Should you sign up for that new wireless internet service?

Maybe you’ve seen commercials for it. Both T-Mobile and Verizon are starting to roll out fixed wireless 5G as an alternative to traditional wired internet. Fixed wireless internet isn’t a new idea. I wrote about it four years ago, when I thought it would be the first implementation of 5G. It wasn’t, because of infrastructure issues and also some of the other things that have gone on in the world for the last two years. But, finally, two of the country’s three major carriers are starting to roll out this service to people in selected areas. AT&T is still doing trials, choosing to stay a little more conservative right now.

Is this new service for you? Let’s take a look at the facts so you can make your own decision.

Fixed wireless 5G in a nutshell

It’s not a terribly hard idea to wrap your head around. An antenna on your roof picks up cell service, similar to how a cell phone signal booster works. It routes that signal to a device inside the home which acts as a router and access point. It provides Wi-Fi to all the devices in your home as well as traditional Ethernet ports. The idea is that you can get speeds better than wired internet, without the wires and without the cable company.

Personally I love the idea. I’ll love it even more when you can pay one bill that covers your phone as well as your home internet, at a price far less than what you pay for the two services right now. I expect that when this service is mature, it will kill wired internet the same way that cell phones killed landlines.

The challenges today

The biggest challenge today is reception. Just like any other form of cell service, reception can vary from neighborhood to neighborhood. Sometimes it can vary from house to house, or even from room to room. All three major carriers have fairly good 5G coverage (unless you live in Nebraska) on the whole, but there are still pockets where reception isn’t as good as it could be.

Another challenge is speed. You’ll only get speeds similar to wired internet if your neighborhood has “mid-band” or “millimeter-wave” 5G. Right now those neighborhoods are few and far between. You have to be somewhere populous enough that it’s worth the investment in new towers, yet not so populous that those towers are easily overloaded. That sweet spot is hard to find, which is why T-Mobile and Verizon are doing fairly limited rollouts.

The other thing that must be considered is that if you have internet from a cable company like Comcast/Xfinity or Charter/Spectrum, they can be notoriously hard to break up with. Pretty much everyone has a story of being on hold for hours, being hung up on, or being billed past the cutoff date. If you’re going to make the change, you should be 100% sure that you want to do it.

The easiest way to make your decision

If you’ve seen those commercials for fixed wireless 5G, then you “might” be in one of their service areas. It is actually possible to target ads to specific neighborhoods, but it’s also possible that you saw the commercial on a national broadcast. So the first thing to do is, do your research. Get on the carrier’s web site and see if you qualify. But, don’t take action yet.

If you qualify for a carrier’s wireless internet, find a friend with a 5G cell phone that uses that carrier. Have them do a speed test standing outside your house. How are the speeds? Are they anything like what you’re getting at home with wired internet? For most people, the answer will be “no.” And that makes the decision easy.

What to do instead of fixed wireless 5G

As I said, fixed wireless 5G is the future. I think it’s an awesome idea. But, it might still need a little more time in the oven. If you’re not satisfied with your current internet service provider, why not find out what your options are? Call the experts at Signal Connect. We’re AT&T Dealers and we work with other service providers throughout the country. We can help you see what’s available in your area, for what prices. We can even get you signed up. And of course the call and all the support are free.

Call us during East Coast business hours at 888-233-7563 and let’s get the process started. Wireless internet will be great when we can all get it, but this might not be the time to jump in.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.