PROS / In terms of bang for your buck, there's no cheaper wireless internet solution in America.
CONS / Your best bet is sticking to metropolitan areas; T-Mobile's rural coverage is abysmal, when it's available at all.
VERDICT / If you only need mobile broadband service in major cities, T-Mobile is hands-down the most cost-effective provider in the country. Just be wary of rural areas.
T-Mobile has worked hard over the past several years to improve its image and grow its network, branding itself the "Un-Carrier" and dropping prices precipitously. The result is a dramatic swing in the quality of its cellular offerings, an influx of great exclusive smartphones and some of the fastest measured download speeds in the country. Things go awry the further you travel from urban hubs. Strong though T-Mobile may be in big cities, America's rural regions are drastically underserved by the magenta carrier.
We all want the same thing from our mobile broadband: a fast, reliable, affordable connection. T-Mobile's cellular service – and, consequently, its mobile internet service – is very fast and very affordable, but it's not as reliable as Verizon's, AT&T's or Sprint's networks. In its most recent semiannual report, independent analytics firm RootMetrics determined that in terms of pure speed, no other carrier has faster connections than T-Mobile. Because those great speeds are concentrated in a comparatively few and mostly highly populated areas, T-Mobile's average speeds are below both Verizon and AT&T.
T-Mobile exemplifies cheap wireless internet. The company doesn't charge line access fees on its data-only plans, so you are only responsible for the cost of each month's data. Even without the line access fee – usually $20 at other carriers – T-Mobile is still surprisingly generous. 1GB of data costs $20, with every additional 2GB costing just $10 more. As a result, you can get a 9GB plan for $60 a month. As an added bonus, T-Mobile's Data Stash program lets you rollover unused data from month to month.
This all adds up to a simple truth: If you live under T-Mobile's umbrella, you can take advantage of the cheapest and fastest mobile internet plans in the country. Bear in mind, most people buy mobile hotspots because they need reliable connectivity on the go. If you travel through regions T-Mobile doesn't cover, your hotspot becomes useless.
T-Mobile may not be the best wireless internet provider out there, but it's a solid contender. The company's coverage lacks the ubiquity of larger carriers, but with bleeding-edge speeds, rock-bottom prices and friendly service, it's easy to forgive that failing. So long as T-Mobile's coverage suits your needs, it will easily fit into your budget and won't disappoint the next time you're streaming an HD movie.