I Ditched My 5G Home Internet To Go Back to Spectrum. Here’s Why

I Ditched My 5G Home Internet To Go Back to Spectrum. Here’s Why

There has been a lot of hype around 5G over the past six years, and to some extent it still exists today. Driverless cars, remote surgery, the metaverse — all buzzwords that have yet to materialize in any real way.

One area where it has noticeably helped change our lives? It finally provides some long-standing competition to cable companies for home broadband. Over the past year, I’ve been investigating whether 5G and technologies like it (known as “fixed wireless”) could replace traditional home broadband, testing midband solutions from Verizon and T-Mobile, as well as millimeter wave options like Honest Networks.

I ditched my Spectrum subscription and even switched my apartment to Honest, which offers gigabit upload and download speeds to our building for $50 a month. It was great for months, and I would have been happy to keep using it.

At least, until Spectrum came knocking.

Competition breeds deals

Screenshot of Spectrum's free three-month deal

Spectrum’s deal of three months free was awfully compelling.

Screenshot by Eli Blumenthal/CNET

Since ditching Spectrum, I got a flyer in the mail offering three months of free TV and internet if I switched back. There were also no contracts or strings attached. The company seems to be hoping that once people sign up, they won’t leave so quickly again.

As an avid sports fan, the appeal of traditional cable was certainly enticing for the rest of the NFL and college football season, 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 expensive at $90 a month for the Choice package.

Although my internet speed wouldn’t be as fast as the gigabit promised by Honest, Spectrum’s Internet Ultra offers download speeds “up to 500Mbps” which is more than enough for all my roommates and I’s work, video chats, streaming and gaming.

Plus, even after the three months are up, the internet charge will be $40 per month, a $10 monthly savings compared to T-Mobile and Honest.

I can’t say that this deal is a direct result of 5G internet options joining the fray and adding competition. Also, I don’t know if Spectrum offers it everywhere or just in some markets like New York City, but it seems to be a newer option.

“We have nationally consistent regular pricing and customer-friendly policies such as no modem fees, data caps or contracts,” a Spectrum spokesperson said in a statement. “We often offer promotions to new or upgrading customers to give them the chance to sample a service or package at a discount, for a specific period, before the regular price comes into effect.”

These deals aren’t always just for new subscribers either. The old trick of calling your provider and threatening to switch to T-Mobile or Verizon, which I noticed when helping a friend with their Optimum account in New Jersey, helped reduce their bill by $40 per month before they adjusted anything on their service.

The cable companies seem concerned, and perhaps rightly so. Verizon’s earnings saw consumers are fleeing its traditional wireless phone business amid higher prices, but the carrier did add 234,000 consumer “fixed wireless” users.

T-Mobile added 578,000 home Internet users in its most recent quarter and now has over 2.1 million subscribers.

Comcast, the largest cable operator in the US, appears to be particularly concerned and earlier this month began running TV ads against T-Mobile’s Home Internet, encouraging users to go to its website where it lists the two broadband options ” compare”. A number of cable companies — including Comcast, Optimum and Spectrum — also offered bundled home internet with their own mobile services.

“I think you’ll see (cable companies) getting more aggressive with promotions and working to increase speeds to try to counter the momentum the telcos are getting,” said Technalysis Research analyst Bob O’Donnell.

“Given how quickly (home Internet) subscribers have grown for both T-Mobile and Verizon, consumers are clearly getting that and seem eager to move away from cable companies,” he says.

Faster speeds are coming too

Loop bundle of fiber optic wires against black background

Getty Images

Beyond the price and deals, the rise of 5G home broadband has also coincided with a renewed push by cable companies for speed. Comcast’s main point against T-Mobile is that it has more gigabit offerings available and that its broadband can be up to 36 times faster than T-Mobile’s 5G home internet.

“Fixed wireless over 5G makes it imperative that cable companies upgrade their infrastructure to consistently claim high speeds, especially on uploads where wireless can struggle today,” said Avi Greengart, an analyst at research firm Techsponential.

A wide variety of other providers, including Optimum, Spectrum, Verizon and AT&T, have added new multigigabit speed tiers and expanded their fiber service rollouts, all while the big three wireless providers continue to build out and improve 5G service. This push for faster options should not only bring the prospect of better speeds to those looking for a boost, but also better choices for their needs.

“People who continue to work from home or who just want the fastest option will look at fiber,” says O’Donnell. “Mainstream consumers now have multiple choices and people who had limited options (rural, etc.) can now finally get something reasonable.”

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