When T-Mobile and Sprint first announced their plans to merge in April, the companies didn’t mention any plans to offer in-home broadband internet services. But that changed in June, when the companies promised to grow into the nation’s fourth largest ISP, behind the likes of Comcast and Charter.
And this week, T-Mobile offered its clearest glimpse yet at exactly what it will offer in terms of in-home, fixed broadband internet services if the company is allowed to merge with Sprint—to become what it has called “New T-Mobile.”
And New T-Mobile’s in-home internet plans are certainly ambitious.
Specifically, T-Mobile’s chief operating officer Mike Sievert told the FCC that New T-Mobile “has confirmed that there is a large market for New T-Mobile’s in-home broadband offering at the anticipated pricing and service levels.” He said the company expects to offer in-home internet services to 52% of the zip codes across the county by 2024, covering 64% of Charter’s territory and 68% of Comcast’s territory. “New T-Mobile expects to utilize caching and other network optimization techniques to increase the number of households that can be served,” he said.
Further, Sievert predicted New T-Mobile would gain 1.9 million in-home wireless broadband customers by 2021 and 9.5 million customers by 2024, making it the nation’s fourth largest in-home ISP by 2024.
But perhaps the most interesting item in Sievert’s comments is that New T-Mobile appears to be ready to allow customers to install their own equipment for the service. “Unlike other in-home broadband offerings, the wireless nature of the offering will also provide customers with the choice of avoiding installation appointments and related charges as they will be able to self-provision the necessary in-home equipment,” Sievert said.
Thus, it appears that New T-Mobile believes it will succeed where Verizon appears to have failed. Verizon had developed a prototype aimed at allowing customers to install their own equipment for the carrier’s new 5G Home internet service, but that device was not part of Verizon’s commercial launch of the offering this month. Instead, the carrier said that its technicians would have to install the necessary equipment on the outside of customers’ homes or offices so that they would be able to receive Verizon’s 5G signal.
In his comments about New T-Mobile’s planned in-home wireless broadband offering, Sievert said the company would provide consumers across the country with average download speeds of 100 Mbps. By 2024, he said New T-Mobile will be able to cover more than 250 million people with data rates greater than 300 Mbps and more than 200 million people at greater than 500 Mbps.
Those speeds are generally comparable to those provided by Verizon’s new 5G Home internet service; Verizon has promised consistent speeds of around 300 Mbps and peak rates of up to 1 Gbps.
Interestingly, Sievert hinted that New T-Mobile’s in-home internet service would stand separately from its mobile offerings. In his statement to the FCC, Sievert said that “New T-Mobile will also enable consumers to use their mobile services as a substitute for in-home broadband. T-Mobile has estimated that 5.8 million households will use their New T-Mobile 5G mobile services for all their broadband needs (whether in-home or mobile) by 2021 and a total of 6.3 million households by 2024.”
Those comments appear to indicate that—in addition to offering an in-home internet product—T-Mobile would allow its mobile customers to create a Wi-Fi hotspot inside their home using their smartphone, in order to power their home internet services like laptops, video game consoles and smart TVs. (Although mobile customers today can create Wi-Fi hotspots inside their homes with their smartphones, such services are generally capped at 10 or 20 GB per month. ISPs like Comcast and Altice have pegged average in-home internet usage at around 200 GB per month, likely due to high-bandwidth applications like Netflix and Hulu.)
Dave Mayo is the T-Mobile executive in charge of the operator’s fixed wireless plans, and he has been relatively tight-lipped about how the operator might move forward in the space.
Nonetheless, T-Mobile’s plans for the in-home internet industry serve to again shine a light on the potential for wireless technology to deliver internet services into homes and offices. Players ranging from AT&T to C Spire to Windstream to Rise Broadband are deploying fixed wireless services in urban and rural areas, and the technology promises to create an alternative to the wired internet offerings sold by Comcast, Charter and AT&T.