LTE or data service as replacement for DSL/cable?
November 18, 2020 12:59 PM   Subscribe

Are the services selling data plans via cellular a practical replacement for cable or DSL?

I'm at my yearly contract renewal with Comcast, and once again they've sneaked in a price increase. Every year I threaten to quit, look at CenturyLink DSL, call several times, then the Comcast loyalty rep throws me a bone and I re-up for another year at a reduced rate.

Are data plans via LTE/cellular a real option for home use? I've seen a reference to Cradlepoint which looks to me like a business class service out of my price range. I know there are consumer data plan boxes that purport to give you IP service from a small device. A co-worker tried one at his home but it didn't work out for him.

I'm more technical than the average person, but not particularly experimental in the long run. I am getting real fed up with the monopoly dance with Comcast/CTL so willing to try a flyer if it's practical to do so.
posted by diode to Technology (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

The "unlimited" consumer lte plans only support limited amounts of hotspot use, 0-30gb or thereabouts, depending on your plan.

That pretty much means no streaming, no game downloading, etc.

Dsl is generally going to be a lot slower as well.
posted by TheAdamist at 1:14 PM on November 18 [3 favorites]

Supposedly you can get T-Mobile home internet but it depends on them being able to reclaim Sprint LTE spectrum in your area and thus availability is very limited. The 5G mmWave will almost certainly open up a lot of these types of ISPs.
posted by wnissen at 1:27 PM on November 18

I would hate to download system updates and software updates over a metered line. "Unlimited" plans are not unlimited.
posted by adamrice at 1:51 PM on November 18

I did this for ~2 years, using a mobile wi-fi hotspot as my internet. The Calyx Institute was what I used. It was truly unlimited (and I certainly put that to the test) and I was able to use it just fine for streaming, game downloading, etc etc. Although obviously as it's LTE-based it would depend on your location and how strong your signal is. The only reason I switched services to wired was because I wanted the option of internet over ethernet instead of only wifi.
posted by ToddBurson at 3:00 PM on November 18

I just spent a unhelpful 20 minutes talking to someone trying to sell me CTL DSL for more than Comcast at half the bandwidth. That didn't get very far. Maybe I'll get on the phone with the Comcast retention people again and rattle their chain. Saved me $300 last year.
posted by diode at 3:55 PM on November 18

It depends what country you're in massive and even more massively what you use your internet connection for.
posted by turkeyphant at 5:53 PM on November 18

I've used my Calyx Institute hotspot for the past 4 years and I've been really happy with it. There has been no throttling and the bandwidth has been acceptable. I did need to upgrade to one of their newer hotspots recently because I moved into an area of town with poor connectivity.
posted by eigenman at 3:58 AM on November 19

A link to the Calyx Institute offering (which I'd never heard of before). It uses the Sprint network and is $500 for the first year and $400 thereafter, or $100 more for a faster hotspot (you have to use their equipment).
posted by trig at 5:00 AM on November 19

We live full-time in an RV. We have 2 hotspots...AT&T & Verizon, both with true unlimited plans...sort of. They will both be "managed" if the tower we are connected to gets too busy. This has happened a couple of times, mostly in urban areas, and we just live with it. (Caveat: we are retired and don't need high speed for work). If your plan is "throttled" it WILL slow down after your cap, if it's "managed" it MIGHT slow down.

The key is getting the right plan. They can be hard to find and you need to move quickly. I strongly suggested you go to and let Chris/Cheri help you. That's how I ended up with my plans. Patience is key.

FYI: we stream on the order of 150GB/month. Every month.

Fun fact: we read before we hit the road that AT&T is best in the East, Verizon in the West. We have found it to be the other way around.
posted by jeporter99 at 7:55 AM on November 19 [1 favorite]

It really does depend on where you are. But here in California, in the US, not really. First the pricing is prohibitive; it's very hard to find a cellular data contract with reasonable pricing for, say, 100 GB / month. On top of that the US service is terrible. The latency through my local cell tower is 200ms to get anywhere on the Internet; compare to 10-30ms for a good wired ISP. Sometimes it shoots up to 500ms. And the jitter is just awful, that 200ms is an average for 100-300ms. Lots of packet loss too.

It will work for streaming video and sort of OK for loading web pages. But it'll suck for Zoom calls and be unusable for gaming.
posted by Nelson at 5:41 PM on November 19

Okay, that's pretty much sums it up. Duke it out with Comcast to save $20 a month or just put up with it.
posted by diode at 11:14 AM on November 20

I just learned today that AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile (and maybe Sprint?) all offer a "fixed" "home" wireless internet, that is primarily intended for people in rural areas and other places where wired internet is less available. So probably not applicable to your area, but who knows? You can check availability through their websites. The interesting thing is that the terms are apparently much more similar to regular wired service than to the capped/throttled cellular service they sell for devices and hotspots.
posted by trig at 3:50 PM on November 23

Just a followup, it took a couple weeks but T-Mobile Home Internet got back to me yesterday. (This is not the same as using hotspot data on a T-Mobile phone, though it uses the same network.) The offer is $50/mo for 50 Mbps (some places have 150 Mbs available), no contract, no up front fees, no wireless gateway rental fee, no data cap, and no throttling outside of network management at the tower level. It honestly sounds too good to be true, but I'm signed up. Will report back once I get it hooked up and have a chance to put it through its paces.
posted by wnissen at 10:22 AM on November 30

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