There has been a lot of hype around 5G over the last six years, and to an extent it still exists today. Driverless cars, remote surgery, the metaverse — all buzzwords that have yet to materialize in any way.
One area where it has noticeably helped change our lives? It finally provides some long overdue competition to cable companies for home broadband. I’ve been researching whether 5G and technologies like it (known as “fixed wireless”) could replace traditional home broadband over the past year, testing mid-band solutions from Verizon and T-Mobile, as well as millimeter options like Honest Networks. .
I ditched my Spectrum subscription and even switched my apartment to Honesta, which provides gigabit upload and download speeds to our building for $50 a month. It has been great for months, and I would be happy to continue using it.
At least, until Spectrum came knocking.
Competition breeds deals
Since ditching Spectrum I got a flyer in the mail offering three months of free TV and internet if I switched back. There were also no contracts or binding strings. The company seems to be hoping that once people sign up, they won’t leave so quickly again.
As an avid sports fan, the appeal of traditional cable was certainly attractive for the rest of the NFL and college football regular seasons, MLB postseason and the start of the NBA and NHL campaigns. Getting and managing regional sports networks in New York is a hassle, and the only streaming service that offers all of them (DirectTV Stream) is expensive at $90 per month for the Choice package.
While my Internet speeds wouldn’t be as fast as the gigabit promised by Honest, Spectrum’s Internet Ultra offers download speeds “up to 500 Mbps,” which is more than enough for all my and my roommates’ work, video chat, streaming, and gaming.
Plus, even after the three months are up, the internet fee would be $40 a month, a $10 monthly savings compared to T-Mobile and Honest.
I can’t say that this deal is a direct result of 5G internet options joining the fray and adding competition. I also don’t know if Spectrum offers this everywhere or only in a few markets like New York, but it seems to be a newer option.
“We have nationally consistent regular pricing and customer policies such as no modem fees, data caps or contracts,” a Spectrum representative said in a statement. “We often offer promotions to new or upgrading customers to give them the opportunity to try a service or package at a discount, for a specific period of time, before the regular price goes into effect.”
These offers aren’t always just for new subscribers either. The old trick of calling your provider and threatening to switch to T-Mobile or Verizon, which I noticed when helping a friend with their Optimum bill in New Jersey, helped lower their bill by $40 a month before they adjusted anything in their service.
The cable companies seem to be concerned, and perhaps rightly so. Verizon’s earnings saw consumers are fleeing its traditional wireless phone business amid higher prices, but the carrier added 234,000 consumer “fixed wireless” users.
T-Mobile added 578,000 home Internet users in its most recent quarter and now has over 2.1 million subscribers.
Comcast, the largest cable operator in the United States, appears to be particularly concerned and earlier this month began airing TV ads against T-Mobile’s Home Internet, encouraging users to go to its website where it “compares” the two broadband options. Some cable companies — including Comcast, Optimum and Spectrum — also offer home internet bundles with their own mobility services.
“I think you’re going to see (cable companies) being more aggressive with promotions and working to increase speeds to try to counter the momentum that the telecom accounts are getting,” says Technalysis Research analyst Bob O’Donnell.
“Given how quickly (home internet) subscribers for both T-Mobile and Verizon have grown, consumers are clearly getting it and seem eager to move away from cable companies,” he says.
Faster speeds are also coming
Beyond the price and deals, the rise of 5G home broadband has also coincided with a renewed push by cable companies for speed. Comcast’s main point against T-Mobile is that it has more gigabit deals available and that its broadband could be up to 36 times faster than T-Mobile’s 5G home internet.
“Fixed wireless over 5G makes it critical that cable companies upgrade their infrastructure to be able to demand consistently high speeds, especially for uploads, where wireless can struggle today,” said Avi Greengart, an analyst at research firm Techsponential.
A wide range of other providers including Optimum, Spectrum, Verizon and AT&T have added new multigigabit speed tiers and expanded their buildings for fiber service, all while the three major wireless providers continue to build and improve 5G service. This push towards faster options should allow not only the prospect of better speeds for those looking for a boost, but also better options for their needs.
“People who continue to work from home or who just want the fastest option will look at fiber,” says O’Donnell. “Main users now have multiple choices and people who had limited options (rural, etc.) can now finally get something reasonable.”