T-Mobile said on Thursday that it will begin a trial delivering home broadband service using its wireless network, an example of how mobile carriers are planning their next push into the cable internet business.
While T-Mobile will use its current 4G LTE network for the pilot, the service will eventually be run on the faster 5G network, which is in the pipeline for T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon.
Bringing wireless service into the home means consumers won't need to run cables all over the house or rely on a single Wi-Fi router to provide coverage to many rooms. By getting in the door now, T-Mobile can try to establish a base of customers and keep pace with AT&T and Verizon, which are already bringing 5G to the home in select markets.
AT&T and Verizon offer a cable-like service using their existing wired networks, but T-Mobile doesn't. Since T-Mobile is still waiting for regulatory approval to merge with Sprint, it will use this home internet pilot to make the case that it needs Sprint in an effort to compete with its larger rivals.
"We're walking the walk and laying the foundation for a world where we can take the fight to Big Cable on behalf of consumers and offer real choice, competition and savings to Americans nationwide," CEO John Legere said on Thursday in a press release.
T-Mobile's pilot will allow the company to test the logistics and technology of home wireless before rolling it out more widely. T-Mobile said the service will only be available in select areas and customers in those regions will receive invitations via email from the company sometime this week.
T-Mobile normally throttles data (reduces the speed) after its wireless customers consume a certain amount in a given month. But, for its home pilot, the company said it will offer around 50 megabits per second of LTE data without data caps for $50 per month. That's not terribly fast — cable networks these days can offer up to a gigabit per second, or about 20 times the speed that T-Mobile is offering.
And those speeds won't be fast enough if you have several TVs trying to stream Netflix in 4K HDR while someone plays video games in another room. But it'll be fine for just surfing the internet at home and some degree of streaming.
T-Mobile says it will double its speed to more than 100 mbps by 2024 with its new 5G network.