T-Mobile tries to fill rural connectivity gap with 5G home broadband internet

Users of T-Mobile’s home broadband service will start to experience 5G speeds later this month, the company announced during an analyst event, an update marking a significant step forward in the company’s attempt to sway customers away from more established home broadband providers. By moving forward with 5G home broadband, T-Mobile makes some inroads into its pledge to cover more than half of US households with 5G internet within six years—a key selling point during its merger with Sprint completed last year.

T-Mobile’s 5G home internet builds off a years-long pilot program testing interest and network capacity. The company launched a limited home broadband service two years ago offering customers connectivity via its LTE network. That program ultimately expanded to include 100,000 users across the US. Aside from gathering a pulse of consumer interest, the pilot also tested T-Mobile’s network capacity abilities. According to the company, 20% of the pilot customers used a sizable 500 GB or more of data per month yet T-Mobile still didn’t need to place data caps.

With the new 5G push, T-Mobile plans to sign up 400,000 more customers by the end of the year and ambitiously hopes to reel in 7–8 million customers by 2025.

T-Mobile isn’t alone in its attempt to solve the rural internet availability problem and disrupt traditional broadband providers. Verizon launched its own commercial 5G broadband internet service in 2018. Separately, Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite internet service—which also targets rural users—has already signed up more than 10,000 subscribers, a figure poised to increase as the company launches more satellites into orbit.

As 5G networks expand, T-Mobile and other telecoms possess a unique ability to fill connectivity gaps left by traditional broadband providers in rural areas. A 2020 report by research group Broadband Now found that 42 million US residents lack the ability to purchase broadband internet. With that figure in mind, it makes sense why the company’s 5G home internet option would come to “rural, small-town and suburban" areas first, according to T-Mobile EVP of emerging products Dow Draper. By prioritizing underserved rural areas, T-Mobile can make steady inroads into home broadband while continuing to strengthen its 5G network.