Choosing the best 5G home internet provider can be a complicated decision and may depend on a number of key factors.
One of the first determinations to make before diving too deep into the 5G market is whether you are in the coverage area of any 5G home internet provider you may consider. While some ISP companies’ 5G infrastructure is available relatively widely across the country, others’ networks are only just arriving in smaller cities and towns.
Although Verizon is known to have one of the widest cellular networks in the US, T-Mobile actually now has the largest and most widespread 5G infrastructure in the country—great for 5G home internet users. Starry Internet uses a larger, faster band of 5G, so it is only available in select cities (although where it does exist it is one of, if not the best option for 5G home internet).
Costs and Discounts
Like with any technology (and especially with new technologies), cost remains a major factor in selecting a 5G home internet provider. T-Mobile offers a flat rate of $50 per month for supposedly “unlimited” 5G download speeds with no data cap. In reality, its speeds are closer to 3,000 Mbps (which remains a lightning fast speed at an extremely low price). Verizon’s standard internet plan is also $50 per monthbut maxes out around 300 Mbps while its Plus plan sees speeds up to 940 Mbps with a $70 per month price.
Plans are discounted 50% for existing Verizon wireless cellular customers. Starry Internet is one of the cheapest options, especially for those looking for the faster data speeds associated with millimeter wave 5G (see differences below). Starry is currently only advertising speeds up to 200 Mbps for between $30 and $50 per month. For its high speed “Gigabit” plans, expect to pay $80 per month.
Contracts, Equipment and Fees
All three 5G home internet companies we featured offer contacts with no annual requirements, hidden fees or price hikes. This makes it easier to trust your 5G home internet company, since you can start or stop service at any time.
Unlike some 5g home internet services which use a tethered computer or other device connected to a cellular network, fixed 5G companies including Verizon, T-Mobile and Starry all offer a dedicated modem/router that can handle more connections and higher speeds. All three companies make devices, although Verizon and T-Mobile both currently offer no-extra-cost professional installation.
Under-6 vs. mmWave 5G
Depending on your service area or which ISP company you choose, 5G Home Internet providers will use two different types of 5G technology. Sub-6 5G was quickly deployed by providers like T-Mobile and Verizon because it only required small upgrades to existing cellular towers, while millimeter wave 5G (or mmWave) required larger infrastructure changes.
Sub-6 5G refers to the area of the radio spectrum used for the network. Sub-6 uses frequencies below 6GHz (gigahertz). Note: 3G, 4G and 5G all refer to the “Generations” of data networks, not the GHz frequency used as part of transmission. While Sub-6 5G is certainly faster than 4G or 3G networks as it uses radio waves that literally travel faster, it is only a slight step-up and is mostly an improvement in data speeds for semi-urban areas.
Additionally, mmWave 5G refers to data networks broadcasting at frequencies between 30 and 300 Ghz. These are called millimeter waves because the radio waves are literally one to 10 millimeters long compared to the lower gigahertz waves used by Sub-6 5G, which are centimeters long. The important takeaway here is that millimeter waves are smaller and have a shorter range, but are overall faster. This means your data connection will be faster, but the towers that transmit have to be closer to your home. Adding new transmission towers to the infrastructure takes time, so mmWave 5G is currently only available in denser urban areas where demand is higher and where 5G transmitters can be added to tall buildings.
Starry Internet only uses mmWave 5G, so while it offers some of the best home internet speeds, it is only available in select cities. Verizon offers both mmWave and Sub-6 5G depending on location and T-Mobile currently only offers Sub-6 5G.
Download vs. Upload Speeds
The type of 5G each ISP company uses will reveal the speed you can expect. We know mmWave 5G will bring faster internet vs. Sub-6, which has slower speeds. Each company will also advertise and offer a variety of different download and upload speeds, which may vary from the theoretical limits and capabilities of each technology. The base 5G home internet plans of the three companies we featured all offer around 200 or 300 Mbps of download speed. For most customers, this should more than cover streaming HD content and other web browsing. For gamers—or those who download or upload large amounts of data—300 Mbps is on the lower end. If high download and/or upload speeds are important to you, make sure to check to see the kinds of speeds offered by any company you’re considering.