Rural internet: T-mobile with Binge On

Initial rural internet setup with USB modem and router

Having literally just bought the farm in 2011 one of the first things we needed was internet. Unfortunately due to our rural location, the options were limited. No cable or DSL. The previous owners had satellite internet service but said they weren’t particularly pleased with it. The satellite provider for our address required a long term contract and there was a charge for installation. Instead we went with cell phone internet (AT&T). Our initial setup consisted of a usb modem connected to a 3g router. It did not require a long term contract and worked well. We stuck with an AT&T 5 gb data per month plan for a year or so but our data usage was increasing, so we switched to Verizon which had plans with more data. Our setup with Verizon was similar except we had a 4G LTE usb modem connected to a 4g router that allowed use of an external antenna that was mounted outside the house. We had a faster setup and more data, and we were happy with the service, but it was also more expensive. As of 6-23-2017 Verizon lists their data only plan of 20 gb for $110 per month.

T-mobile data plan with “Binge On”

T-mobile has competitive pricing, and they also have a feature called Binge On. Binge On allows you to watch content from several providers including Amazon, Netflix, Sling and Youtube without using your allotted data. Hallelujah, we can watch online video like the rest of the free world. As of 6-23-2017 their price for a mobile internet plan of 22 gb of high speed data (it has unlimited 2g data after that) was $95 per month and includes Binge On. With taxes and fees for us it is $96.09. The plan is called “Simple Choice North America 22GB”. I first checked to see what the signal was like near our location. I purchased a mobile 4G LTE HotSpot Z915 from the T-mobile store and had the plan activated in the store and tested to make sure it was working.

Location of T-mobile hotspot router

When I got it home I tested the signal. I went upstairs and went to every side of the house and held the hotspot in a window. On one side I got between 2 and 3 bars with 4G LTE signal. OK no need for an external antenna, that simplifies things. How did I install it? I looped the usb cord through the top of the blinds and then where I got the best signal I taped it to the window using packing tape.

Rural internet with T-mobile
Hotspot router provides home internet
Rural internet with T-mobile
Covered up (mostly)

Is this lame? Maybe, but it’s solid and has been there for a year. If it does fall, it will fall on carpet. It is a router allowing connection of all of our wireless devices and works fine from the upstairs bedroom to all rooms on the first floor and even the basement. We have the following devices connected to it. Two laptops, an HTPC, an android phone, and an ooma phone connected to it via a router configured in Client Mode. So we get phone service and wireless access for all our devices. We also can now watch Amazon prime video, Youtube and Sling TV without using our data allotment.

Long term results

We have now had it for 16 months, starting Feb 2016. The connection has been reliable and internet has been fast. So how well does it work? I used https://www.speakeasy.net/speedtest/ to test the speed and we routinely get over 17 Mbps download and over 3 Mbps upload. We can watch videos no problem.

What about unlimited with the T-mobile One plan?

When the T mobile One unlimited plan came out I called T-mobile to switch and we were switched. But our internet stopped. I called T-mobile and was told we were improperly switched as the Z915 HotSpot does not support the One plan. The reps switched us back and credited us 5 gb of free data for the hassle.

Summary

In summary we’ve been very happy. Binge on has been a major advantage for us and we no longer feel like our internet is limiting us. It is more expensive than our previous cable internet when we were in town, but we are hopeful prices will continue to drop. In short for $96 a month we get perfectly good internet that also allows us to use our free Ooma VOIP phone. It also has a feature called “Data Stash” that allows you to carryover up to 20 gb of data to the next month. For two of us 22 gb/month has been enough for a year.

Epilogue

The inlaws who also don’t have the option of cable were having slow connection with their satellite internet provider. We went to their local T-mobile store and set them up with the 18 gb plan ($80 + taxes and fees) as they do not use as much data. They purchased the Alcatel LINKZONE™ 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot. Again I found the window that it worked the best in their house and set it up. One month in they are happy with their internet speed.

Bonus

If you go on vacation you can take it with you for portable internet.

Have a better solution? Please comment.

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