Can I Replace My Traditional ISP with My Wireless Provider?

Spoiler Alert: Probably not…

Recently I was listening to a podcast and they mentioned in passing how 5G cellular networks could have the potential to end in-home networks. While I don’t think this is possible I wanted to look into the current state of things in the US.

A little setup

I use Verizon FiOS for my home Internet and Verizon Wireless for my phone and my wife’s phone. There is a lot of streaming going on from Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, etc. I am also a gamer so digital downloads of games to consoles and PC eats up some data too. Music is typically being streamed at any given time. Having FiOS I have no data caps. Apparently there is a throttle cap at 1TB which I’ve never hit.

The research

Based on all that info I looked at the info from the major US carriers. There are some MVNOs out there like Straight Talk, but they use the spectrum, lines, and towers of the top four carriers anyway. For simplicity I left them out. Below are the notes I drummed up.


Semi-Thorough Analysis


Overall, in the current state of the market it is doable if you don’t use a lot of data at home. If you’re simply browsing the web and checking email then there might be a solution for you here, but if you do anything outside of that then the home ISP with unlimited data is the way to go still. The only way I could see the 5G networks replacing home networks is if zero rating policies became widespread which would end up costing consumers more in the long run… For those unfamiliar with zero rating, it is the practice of an ISP charging a company’s data traffic to be exempt from the ISP’s customers’ data caps. For example, if Netflix is zero rated then you can have a 2GB/month plan and stream 30GB of video without any negative impact. The 30GB of streamed video would not appear on your plan.

Zero rating might sound good on paper but the costs the companies offering web-based services incur get passed on to the user. Zero rating makes it difficult for web-based startups to gain momentum as well since they can’t complete on even ground with bigger companies.

I’m hoping Amazon, Google, or Apple start their own ISP and offer services we don’t see with current US ISPs. The more competition in that space the better.