There has been a lot of hype surrounding 5G over the past five years, and to some extent it still exists today. Driverless cars, remote operations, the— all buzzwords that have not really materialized yet.
An area in which it has noticeably changed our lives? It finally offers cable companies some long-overdue competition. Over the past year, I’ve been researching whether 5G and similar technologies (known as “fixed wireless”) could replace traditional home broadband, testing mid-band solutions from Verizon and T-Mobile as well as millimeter-wave options like Honest Networks.
I canceled my Spectrum subscription and even upgraded my apartment to Honest, which offers gigabit upload and download speeds for our building for $50 a month. It was great for months and I would have happily continued using it.
At least until Spectrum came knocking.
Competition breeds offers
Since giving up Spectrum, I’ve received a flyer in the mail offering three months of free TV and internet if I switch back. There were also no contracts or obligations. The company seems to be hoping that once people sign up, they won’t leave anytime soon.
As an avid sports fan, the appeal of traditional cable was certainly enticing for the remainder of the NFL and college football regular seasons, the MLB postseason, and the start of the NBA and NHL campaigns. Getting and managing regional sports networks in New York is a hassle, and the only streaming service that offers them all (DirecTV Stream) is pricey at $90 a month for the Choice package.
While my internet speeds wouldn’t be as fast as the gigabit promised by Honest, Spectrum’s Internet Ultra offers download speeds of “up to 500Mbps,” which is more than enough for my roommates’ work, video chats, streaming, and gaming my roommate is.
Also, even after the three months are up, the internet fee would still be $40 per month, a monthly savings of $10 compared to T-Mobile and Honest.
I can’t say this deal is a direct result of 5G internet options joining the fray and adding competition. Also, I don’t know if Spectrum offers this everywhere or just in some markets like New York City, but it seems like a newer option.
“We have nationally consistent regular pricing and customer-friendly policies like no modem fees, data caps or contracts,” a Spectrum spokesman said in a statement. “We often offer new or upgraded customers promotions to give them the opportunity to try a service or package at a discounted price for a period of time before the regular price goes into effect.”
These offers aren’t always just for new subscribers, either. The old trick of calling your provider and threatening to switch to T-Mobile or Verizon that I discovered while helping a friend with his Optimum bill in New Jersey helped cut his bill by $40 a month, before making any adjustments to his ministry.
The cable companies seem concerned, and perhaps rightly so. The result of Verizon sawamid higher prices, but the carrier added 234,000 consumer “fixed wireless” users.
T Mobileand now has over 2.1 million subscribers.
Comcast, the largest cable operator in the US, seems particularly concerned, and earlier this month began running TV ads targeting T-Mobile’s Home Internet to encourage users to go to its website, where the two Broadband options “compares”. A number of cable companies — including Comcast, Optimum, and Spectrum — also offer home Internet packages.
“I think you’re going to see[cable companies]get more aggressive with promotions and working to add speed to try and counteract the momentum that the telcos are getting,” says Bob O’Donnell, an analyst at Technalysis Research.
“Given how quickly (home internet) subscribers have grown for both T-Mobile and Verizon, consumers clearly understand this and seem eager to move away from the cable companies,” he says.
Higher speeds are coming too
In addition to price and offerings, the rise of 5G home broadband has also coincided with renewed speed pushes from cable companies. Comcast’s main argument over T-Mobile is that it has more gigabit plans available and that its broadband could be up to 36 times faster than T-Mobile’s 5G home internet.
“Fixed wireless over 5G makes it critical for cable companies to upgrade their infrastructure to be able to maintain consistently high speeds, especially for uploads where wireless is struggling today,” said Avi Greengart, analyst at research firm Techsponential.
A host of other carriers, including Optimum, Spectrum, Verizon and AT&T, have added new multigigabit speed tiers and expanded their fiber service deployments, while the Big Three wireless carriers continue to expand and enhance 5G service. This push for faster options should not only open up the prospect of better speeds for those looking for a boost, but better choices for their needs.
“People who continue to work from home or just want the fastest option are going to look at fiber,” says O’Donnell. “Mainstream users now have multiple choices, and people who had limited choices (rural, etc.) can finally get something decent.”