Starry provides no-contract fixed wireless internet in just a handful of cities. Its cheap plans, free equipment, and high speeds make it a solid alternative to cable and fiber. Unfortunately, the company's financial instability makes it a poor choice for anyone with other options.
T-Mobile provides an inexpensive 5G internet plan with no contract and decent speed, but not a lot of choices or professional installation.
Starry’s fixed wireless plans are straightforward and attractive. There are no contracts or data caps. Equipment and installation are provided for free. Prices are subject to change, but there are no price hikes built in since the company doesn’t offer large short-term discounts to new customers like other internet service providers (ISPs) do. It is worth checking for ongoing promotions before you sign up. Starry sometimes offers deals on its plans, like 200 Mbps for $30 per month, which is an even better value than usual.
The Starry Plus plan has 200 Mbps download speeds, which gives you more than enough speed for working from home, streaming, and browsing the web on multiple devices. Starry’s prices and upload speeds tend to beat cable plans with comparable download speeds. At gigabit download speed with Starry, you get half the upload speed of comparable fiber plans, but it’s still more than enough for most people and often cheaper.
T-Mobile 5G Home Internet comes in one download speed (100 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.
Starry offers fixed wireless internet service with performance that rivals most other connection types available in the urban areas it serves. Fixed wireless is, of course, wireless. But unlike mobile internet, which allows you to access the internet wirelessly with your phone anywhere, it works by beaming the internet connection directly to equipment mounted on top of your building. Starry sets itself apart from other fixed wireless providers because it takes advantage of high-frequency spectrum, which allows it to achieve up to gigabit speeds.
Actual speeds vary based on several factors, like how many devices are being used on your network and which apps you’re using. In Q3 of 2022, Starry reported its customers had an average download speed of 196 Mbps, upload speed of 104 Mbps, and latency of 20.3 ms. (1) Speeds have slowed a little over time, but only by a matter of milliseconds.
While it’s not as good as fiber, this is more than adequate for streaming, gaming, video chats, and other intense use on multiple devices simultaneously. Since Starry’s internet service uses fixed wireless rather than a wired connection, weather can affect signal range and reliability. Some users have reported slowdowns and outages due to rain and snow. (2)
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.
All Starry internet customers get free professional installation and are provided with equipment to use at no cost while their service is active. The included ZyXEL router is functional and easy to use, but the company doesn't publicize whether you can use your own instead. Either way, there's no extra equipment cost.
Installation appointments have 30-minute arrival windows, which is respectful of customers’ time. The installation process takes 1–2 hours. The installer will activate the service, make sure it works in every room, and set up your router and devices. There is no self-installation option.
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.
Starry has a great reputation for customer service, but has recently been in the news for mass layoffs and even pulling out of one of its newest service areas—Columbus, Ohio. (3)
If you can still get Starry, you'll benefit from a 30-day satisfaction guarantee and no contracts. Starry will refund you for service interruptions that last longer than 24 hours if you request the credit within 30 days, unless the outage is because of scheduled maintenance, power outage, weather, or something else beyond the company’s control.
Customer service is impressively responsive. Support is offered by phone, email, and social media. The website offers plenty of help articles, and the app has a chatbot that can inform you of outages at your address. Starry reports it has a Net Promoter Score of 69 (excellent) while other broadband providers have an average of 0 (neutral), meaning customer satisfaction with the brand is unusually high. (4)
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.