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It's no secret that many of us are tired of being tied to internet service providers with cumbersome contracts, low speeds, restrictive terms and rising fees. All too often, though, we have few options and fewer alternatives

Could 5G be the answer? The technology powering the newest phones also wants to tackle our home broadband needs. The earliest 5G home internet plans, available from names like Starry, T-Mobile and Verizon, offer respectable speeds at a straightforward price -- but availability is limited to select cities and regions. Let's dig in and see how it works, how fast it gets, what it costs and where it's available.

What is 5G home internet? 

Simply put, 5G stands for fifth generation. Fifth generation of what, you ask? The fifth generation of wireless data networks. You're probably most familiar with hearing 5G used to describe better mobile communications and speedier phones. You're not wrong: 5G networks, which use different radio frequencies than previous generations, aim to provide faster data speeds with much less lag or delay than we had with 4G.

My CNET colleague Eli Blumenthal breaks down the basics of 5G here. Millimeter-wave technology uses much higher frequencies than previous generations and subsequently provides much faster speeds and connections. But those higher, gigabit speeds come with a price -- the data doesn't travel the same distance as 4G and has more trouble with obstructions. To combat that, midband technology, which offers speeds averaging between 300 and 400 megabits per second, increases the coverage area provided by millimeter-wave. Finally, low-band 5G offers a range similar to 4G, but with a speed that tops out between 100 and 200Mbps.

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Is 5GHz the same thing as 5G home internet?

Nope. One common mistake is to see the "5GHz" setting on your Wi-Fi router and assume you have access to 5G. Wi-Fi routers also use short-range radio frequencies -- typically either 2.4GHz or 5GHz -- to transmit your internet signal to connected devices within your home. So 5GHz is one of the band options for your home's Wi-Fi system, but it's not the same as 5G, a cellular technology that uses higher-frequency waves.

Coaxial cable with connectorCoaxial cable with connector
Cable, fiber and DSL home internet plans require wires that connect your home to the provider's grid. With a fixed wireless service like 5G, your home connects to the provider's network over the air.
Taylor Martin/CNET

How is 5G home internet different from fiber or cable internet?

Most ISPs deliver home internet service via phone lines or cables that connect your home to a more extensive network. That includes common internet connection types, like digital subscriber line, coaxial cable and fiber-optic internet. Those are all wired connections from your provider to your home.

5G home internet, dayinside on the other hand, is a type of fixed wireless internet service, which means that the connection between your provider and your home is not a wired one. With 5G, your provider will need to install an indoor or outdoor 5G receiver at your house to pick up the signal. It's similar to satellite internet, but instead of beaming in a signal from satellites orbiting in the night sky, it's relaying information from a much closer wireless hub. Even though you're using the same 5G network as your mobile phone, the gateway is specific to your location and cannot be used elsewhere.

Which ISPs can provide 5G home internet?

As stated already, 5G is still being deployed across the country. Due to that, the number of providers currently offering any 5G home internet plan is relatively limited. For example, AT&T provides a 5G mobile service, but its fixed wireless solution does not currently utilize its 5G network. So, right now, your main options for 5G home internet are Starry, T-Mobile and Verizon. Let's explore what each offers.

by Newbie (2 points)

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