T-Mobile is expanding its Home Internet product, announcing on Tuesday that it is opening it up to anyone who can get T-Mobile service where they live. The new service, called Home Internet Lite, starts at the same $50 per month T-Mobile has previously charged. However, with Lite, your data cap at that price is 100GB per month.
When you are within the data cap, you will not be restricted on the speed of your connection. If you go over your data allotment, the carrier will slow you down to a painfully slow 2G-like 128Kbps speed, which is not enough for Zoom video calls (which need at least 600 Kbps), let alone YouTube (at least 700Kbps), Netflix (at least 1Mbps) or other streaming services.
Higher-priced tiers are available, with 150GB available for $75 per month, 200GB for $100 and 300GB for $150. While the carrier says that "about a quarter of all households use less than 100GB each month," you should really check how much data you use before considering T-Mobile Lite.
The carrier says it will email users when they are at 80% and 100% of their data usage and send notifications to the router's screen. Those who have T-Mobile for wireless service will also get a text message.
The reason for the data caps and the strict throttling is that with Home Internet Lite, T-Mobile is opening up its broadband service to areas of its network that don't necessarily have enough capacity to support unlimited home internet. Whereas unlimited home broadband is offered in certain parts of the country -- T-Mobile has said that it is available to over 40 million people -- the new Lite service is available anywhere T-Mobile has wireless coverage.
In a statement, Kaley Gagnon, vice president of marketing for T-Mobile Home Internet, says that the company has turned down "thousands of requests every single month because we don't yet have the capacity to serve every address with our unlimited option."
The Home Internet Lite option will exist alongside the regular unlimited option that also runs $50 per month. The carrier tells CNET that it will let people who sign up for Lite upgrade "at no additional cost" to the unlimited plan should it be able to support unlimited in their areas.
Both home internet options are available even if you don't have T-Mobile for your wireless service, and both include a modem/router and bundle in taxes and fees in the $50 sticker price. If you have T-Mobile for wireless service and subscribe to the company's priciest Magenta Max option, the Lite plan will still be eligible for a discount that knocks the $50-per-month rate down to $30.
You still, however, will need to enter your address into T-Mobile's website to see which option is available for you when the Lite version launches on Aug. 16.
The move is the latest salvo in the ongoing battle between wireless carriers and traditional cable, fiber or satellite home broadband providers. Whereas T-Mobile's latest Lite option may not be a strong alternative to those with decent cable or fiber connections (or even Verizon's 5G Home, which offers unlimited data where it's available), it could be an alternative to satellite internet from the likes of HughesNet, Viasat or Starlink. Those options often have higher monthly rates (sometimes with lower high-speed data buckets) and require the setup of a satellite dish.
It also gives T-Mobile yet another marketing lever to pull against wireless rival Verizon, which announced earlier this year that its 5G Home service is available to over 30 million households. By adding the Lite option, T-Mobile can now potentially claim that its home internet product is available to over 300 million people.
Even with the new offering, T-Mobile is not adjusting its home internet guidance and expects to have 7-8 million home internet customers by 2025.