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Big wireless companies want you to believe "5G" Home Internet Internet is new technology, but the technology itself has existed for decades. It’s essentially just cell phone Internet with clear disadvantages over cable Internet networks. Cell phone Internet providers are simply rebranding existing technology.
While the technology is not new, the problem is that cell phone Internet relies on cell phone towers and can be inconsistent during periods of network congestion.
This article uncovers the truth about why cell phone Internet speeds can be slow and unstable.
Get reliable, Gig-speed Internet with Spectrum.
Before diving into the problems with cell phone Internet, it’s helpful to understand how it works.
Cell phone Internet uses the same cellular network smartphones use. Cell towers and/or small cell nodes use radio frequencies to send Internet signals to an outdoor antenna or indoor gateway receiver at each customer’s home. How you receive the cell phone Internet signal depends on whether your provider is one of the big cellular phone carriers or a Fixed Wireless Internet Service Provider (WISP).
WISPs typically mount an antenna to the roof or an exterior wall of your home, and an Ethernet cable connects the antenna to a modem inside your house, which links your computer to the Internet. A WiFi router can then be used to connect your wireless devices. Mobile phone companies transmit signals to an Internet gateway device placed inside your home. Unlike an outdoor antenna, the Internet gateway device not only communicates with the cell tower/node, but it also serves as a WiFi router to connect your wireless devices to the Internet.
While Verizon and T-Mobile claim their cell phone Internet plans can reach certain speeds, the reality is, cell phone Internet is prone to speed fluctuations during peak hours. In fact, Spectrum’s analysis of Ookla® Speedtest Intelligence® data revealed cell phone Internet may not consistently maintain broadband speeds over 25 Mbps during peak times.
T-Mobile and Verizon boast about their large cell phone Internet networks, but network size doesn’t matter when there’s high traffic to a single cell tower/node – that’s when T-Mobile and Verizon may limit their cell phone Internet customers’ speed.
On the other hand, Spectrum Internet delivers consistently high speeds all day, every day – even during peak times. Spectrum’s analysis of Ookla® data confirmed Spectrum Internet had faster and more reliable speeds than the cell phone Internet provided by both Verizon 5G Home Internet and T-Mobile Home Internet during peak times.
Tucked away in the fine print, T-Mobile admits new cell phone Internet customers who exceed 1.2TB of data usage for the current billing cycle are prioritized last on the T-Mobile network. Additionally, cell phone Internet customers "may notice reduced speeds in comparison to customers with a higher priority during network congestion."
T-Mobile also notes cell phone Internet customers’ video streaming may be more frequently impacted, depending on the extent of network congestion. For many, Spectrum Internet may be a better choice because all customers have equal priority on the network and Spectrum does not limit customers’ Internet speeds, bandwidth or video quality.
Verizon’s network management practices reveal that on certain plans, Verizon "may prioritize your 5G and 4G LTE data behind other traffic. If the cell site you are connected to begins experiencing high demand during the duration of your session, your 5G and 4G LTE data speeds may be slower than the other traffic's.".
If you want fast, reliable Internet speeds, you can count on Spectrum Internet. Spectrum Internet has more reliable speeds than Verizon cell phone Internet at peak times. Spectrum offers three home Internet plans with speeds up to 300 Mbps, 500 Mbps and 1 Gig.
AT&T’s cell phone Internet solution, Internet Air, is billed as “a new way to connect to your home,” but its limitations are similar to T-Mobile and Verizon. AT&T’s fine print reveals they may temporarily slow data speeds if the network is busy, and that service may be slowed, suspended, or terminated in favor of providing quality service to others.
With Spectrum Internet, there are no data caps. Again, all Spectrum Internet customers receive equal priority on the Spectrum network.
The good news is that cable Internet providers are rapidly expanding, and Spectrum Internet has invested over $40 billion in infrastructure and technology to bridge the digital divide. You can learn more about the Rural Broadband Build-out program here.
No. “5G” stands for fifth generation and refers to wireless technology. Some cell phone Internet providers simply use that name for their cell phone Internet and it is not a reference to speeds.
No. 5 GHz refers to the 5 gigahertz radio frequency some routers use to transmit your Internet signal to wireless devices in your home. While 5G does use radio signals, it uses different frequencies.
Cell phone Internet may suffer from slow speeds and unreliable connections during peak hours. However, it can be relatively easy to set up.
 Based on Spectrum’s analysis of Ookla® Speedtest Intelligence® data during Q4 2022-Q2 2023 in Spectrum’s footprint. Reliable speeds based on Consistency Score™ comparisons. Faster speeds based on the median speeds delivered. Peak hours defined as 7-10 PM Mon-Fri. Ookla trademarks used under license and reprinted with permission.
 “Investing In Innovation & Infrastructure,” Charter Communications, https://policy.charter.com/resource-hub/network-investment-access
“Important Information About Verizon Wireless Broadband Internet Access Services,” https://www.verizon.com/support/broadband-services/
 “Important information about T-Mobile's Broadband Internet Access Services and T-Mobile's Open Internet Disclosures”, https://www.t-mobile.com/responsibility/consumer-info/policies/internet-service