Is T-Mobile Home Internet Good for Gaming – What to Know

T-Mobile launched its 5G home internet service in April of 2021. T-Mobile aims to provide high speed residential internet service that is available in many areas of the United States and with speeds of up to 200 Mbps. Right now location availability is somewhat limited. They only offer the service where they know they have the cell tower capacity to handle the added demands. T-Mobile 5G home internet is aiming to compete with not only other 5G services but with established players such as Comcast, Spectrum, and AT&T. Presently T-Mobile has no data caps on their 5G home internet service which makes it especially attractive to cord cutters, streamers, and gamers. 5G technology is promising a next generation experience with speeds that are competitive with cable and fiber internet services. T-Mobile 5G home internet is also available in some regions that lack access to traditional broadband internet connections. Currently T-Mobile and Verizon are the leaders in the 5G home internet market. 5G offers a lot of potential for faster speeds and lower latencies. This makes it and interesting option for online gamers. At the present moment, is T-Mobile home internet good for gaming.   

Unfortunately, at this time the answer is no. T-Mobile home internet does not offer a stable enough connection to be recommended for gaming. Ping spikes are all over the place ranging from 40ms up to 400ms and everywhere in between. This is not good for online gaming.

This is not unexpected. If you have ever tried to game using a mobile hotspot you would know that latency has always been an issue with cellular based internet connections. 5G aims to be the solution, but at the present moment, T-Mobile 5G home internet is not stable enough for optimal gaming performance.

Make no mistake, you can game using cellular internet. It just likely won’t be a great experience for you or anyone else playing with you. If you want to test it for yourself, try enabling the mobile hotspot feature on your phone and connecting to it.

How to Connect Xbox to Mobile Hotspot

How to Connect PS5 to Mobile Hotspot

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T-Mobile 5G Home Internet

Gaming Performance

This is the big question. Just how bad is gaming performance with T-Mobile 5G home internet? As it stands right now, performance is all over the place. Some of the time, especially in the middle of the night, performance is decent. The real issue is what performance looks like during peak hours. It is almost unusable for gaming from 4 PM until after 10 PM. Unlike with Starlink your connection won’t completely drop out for minutes at a time, but performance will still suffer greatly during peak hours.

Another potential downside of using T-Mobile 5G Home Internet for gaming is the use of CGNAT. Like most cell phone carriers, T-Mobile uses CGNAT to assign IP addresses to subscribers. This is generally okay for web browsing and watching Netflix. For gaming CGNAT is not preferable.

The issue is for people that are looking to get an “Open NAT Type” on a PlayStation or Xbox console. With CGNAT it is not possible to get an Open NAT Type without using a VPN service. In most cases CGNAT will result in an automatic “Strict NAT Type”. This just something to be aware of.

If you wish to get an Open NAT Type using T-Mobile 5G home internet, your best option is using a quality VPN provider. The VPN provider that in my experience works best for gaming is ExpressVPN. They offer servers in North America for optimal performance and also offer servers globally which can be used to access geo-restricted content. ExpressVPN also offers a 30 risk free money back guarantee. If you are not satisfied you do not pay.

Try ExpressVPN Risk Free for 30 Days.

VPN for Fortnite

Another VPN option that works well at bypassing CGNAT and is less expensive is Surfshark VPN. Much like ExpressVPN they also offer a 30 day money back guarantee. If you do not like the service, you do not pay anything at all. Another benefit to Surfshark VPN is that they offer servers globally which can be used to access geo-restricted content. If you wish to access for example region specific streaming services Surfshark VPN is a great option.

Try Surfshark VPN Risk Free for 30 Days

VPN Double NAT

Learn More About T-Mobile CGNAT

Download Speeds

T-Mobile home internet is currently providing between 35 Mbps and 200 Mbps of download speed. This is significantly higher than most DSL plans, and legacy satellite internet providers such as HughesNet and Viasat which typically top out at about 20 Mbps. Starlink offers faster downloads than T-Mobile home internet in most situations.

 Real world speed tests have shown download speeds of about 85 Mbps being typical. This depends greatly on the time of day and the number of users connected to the local cell tower. Speeds in the middle of the night often reached up to 150 Mbps. This is similar to what you can expect out of a lower tier cable or fiber-based internet connection.

During peak hours speeds of 20 – 45 Mbps were typical. This is slightly better than an average DSL connection but not competitive whatsoever with Comcast, Spectrum, or other cable-based providers. Fortunately for gamers, most online gaming platforms including Xbox Live and PlayStation Network require a minimum of about 3 Mbps of download speed, and recommend a minimum of 8 Mbps for optimal performance. This means that the download speeds offered by T-Mobile home internet far exceed these requirements and will pose no difficulty whatsoever. Higher download speeds also make for much faster game downloads

Speed Test Xbox

Upload Speed

Upload speeds with T-Mobile home internet are usually in the 5 Mbps – 20 Mbps range. This is comparable to many lower tier cable-based internet connections, but much lower than typical for a fiber based connection. It is also 10 – 20 times as fast as DSL for uploads. The upload bandwidth requirement for smooth online gaming is only about 1 Mbps. This means that T-Mobile 5G home internet provides more than enough upload bandwidth for online gameplay on all major gaming platforms.

T-Mobile home internet upload bandwidth is also sufficient for video conferencing applications and for game streaming to platforms such as Twitch at lower resolutions.

Latency (Ping)

Latency is the most important factor in determining online gaming performance. Anyone who plays online multiplayer games certainly knows all too well what happens when your latency (ping) suddenly spikes.

Unfortunately latency is where T-Mobile home internet falls flat for gaming. Over the course of a minute pings would range all the way from 40 ms all the way up to 400+ ms. This makes it completely unsuitable for gaming. During the off peak overnight hours performance was better but still far from great. Off peak latencies would be in the 45 – 100 ms range but occasionally spiking higher. From 4 PM to 10 PM every day latency would be in the 150+ ms range with spike to 400+ ms. For this reason T-Mobile home internet is not suitable for gaming.

A typical cable or fiber-based internet connection will offer latencies of 20 ms or less. Even a slower DSL connection offers latencies in the 40 ms range. Starlink is also much better suited for gaming with latencies in the 40 – 50 ms range.

Stability

Stability is often an overlooked factor when it comes to gaming performance. Packet loss and dropped packets will severely impact your online gaming experience. Reliability and consistency is also important This is another area that T-Mobile home internet really struggles. For most web browsing activities this is not that much of an issue. For real-time online gameplay packet loss and jitter is much more problematic. Packet loss is also an issue for video conferencing and VoIP.

Overall Verdict

T-Mobile home internet is a decent option for people who do not have access to cable or fiber-based internet. Gaming is not really recommended with any cellular internet connection, this is to be expected. T-Mobile home internet is really nothing more than a mobile hotspot designed to not be mobile.

Starlink may be a better option for gaming, but also has its own share of issues. If you are currently using a service such as HughesNet or Viasat you will defiantly want to consider switching to either Starlink or T-Mobile 5G home internet.

If you currently have DSL you may want to consider switching to T-Mobile home internet as long as you are not too worried about gaming performance and don’t mind a CGNAT connection. If you care about gaming, you may want to check out Starlink.

If you currently have cable or fiber-based internet, I would not recommend switching to T-Mobile home internet at this time. Currently, T-Mobile home internet offers no real compelling reason to make the switch. T-Mobile home internet is slower, has much higher latency, and is similarly priced to other legacy service providers such as Comcast, Spectrum, or AT&T fiber. As much as you might like to dump your current ISP, now is probably not the time to make the switch. Remember this is just the beginning for 5G home internet. The service will likely improve in the coming years.