Spectrum offers speedy, reasonably priced cable internet service, and a strong budget plan. We wish there were fewer fees attached, though.
T-Mobile provides an inexpensive 5G internet plan with no contract and decent speed, but not a lot of choices or professional installation.
Spectrum service offers a solid value—particularly at the lowest tier. There are only three plans to choose from, which could either be a plus or minus depending on your perspective. In this case, we feel it’s a good thing: the plans are straightforward and easy to understand.
The lowest-tier plan offers speeds up to 300 Mbps (wireless speeds may vary) at a decent price, according to government benchmarks (1). That's just $0.17 per megabit per second, with speeds that blow any DSL plan out of the water. The other two internet plans are less exciting, but still reasonably priced for the first year. After 12 months, your price could be up by $20 or more.
T-Mobile 5G Home Internet comes in one download speed (182 Mbps), which is fast enough for a lot of people but slower than most cable plans (up to 1 Gbps) and fiber plans (up to 5 Gbps). The good news? T-Mobile’s plan includes unlimited data, but there may be slowdowns when the network is congested. It’ll cost you $50, which is $0.50 per Mbps, and about right for 5G plans. However, overall, 5G internet is super cheap compared to other kinds of broadband internet. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) benchmarks similar broadband plans at $105.67/month, (1) which comes out to more than a dollar per Mbps!
Even better, if you’re already a T-Mobile customer with a qualifying Magenta plan, your rate is $25/month. If max download speeds of 100 Mbps works for you, T-Mobile 5G Home Internet is a pretty sweet deal, especially if you’re already a customer. But if you’re looking for more plan options, you won’t find them here.
Spectrum offers speedy performance overall, with packages up to 1,000 Mbps available (wireless speeds may vary). The lower tiers are more exciting—almost every provider has a gig plan these days, but Spectrum’s lowest plan has speeds up to 300 Mbps, which is still excellent for all but the heaviest users. Additionally, there are no data caps on any of the plans, so you can use as much bandwidth as you like.
Speed is only half the equation, though—even the fastest connection is useless if it doesn’t work when you need it. Luckily, Spectrum is on par with its closest cable competitors here. It offers faster-than-advertised speeds most of the time, according to the US Federal Communications Commission (2), and earned the top spot for median speeds from Speedtest.net (3). Spectrum’s latency scores were a little higher than competitors Xfinity and Cox, but at just 25 ms, you’re still within the playability range for most online games.
As with any fixed wireless internet provider, speeds fluctuate widely and can be affected by weather, terrain, peak hours, and more. That means you’ll rarely get a steady 100 Mbps. T-Mobile says you’ll likely see anywhere from 33 to 182 Mbps for download and 8 to 25 Mbps for upload. (2) But we think T-Mobile should toot its horn a little louder. Independent research shows speeds average out to around 119 Mbps for download and 16 Mbps for upload—both of which leave other wireless ISPs in the dust. (3)
Generally, 5G internet isn’t as fast as cable internet (up to 1,000 Mbps, or 1 Gbps) or fiber (up to 5 Gbps). But for most people, it’ll feel pretty zippy. Unfortunately, if you’re using your connection for gaming, the inconsistency could cause unpredictable, frustrating lags.
Spectrum’s equipment setup is a bit different than most—at least when it comes to fees. There is no charge for the modem, but there is a $5 monthly fee for the wireless router (waived on the gig plan). What this means is that Spectrum gives you a separate modem and router, instead of a combined gateway. It also means you can opt to bring your own wireless router if you prefer. Customers can also add Wi-Fi extenders, called Pods, for $3 each per month. If you use the Spectrum router, you can use the company's highly rated smartphone app to manage settings and parental controls.
Installation is straightforward and affordable. If you need a pro to come out, you can opt for a professional installation for $59.99. If you can handle the installation yourself, the self-install kit is about $25. We’d prefer free self-installation, but it isn’t the highest self-install fee we’ve seen, so we’ll take what we can get.
T-Mobile uses a 5G gateway (included at no additional cost) to turn cell signal into Wi-Fi for your home. It’s strong enough to send signal about 30 feet away, depending on how many walls are in the way. It’s compatible with most mesh network extenders. Plus, you can create up to four separate networks, so you can create one for Airbnb guests or your least favorite roommate.
According to T-Mobile, installation should take around 15 minutes—if you have an Android or iOS phone and can download the T-Mobile internet app. If that doesn’t work out, you can call T-Mobile customer service and someone will help you get set up. If you don’t get cell signal or a landline at home, though, you’re going to have a rough day.
We’ll just come right out and say it: Spectrum has a lot of fees. While you may never see most of them, it’s worth noting that they’re there. Here’s a sample:
These aren’t going to be on every bill, and you may never see most of them. However, when you do, it makes for a poor experience.
When you add second-year price hikes in the range of $20+, things aren't looking good for Spectrum customers. However, Spectrum customers seem to be about as satisfied with customer service as customers with competitors Cox and CenturyLink, and it's only slightly worse than average. (4)
If Spectrum is the only cable provider in your area and your home isn't wired for fiber internet, we recommend the service. Just set a calendar reminder to contact customer service in a year and see if you can negotiate the price down!
T-Mobile is fairly new to providing home internet, but it has a solid track record of providing great service to its mobile customers. Both contract and non-contract customers see the best service in the industry, according to J.D. Power. (4)
We don’t like T-Mobile’s short 15-day money-back guarantee, which doesn’t give you much time for a test drive. (We much prefer Starry’s 30-day guarantee.) Even worse, your countdown starts when T-Mobile ships your 5G Gateway, not when it arrives. If there are any shipping delays or it takes you a day or two to get set up, you’ll run out of testing time fast.