Testing internet over 5G wireless

tl;dr This didn’t work out. Why not? Random disconnects requiring user intervention, and a very weak 5G signal. The LTE signal was strong enough, but it looks like the less congestion-prone 5G isn’t really provisioned in my neighorhood as of mid-December 2022.

I’m testing a T-Mobile internet-over-5G service. My phone is on T-Mobile, so they sent me an email a few days ago (early December 2022) announcing 5G internet and asking for signups. They offer a 15-day free trial. If I like it I keep the Gateway box and start paying $50 per month. Or, I can return the box and that’s the end of it. This is a good way to roll out a new service. It inspired my confidence.

So I did. Here’s my account of what’s happening with my 5G internet.

I called the 800 number mentioned in the email. The agent there said I had to go in person to a store to sign up. I think that is a security measure. Security measures are good.

I went to the store. I told the young man behind the desk I wanted 5G internet. After some fun with signing my name on an iPad with my finger, he handed me the box.

I opened it up and found the device. The instructions said to put it by a window, plug it in, download the app, and follow the steps in the app. I did that. Many gadgets now present their user interfaces this way. This user interface is easier to use than many.

And, done. My phone is connected. I open the browser and hit the speed test page.

I get 86 megabits/sec down, 58 up. Latency 20ms. My Comcast service goes to 140 mbps down, 10 or so up. This is, for my home office use, adequate. Adequate is good.

I watched some Netflix. It didn’t do that low-bandwith quality-degradation thing that Neil Hunt and his band of geniues put into that service. It worked.

In the evening of the first day of my test, it just stopped. Its front panel said “No Connection”. I had to intervene. I cycled the power. It reconnected just fine and has stayed connected. Manual intervention is not good.

I want to run my home network through this, using it as a “modem” rather than an all-in-one “hotspot”. So I connected an ethernet cable from the gateway to my router’s uplink. That worked.

Update 6 days later: I’m going to return this device.

  1. The connection has dropped four more times, requiring manual intervention (turn off / turn on) each time.
  2. It seems, from the data visible in the iphone app, that my location is served with the older LTE wireless standard, not with 5G. The 5G signal here is too weak. LTE is subject to congestion.
  3. It seems Verizon’s FIOS service is available in my location for the same $50/month price.

I have to say, I would definitely keep T-Mobile 5G Gateway if FIOS were not available here.

Leave a Comment