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Saturday, May 14, 2022

T-Mobile Home Internet: Can a Mobile Company Meet Your Home's Broadband Needs?

T-Mobile Home Internet: Can a Mobile Company Meet Your Home's Broadband Needs?

Looking to ditch your current internet service provider? Find out more about this 5G fixed wireless alternative.

Things moved fast in 2021 for T-Mobile's 5G home internet service. It started rolling out as a pilot program early last year and one of my (now former) CNET colleagues, Rick Broida, was one of the first to give it a test run. By April of 2021, T-Mobile announced it had expanded its home broadband service nationwide. Now, a short year later, it's announcing it has expanded its availability out to 40 million households.

We've been aware of T-Mobile's desire to use 5G to break into the home internet game for quite some time. But now that the company's home broadband offering is getting established, what does that mean for you? Does 5G home internetoffer something new? Is T-Mobile Home Internet a viable option to replace your current internet service provider

First of all, the price is right: T-Mobile charges $50 a month. On top of that, you don't have to worry about long-term contracts or data caps. Pretty sweet, right?

Definitely, but it's still early days: although T-Mobile Home Internet is currently available to approximately 40 million homes across the US, many locations and addresses still can't get it yet. Plus, while 5G is the marquee player on this bill, T-Mobile relies on 4G LTE to help expand its home internet service area. So, of the 5G home internet providers currently out there, T-Mobile will offer the slowest speeds on average. But let's dig into the details.

image-from-ios

T-Mobile's Wi-Fi Gateway modem-router.

T-Mobile

Where can you get T-Mobile Home Internet?

Whenever we start talking about any ISP, it's always good to begin by answering the fundamental question: Can I get this service? T-Mobile Home Internet is currently available to over 40 million households in over 40 different states. That makes it the most widely available 5G home internet service. By comparison, Verizon's 5G Home Internet service has rolled out in approximately 900 marketsbut is available to just shy of 30 million homes at present. In the meantime, T-Mobile is open to signups in over 600 cities, but more households, many within rural areas. To explore a complete list of the available cities and towns, refer to this T-Mobile Home Internet PDF

When will T-Mobile Home Internet get to my area?

As I mentioned, T-Mobile is the most widely available 5G home internet service, covering 40 million households. But when you consider that US Census dataputs the total number of households in the country at over 120 million, there's still about 67% of households ineligible for T-Mobile Home Internet. 

A T-Mobile spokesperson didn't have specific details on expansion plans but highlighted that more than 10 million households in the current footprint are within rural America. Additionally, there's a focus on expanding access for small towns and communities. For those outside the current availability window, T-Mobile's site mentions that expansion could take six months or more and allows interested parties to put their name on the list for down the road.

What plans and pricing does T-Mobile Home Internet offer?

Simplicity is one of the biggest things that jumped out at me when I began to explore T-Mobile Home Internet. There isn't an array of tiers and options from which to choose. There's one plan and one plan only. Here's the overview:

T-Mobile Home Internet plans and pricing

PlanMax speedsMonthly priceEquipment feeData capContract
T-Mobile Home Internet35-115Mbps download, 6-23Mbps upload$50 NoneNoneNone 

One size fits all

There aren't many qualifiers when discussing T-Mobile Home Internet plans. It's one plan, one price and no additional fees. The premise of 5G home internet is that, unlike typical internet connection types -- including coaxial cable lines, fiber-optic internet and digital subscriber line -- you're not reliant on underground constructions and deployments to get you connected. Instead, it's a fixed wireless service where you get a router that connects to a cellular signal.

T-Mobile provides its Wi-Fi Gateway device, a combination modem and Wi-Fi 6 router compatible with T-Mobile's 4G LTE and 5G networks. As you can see from the chart, the only variable is the average download and upload speed you'll experience. T-Mobile says that all eligible households will see average download speeds of 35 megabits per second at the bare minimum. Depending on your location and the placement of the T-Mobile Gateway, you might see download speeds as high as 115Mbps or more.

Currently, T-Mobile utilizes more of its 4G LTE network to expand its availability, so don't expect full 5G capabilities.

T-Mobile

T-Mobile Home Internet speeds: Isn't 5G supposed to be faster?

The hope and promise of 5G and its capabilities have not yet been fully realized. My colleague Eli Blumenthal has wonderfully detailed the basics of 5G and how not all "5G" is the same. In summary: Faster 5G speeds come with shorter ranges. The farther the distance, the less speed on the top end.

For T-Mobile to hit the road running with availability to over 30 million households, it needed to lean on its 4G LTE network and its growing 5G network. That's why my CNET colleagues averaged just over 40Mbps download speeds with T-Mobile Home Internet, and some households may get up to just over 100Mbps. Anecdotally, we've heard of some users seeing download speeds as high as 300Mbps. Still, T-Mobile's FAQ section promises that "customers will see average download speeds in excess of 100Mbps." So, that may be plenty of speed for many, but don't expect the higher download speeds you might get with fiber internet or some cable plans. At least not yet.

On the plus side, T-Mobile Home Internet offers no hidden fees

One of the significant wins for T-Mobile Home Internet is its straightforwardness. There's no pesky small print. ISPs are notorious for their hidden fees and trap pricing that tries to lure you in with enticing promo prices but then sticks you with a larger bill after those terms expire. That's not the case here.

T-Mobile Home Internet features no data caps, so you don't have to fear data overage fees. There's no equipment fee for the Gateway device, so you don't have to figure out an additional monthly cost to tack on to your regular bill. It also requires no annual service contracts, so you don't have any early termination fees looming over your head. These are all appealing aspects of this service and make it very enticing to give T-Mobile Home Internet a try if it's available in your area.

Does T-Mobile offer any deals or promotions for 5G home internet?

In addition to the above consumer-friendly approaches, T-Mobile is also trying to sweeten the pot for potential customers. Currently, T-Mobile is offering new customers a yearlong Paramount Plus subscription for free -- that's a $60 value. It's also giving new customers a chance to subscribe to YouTube TV for $55 a month, which is a $10 discount off the regular price.

How does T-Mobile Home Internet fare against competitors?

As I said, T-Mobile is ahead of its 5G home internet competitors -- Verizon and Starry -- in terms of availability. Starry is currently available in six major metropolitan areas and plans to expand to nearly 30 million households by the end of 2022 by targeting the cities of Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, Indianapolis, Memphis, Miami, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland, San Francisco and Seattle. Verizon is available in more cities than T-Mobile -- currently 900 -- but still behind T-Mobile's total households covered.

However, Starry and Verizon have the upper hand on average download speeds. Starry customers will typically see consistent download speeds of 200Mbps and Verizon's 5G Home Internet plans average around 300Mbps. What Starry and Verizon have given up in terms of widespread availability, they currently make up for in the average speeds they deliver.

All three 5G home internet providers share freedom from all the hidden fees and pricing games that many cable and fiber ISPs play. With 5G, the monthly rate is the monthly rate. There are no added fees, equipment rental charges, data caps or binding annual contracts.

So, how good is T-Mobile Home Internet, really?

When it comes to 5G, we're much closer to the beginning than the end of where everything will shake out. If it's speed you're after, T-Mobile's 5G home internet service might not impress you if you have other cable and fiber internet providers available at your address. But if you're in a rural area or less developed area where DSL or satellite was your only previous option, T-Mobile will feel lightning fast by comparison.

Overall, T-Mobile has positioned itself as a viable option in the home internet space and made it an intriguing player to watch as it expands its 5G infrastructure. If nothing else, since it demands no contract commitment, it's an opportunity to try a different option and maybe even use it as leverage to negotiate with your current internet service provider. Hopefully, the more options we have as consumers, the better our internet service will be in the long run.

T-Mobile Home Internet FAQs

Are there data caps with T-Mobile Home Internet?

No. T-Mobile Home Internet features unlimited data. Customers will not have any potential data overage fees or charges hanging over their heads. That said, T-Mobile Home Internet customers could find their service slowed in cases where the company prioritizes its mobile users over its fixed wireless customers.

Does T-Mobile Home Internet come with a router?

Yes. One of the appealing aspects of T-Mobile Home Internet is that its monthly fee -- $50 a month if you use AutoPay -- includes a 5G Gateway (a modem/router combo device). The T-Mobile equipment lease is included in the one fee, and all that's required is that you return the device when you end service with T-Mobile.

Is T-Mobile Home Internet faster than satellite internet?

For the most part, yes, but not unequivocally. As T-Mobile says in its Open Internet policy, "many factors affect the speed and performance that customers experience, including… proximity to a cell site, weather and the surrounding terrain," so your download speeds, which average between 35-115Mbps, are not guaranteed. But customers should see download speeds higher than those typically achieved by HughesNet (average of 25Mbps) and Viasat (12-100Mbps). Starlink's base plan boasts a higher range (50-250Mbps) but is not as widely available as T-Mobile Home Internet. It's also much more expensive -- $99 a month, plus a one-time equipment fee of $599.“

Thursday, May 12, 2022

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The Milky Way’s Black Hole Comes to Light - The New York Times

The Milky Way’s Black Hole Comes to Light

"The Event Horizon Telescope has once again caught sight of the “unseeable.”

The first direct image of Sagittarius A*, the black hole at the center of the Milky Way.
Event Horizon Collaboration/National Science Foundation

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Astronomers announced on Thursday that they had pierced the veil of darkness and dust at the center of our Milky Way galaxy to capture the first picture of “the gentle giant” dwelling there: a supermassive black hole, a trapdoor in space-time through which the equivalent of four million suns have been dispatched to eternity, leaving behind only their gravity and violently bent space-time.

The image, released in six simultaneous news conferences in Washington, and around the globe, showed a lumpy doughnut of radio emission framing empty space. Oohs and aahs broke out at the National Press Club in Washington when Feryal Ozel of the University of Arizona displayed what she called “the first direct image of the gentle giant in the center of our galaxy.” She added: “It seems that black holes like doughnuts.”

Dr. Ozel is part of the Event Horizon Telescope project, a collaboration of more than 300 scientists from 13 institutions that operates an ever-growing global network of telescopes to compose one large telescope as big as Earth.

The team’s results are being published today in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

The new image joins the first ever picture of a black hole, in the galaxy Messier 87, or M87, which the same team of researchers produced in 2019. “We have seen what we thought was ‘unseeable,’” Sheperd Doeleman, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said at the time.

The similarity in the pictures demonstrated that the 2019 image was not a coincidence, Dr. Ozel said.

Moreover, the features of the radio doughnut matched perfectly with predictions derived from the motions of stars and gas clouds around the galactic center. “This is an extraordinary verification of Einstein’s general theory of relativity,” said Michael Johnson, a team member and also of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center.

Einstein’s bad dream

Andrea Ghez of the University of California, Los Angeles.
Alex Welsh for The New York Times
Reinhard Genzel of the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics.
Ksenia Kuleshova for The New York Times

Black holes were an unwelcome consequence of Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity, which attributed gravity to the warping of space and time by matter and energy, much as how a mattress sags under a sleeper.

Einstein’s insight led to a new conception of the cosmos, in which space-time could quiver, bend, rip, expand, swirl and even disappear forever into the maw of a black hole, an entity with gravity so strong that not even light could escape it.

Einstein disapproved of this idea, but the universe is now known to be speckled with black holes. Many are the remains of dead stars that collapsed inward on themselves and just kept going.

But there seems to be a black hole at the center of nearly every galaxy, ours included, that can be millions or billions of times as massive as our sun. Astronomers still do not understand how these supermassive black holes have grown so big.

Paradoxically, despite their ability to swallow light, black holes are the most luminous objects in the universe. Materials — gas, dust, shredded stars — that fall into a black hole are heated to millions of degrees in a dense maelstrom of electromagnetic fields. Most of that matter falls into the black hole, but some is squirted out by enormous pressures and magnetic fields.

The Event Horizon Telescope team scored its first triumph in April 2019, when it presented a picture of the M87 black hole.
EHT Collaboration

Such fireworks, which can outshine galaxies by a thousandfold, can be seen across the universe; when first observed in the early 1960s, they were called quasars. Their discovery led physicists and astronomers to take seriously the notion that black holes existed.

What gave rise to such behemoths of nothingness is a mystery. Dense wrinkles in the primordial energies of the Big Bang? Monster runaway stars that collapsed and consumed their surroundings in the dawning years of the universe?

The center of the Milky Way coincides with a faint source of radio noise called Sagittarius A* (pronounced Sagittarius A-star). Astronomers including Andrea Ghez of the University of California, Los Angeles and Reinhard Genzel of the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics had calculated that whatever was there had the mass of 4.14 million suns. They reached that estimate by tracking the orbits of stars and gas clouds swirling about the center of the Milky Way and measuring their velocities at one-third the speed of light. For their achievement, Dr. Genzel and Dr. Ghez won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2020.

If it was not a black hole, neither Einstein nor anyone else knew what it could be.

Chasing a shadow

Proving that it was a black hole was another job entirely.

According to research that goes back to a 1967 paper by the physicist James Bardeen, the Sagittarius black hole, if it were there, would appear as a ghostly dark circle amid a haze of radio waves. At 50 million miles across, this hollow shadow would appear about as big from Earth as an orange on the moon.

Astronomers have been trying to sharpen the acuity of their telescopes to resolve the shadow of that orange. But ionized electrons and protons in interstellar space scatter the radio waves into a blur that obscures details of the source. “It’s like looking through shower glass,” Dr. Doeleman said recently.

To see deeper into the black hole shadow, researchers needed to be able to tune their radio telescopes to shorter wavelengths that could penetrate the haze. And they needed a bigger telescope.

In 2009, Dr. Doeleman and his colleagues formed the Event Horizon Telescope. Today, the collaborative project employs 11 different radio telescopes around the world.

The telescope is named after the point of no return around a black hole. The team scored its first triumph in April 2019, when it presented a picture of the M87 black hole. In 2021, team members refined their data to reveal magnetic fields swirling around the black hole like a finely grooved rifle barrel pumping matter and energy into the void.

The data for Sagittarius A* were recorded during the same observing run in 2017 that produced the M87 image, but with more antennas — eight instead of seven — because the team was able to include a South Pole telescope that could not see M87.

Sagittarius A*, the black hole in the Milky Way galaxy, was a harder target. It is less than one-thousandth the mass and size of the M87 hole and, therefore, evolves a thousand times faster. The M87 black hole barely budges during a weeklong observing run, but Sagittarius A* changes its appearance as often as every five minutes, “burbling and gurgling” in the words of Dr. Ozel.

Dr. Doeleman said, “The key thing is that, for M87, after a week of observing, it’s hardly budged.” He likened it to “the Buddha, just sitting there.”

By comparison, he said, the Sagittarius black hole was “whirling.” An orbit around it can take as little as four minutes or as long as a half-hour, depending on how it is spinning. “So over a night of observing. it’s changing while you’re collecting data,” he said. “You’re trying to trying to take a picture of something with the lens cap off and you just get this blurry mess.”

Dr. Doeleman’s new goal is to expand the network to include more antennas and gain enough coverage to produce a movie of the Sagittarius black hole. The challenge for black-hole cinema will be to separate what stays the same from what changes — to delineate the underlying structure of the black hole from the matter that is moving around in it.

The results could be spectacular and informative, said Janna Levin, a gravitational theorist at Barnard College of Columbia University, who was not part of the project. “I’m not bored with pictures of black holes yet,” she said."

The Milky Way’s Black Hole Comes to Light - The New York Times