedy Central, Syfy, Telemundo, and so forth. You also get your area’s local stations, including Fox, CBS, NBC and ABC. At present, the service also offers a number of streaming services, including Pandora, iHeartRadio, CuriosityStream and HSN. (The company promises that more traditional services, like Netflix and Amazon Video, are coming soon.)

One unusual feature of TVision, though, is its social media integration. In addition to video and music apps, TVision can also run Facebook and Twitter. The service also supports smart home features via Amazon Alexa and Google Home devices.

Where is TVision available?

TVision will officially launch on Apr. 14, and will be available in Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Longmont, CO. That’s admittedly not a whole lot of markets, but T-Mobile has plans to expand availability “later this year.”

How much does TVision cost?

Like an actual cable subscription, pricing depends on what you want to watch. The default TVision package costs $100 per month ($90 per month for T-Mobile subscribers — or anyone else, but only for a limited time). If it retains Layer3’s pricing, you’ll also need to dish out $10 per month to rent the box. (You don’t seem to be able to use TVision without the box.)

This costs a lot more than some budget cable replacement options, such as Sling TV and PlayStation Vue, but may cost less than a premium cable subscription, depending on where you live and which provider you use. Naturally, premium channels such as HBO cost extra.

What sets TVision apart?

The biggest difference between TVision and more traditional cable services is that TVision will learn your preferences over time, based on what you watch and what you avoid. Each user will also have his or her own profile, so preferences won’t get mashed together.

T-Mobile claims that TVision offers a much better experience than traditional cable, not so much because of the channels and services it offers, but because of its customer service experience. The cost will not increase without warning every year; there are no “hidden fees” for activation, local sports, HD content or early termination.

In fact, because TVision does not involve a long-term contract, you can cancel whenever you decide you no longer want the service. Tvision also promises a “dedicated customer care team” for better-than-average customer service – although, to be fair, offering better customer service than most cable companies is a very low bar to clear.

How will TVision grow in the future?

T-Mobile’s current TVision service almost seems like a stopgap; the company seems much more excited about the advent of 5G, and how that could change the TV-watching experience. Thanks to T-Mobile’s possible merger with Sprint, the company believes that it will be able to deliver UHD content anywhere in the United States, instantaneously – even regions that have historically been underserved by broadband companies. This could also obviate the need for a cable box, although for the moment, TVision does require a box to function.

Should I get TVision?

If it’s available in your location – maybe? If you watch a ton of cable TV and are currently paying much more than $100 per month for it, TVision seems like a better deal. However, if you have a strong broadband signal, it doesn’t seem radically different from some of the more expensive PlayStation Vue plans – and it’s still missing a few key streaming services.

While TVision claims to be reinventing the whole cable game, it actually hews a lot closer to traditional subscriptions than a lot of the more inventive cable replacement services currently on the market. You still need a standalone box; you still need a hardwired connection; you still need to pay about $100 per month. But once TVision goes live, Tom’s Guide will try to get a more comprehensive take on it, so you’ll know for sure.