Interpret: 5G home internet gaining momentum, but still niche

While Comcast’s Xfinity and Charter’s Spectrum service have accounted for the lion’s share of home internet access across the US for years, there’s a growing push from wireless firms like T-Mobile and Verizon to persuade consumers that their 5G, satellite-based home internet offerings are a viable substitute for cable-based counterparts. Some have labeled the recent consumer migration from cable internet to 5G home internet as “cord cutting 2.0.”

T-Mobile, in particular, has been aggressively marketing its home internet, including leveraging last year’s Super Bowl for some prime exposure. The company added over 500,000 subscribers in the first quarter of 2023, and year-to-date, T-Mobile has now added over 1 million 5G home internet customers.  Verizon has been slightly behind, adding 384,000 5G wireless home internet customers in its most recent quarter. The company also said that it would be raising the price of its 5G home internet by $10 per month for new customers to bolster revenues. AT&T, meanwhile, still offers its own fiber internet service and has not yet entered the 5G home internet market.

The impact of 5G home internet has been palpable for Comcast and Charter. Comcast lost 19,000 broadband customers in the 2nd quarter, while Spectrum’s growth slowed as the company added just 77,000 broadband customers in the 2nd quarter – something executives directly attributed to the rise of 5G competition.

For consumers, 5G home internet is being positioned as a more affordable alternative to internet from cable or fiber companies (or an option in rural areas where slower DSL or satellite may have been the only offerings). However, while ultrawideband 5G technology can theoretically provide customers with speeds near 1 gigabit per second, the reality is that these services still average around 300 megabits per second or less, in part because they also utilize 4G LTE networks for wider availability – which means that consumers who want or need a lot of bandwidth may be better off with cable or fiber-based solutions for now.

In the end, more competition is always a win for consumers. Verizon claims that its 5G home internet can reach around 40 million homes nationwide, while T-Mobile says its offering can reach 50 million homes. The 5G home internet market is nascent, but as it continues to build momentum, cable and fiber companies will feel the strain and likely look to retain or win back customers with better pricing, performance, or both. For now, Interpret’s New Media Measure® shows that both Verizon and T-Mobile 5G home internet services have seen growth over the past several quarters, but their overall slice of the home internet pie remains small, as T-Mobile sits at shy of 5% while Verizon is below 2% (although the company also complements its internet business with its own fiber plan, Fios).