Is 5G Home Internet Worth the Hassle? Your Questions Answered

Is 5G Home Internet Worth the Hassle? Your Questions Answered

Are you tired of being tied to an internet service provider with cumbersome contracts, slow speeds, limited terms and inflated fees? You are not alone. The 2023 customer survey marked ISPs as the nation’s second-lowest rated industry. Yes, internet providers are inferior to airlines, social media, health insurance companies and the US Postal Service. The Federal Communications Commission seems to agree and recently enacted a new broadband nutrition label to help consumers better decipher all those hidden ISP fees. Yet, too often, we feel like we hardly have any choice. Could 5G be the answer?

The technology that powers the latest phones also wants to address the broadband needs of our households. A strong home internet connection is essential, whether you’re working from home or decompressing with the latest video games. The earliest 5G home internet plans, available from names like Starry, Verizon and T-Mobile, offer respectable speeds at affordable prices — but availability is limited to select cities and regions. CNET has reviewed all the major 5G services and we have details on how they work, how fast 5G gets, how much it costs and where it’s available.

So, what is 5G home internet?
Simply put, 5G stands for fifth generation. Fifth generation of what? Fifth generation wireless data network. You may most commonly hear 5G used to describe better mobile communications and faster phones. You’re not wrong: 5G networks, which use different radio frequencies than previous generations, aim to provide faster data speeds with far less lag or delay than we did with 4G.

My CNET colleague Eli Blumenthal did a great job breaking down the basics of 5G. Millimeter wave technology uses higher frequencies than previous generations, providing faster speeds and connections. Those higher gigabit speeds come at a price: data doesn’t travel the same distance as 4G and has more problems with obstacles. To overcome this, midband technology, which offers an average speed of between 300 and 400 megabits per second, increases the coverage area provided by millimeter waves. Finally, low-band 5G offers similar range to 4G but speeds between 100 and 200Mbps.

Is 5G home internet the same as 5GHz?
No, it’s not the same. A common mistake is to see the “5GHz” setting on your Wi-Fi router and assume you have access to 5G. Wi-Fi routers also use short-range radio frequencies (usually either 2.4GHz or 5GHz) — to transmit your Internet signal to connected devices in your home. 5GHz may be one of the band options for your home Wi-Fi system, but it’s not the same as 5G, which is a cellular technology that uses higher frequency waves.

How will 5G home internet be different?
Most ISPs deliver internet service through a telephone or cable line that connects your home to a wider network. That includes common types of internet connections such as digital subscriber line, coaxial cable and fiber optic internet. It’s all a wired connection from your provider to your home.

5G home internet, on the other hand, is a fixed wireless internet service, which means that the connection between your provider and your home is not wired. With 5G, you need an indoor or outdoor 5G receiver in your home to pick up the signal. It’s similar to satellite internet, but instead of beaming signals from the satellites you see orbiting in the night sky, it relays information from a closer wireless hub. Even if you use the same 5G network as your mobile phone, the gateway is specific to your location and cannot be used elsewhere.

What providers offer 5G home internet?
5G is still in use across the country. For that reason, the number of providers offering any 5G home internet plans is currently quite limited. For example, AT&T provides 5G mobile service, but its fixed wireless solution does not use its 5G network. That dynamic changed in mid-2023 when AT&T announced AT&T Internet Air would begin rolling out in 16 markets across the US. As of the end of January 2024, AT&T Internet Air is now available in 59 locations nationwide.

Right now, your top choices for 5G home internet are Starry, T-Mobile and Verizon. All prices listed on this page reflect available discounts

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