T-Mobile admits capacity issues with Home Internet service

An engineer climbs a wireless network tower.
An engineer climbs a wireless network tower. (Photo courtesy T-Mobile US/Deutsche Telekom, Graphic by The Desk)

T-Mobile this week announced plans to roll out a version of its T-Mobile Home Internet product that will expand the availability of the service to homes where the company’s network has reduced capacity.

The product, called T-Mobile Home Internet Lite, will offer fixed wireless home Internet service on T-Mobile’s network, but will come with a cap on the amount of high-speed data a customer is allowed to use each month.

The service, which goes on sale next Tuesday, starts at $50 a month for 100 gigabytes (GBs) of data, enough for most households to surf the web and stream a TV show or two each day. Customers who want more data will have to pay for it, with T-Mobile Home Internet Lite topping out at $150 per month for 300 GBs of data.

After a customer uses their high-speed data allotment, T-Mobile says their connection will be downgraded to 128 kilobits-per-second (kbps), which is just fast enough to check e-mail or load a webpage, but isn’t enough to power most streaming video or audio services.

In an interview with the trade publication Fierce Wireless, a T-Mobile executive said the company has seen a significant amount of interest in its fixed wireless home Internet offering since it was announced last year, but that the company often has to say no to prospective customers because it doesn’t have the network capacity to serve everyone with the unlimited version of its product.

“We only offer our unlimited home internet service where we know there’s enough capacity to deliver a great home broadband experience,” Kaley Gagnon, the vice president of marketing at T-Mobile, said in the interview.

The unlimited version of T-Mobile’s Home Internet costs the same $50 a month as the base version of T-Mobile Home Internet Lite, but doesn’t impose data caps on users. Both versions of T-Mobile Home Internet include a wireless gateway modem that gives users the ability to connect wirelessly or via Ethernet. Expert setup is also included for customers who don’t want to do it themselves.

T-Mobile has concentrated its marketing efforts for its unlimited home Internet service on suburban and rural communities, where consumers may have fewer options for home Internet service. But only customers who live in an area with a strong 5G signal appear eligible for the service.

Some customers who can’t access the unlimited version may still find T-Mobile Home Internet Lite attractive, particularly if they live in a rural area where the only other option is satellite Internet, which can be just as expensive, if not more so. T-Mobile says customers who purchase the lite version of its Home Internet offering can upgrade to the unlimited version of T-Mobile Home Internet once the network bottlenecks in their area are resolved.

One way to address those network issues is to acquire more spectrum, something T-Mobile recently did when it paid $3.5 billion for greater access to the 600 MHz spectrum, which it uses for its low-band 5G network. While data speeds on the low-band 5G network are on par with its 4G LTE network, T-Mobile is able to serve more customers at once through 5G compared to its older networks.

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