T-Mobile is the last of the four wireless carriers with nationwide coverage to enter the world of mobile broadband. They’re not new to mobile data services but are relatively new players in the 3G, and therefore, broadband arena.
For information about voice services from T-Mobile, take a look at our Cell Phone Providers Services Review.
For purposes of this review, the term Laptop Computer refers to a number of portable computer. For details of these devices, check out our reviews of Laptops, Gaming Laptops and Netbooks.
T-Mobile’s webConnect data plan is priced just like the other nationwide carriers, $59.99 per month. That would be acceptable if it weren’t for the fact that their broadband coverage area is far smaller than that of its competitors. Please refer to the Network Coverage paragraph, below. Also like the other carriers, this mobile broadband service imposes the 5GB data cap and charges outrageous fees for exceeding it. As a reference point, 1024KB = 1MB and 1024MB = 1GB. Here are some examples of what 5GB of data really is in real life usage:
• Single page of email 3KB
• Five pages of text in Word format 70KB
• Accessing a web page with a moderate amount of graphics 150KB
• Transferring a 20 page PowerPoint presentation with text and minimal graphics 500KB
• Downloading a 3 minute long song 2 – 4MB
This service only offers one data card called the webConnect USB Laptop Stick and its cost is $49.99. They apparently have quite a supply chain problem with it because it’s frequently out of stock. There is a $35 fee for activating the service and there is a $200 early termination fee if you cancel your service with more than 180 days left on your contract. It’s reduced to $100 if you have between 91 and 180 days left and further to $50 if you’re within the final 90 contracted days.
Over 5GB Warning
As with the other providers, this mobile broadband service imposes pecuniary fees for data usage beyond the 5GB limit. In their case that charge is $0.20/MB. In realistic terms, that’s $204.80/GB. You got it…$59.99 for the first 5GB and $204.80 for the next 1GB. That’s actually less than either AT&T or Verizon Wireless but its quadruple Sprint’s already overpriced fee.
More and more people are using smartphones as their primary device for Mobile Broadband access. This mobile broadband service offers two data plans for voice customers. Unlimited internet and email with 400 text messages costs $24.99 per month. Unlimited internet and email plus unlimited text messaging runs $34.99. If you’d like to forego voice service and get data only on a smartphone, the monthly charge is $39.99.
Unlike the other big 4 wireless providers, using your smartphone as a tethered modem on T-Mobile is nearly impossible. They don’t provide the software that the others do and though we’ve been able to configure tethering with some difficulty, we’ve found that the process crashes our laptops more than half the time.
This mobile broadband service has over 10,000 Wi-Fi hotspots and their USB Laptop Stick and some smartphones can access their network via Wi-Fi. Home and business wireless networks can also be used. This is good news in that it is a valuable supplement to the company’s limited 3G network footprint.
In those urban areas where T-Mobile’s 3G network is operational, the services speed is competitive with the more mature networks of AT&T, Sprint and Verizon Wireless. Perhaps a bit slower, on average, but realistically we have to compare a range of speeds and there’s a lot of overlap. Unfortunately, their 3G network remains tiny compare to the other national carriers. It currently covers about 30 major markets and the expansion rate is expected to increase. We’ll let you know as developments occur.
We don’t mean to sound like a broken record, but the limited footprint of T-Mobile’s 3G network discussed above under Network Speed is the same issue here with coverage. This mobile broadband service's data coverage, using 2G EDGE and GPRS, is far more extensive but we’re talking mobile broadband so they don’t count.
T-Mobile has consistently scored high marks for reliability typically being bested only by Verizon Wireless.
T-Mobile is a standout in customer service rating by users. The most recent J.D. Power and Associates ratings of Wireless Customer Care Performance, rated T-Mobile number one, a position that they’ve held for quite some time with the exception of the previous rating period in which they were beaten by Verizon Wireless. Consumer Reports’ latest survey data puts T-Mobile behind VZW in a number of markets but pretty consistently ahead of AT&T and Sprint. The assistance that we received from them in test calls actually placed them behind AT&T as well but we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt based on the massive size of the surveys by J.D. Power and Consumer Reports.
T-Mobile is just beginning to play in the mobile broadband arena. They still have a lot of network infrastructure catching up to do but the fundamentals are in place to compete on a higher level once that’s accomplished.
T-Mobile has high marks for their data reliability.
T-Mobile's network speeds are a bit slower than average.
T-Mobile is not as experienced in the mobile broadband field as other services.