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5G Home Internet from mobile carriers: Setup and networking

My relevant experience:

  • I happen to have a few years experience with T-Mobile Home Internet in southern US' suburban and rural areas
  • I can do basic and advanced configuration of consumer networking hardware
  • I watch NaterTater's 5G Home Internet tips and tricks on Youtube


Feel free to reply with:

  • Feedback on this guide
  • Corrections
  • Other experiences with 5G Home Internet
  • Resources

Otherwise, posting to your mobile provider's forum or possibly the LTT Networking forum may be better for troubleshooting advice.

Though I created this guide because the LTT Networking forum does not have much information about 5G Home Internet.





  • 5G=5th generation mobile data connectivity (NOT 5 GHz wifi wireless)
  • 5G HI = 5G Home Internet, which can also connect to 4G LTE networks
  • 5G Gateway = An all in one 5G modem/router/wifi device
  • Band = One or more frequencies used for mobile data transmission, generally abbreviated by a letter and 1-2 digit number, such as n41 or n71.
  • NAT = Network Address Translation, allows for mapping traffic to/from one internet facing device (usually gateway or modem) and one internal network device (router, any other devices, etc)
  • DMZ = DeMilitarized Zone, allows traffic to pass through to/from a specific IP address without altering it using firewall rules


Understanding the plans and hardware


First, know the difference between hotspot and home internet plans and hardware provided by mobile providers.

NOTE, the phyiscal size and look may vary greatly by carrier and region:



  • Generally provides a pre-set limited amount of high speed data (such as 5G) per month
  • May charge for extra data if it is not a prepaid plan. Prepaid may throttle speeds to 4G or slower for the rest of the billing cycle.
  • Hardware is more likely to be small/compact/portable and may be less likely to support only wifi connections or USB connections (not ethernet)
  • Hardware may be battery powered and does not require being always plugged into a power source, which may be a basic USB charger
  • Hotspots generally must be purchased and are not rented from mobile carrier

Example pictures (external URLs):


[AT&T 5G hotspot:]





Home Internet Gateway:

  • May not provide pre-set limit up front (Check Terms of Service)
  • If a certain data usage amount is reached (defined or not), speeds may be throttled slower instead of charging for extra data
  • Hardware is generally larger than hotspots, may be tower-like, may have ethernet ports.
  • Hardware is generally not battery powered, and requires more power than hotspots where it usually plugged into a power source such as an outlet even if the part that plugs into the gateway is USB-C (with higher power than most mobile phones/devices)
  • Hardware may be tied to certain provider plans (like a home internet SIM card may not be used in a phone and be expected to have the same functionality)
  • Gateway is generally rented for free from mobile provider and does not have to be returned until plan is 5G HI plan is stopped.

Example pictures (external URLs):


[T-Mobile with built in antenna:]


[Verizon with external antenna:]



3rd party hardware:

  • Some mobile providers may restrict using certain plans (hotspot or home internet) with 3rd party hardware. Call mobile providers or research to confirm.
    • If not, then provider's plan (regular mobile, hot spot, or home internet) may be usable independent of the type of hardware
  • Hardware and up front cost varies widely, but it may be more likely to have external antennas attached
  • Why get your own?:
    • Providers may not allow their own hotspot or home internet hardware to be used with another provider's SIM card.
    • Provider's gateways definitely don't support multiple SIM cards.
    • Most provider hardware does not allow much advanced configuration or features such as external antenna connections, band or tower locking, aggregation, mobile carrier load balancing/failover, advanced wifi controls, and more that may help in specific situations.  These are potential benefits that 3rd party hardware may provide - Check each product's feature list.

Example pictures (external URL):




Signing up for home internet:

  1. Go to mobile carrier's website regarding 5G Home Internet (5G HI)
  2. Provide the information they request: Your address, current mobile number, etc.
  3. If carrier does not allow you to sign up, there may be reasons for it, such as:
    1. Their 5G signal/reliability/speeds are not ideal in your area
      1. Go to their website and other websites or apps to confirm coverage
        1. NOTE: Mobile speeds and signal may vary from 5G HI, because of how traffic can be prioritized between the two, how they handle bands/signal, etc
      2. Best way to confirm is using your own 5G phone in the same exact location you would have the 5G HI device
    2. They have not designed their cell tower network specifically to handle home internet traffic
  4. If you are comfortable what you learn about the carrier's 5G HI service, their signal at the desired location, and signing up:
    1. 5G Gateway will be shipped to you after filling out an online order
    2. Go to a carrier's official or 3rd party store, and see if they will let you sign up & give a 5G Gateway on the spot
      1. The likely hood of this working varies by carrier
    3. Some carriers offer a free trial for a certain amount of time


Set Up

This can all vary between mobile providers, but there's general guidance here:


In general, 5G HI requires:

  1. A 5G Gateway device
    1. If you get one from a 3rd party: Do at your own risk, as the carrier may have to authorize/approve the device and its SIM card
  2. An active SIM card to put into it
  3. A plug-in power source (if it doesn't, then it is likely a 5G hot spot)
  4. Wireless device that can download the mobile provider's 5G HI app, for setup and configuration


Ideal placement of a 5G Gateway usually means having it:

Mobile Provider often provides a guide or tips on ideal placement. Their home internet app may even direct you on the direction of the nearest mobile tower, and more importantly guides you through the general setup process.

  1. When in a multi-story home, put it on the higher floor
    1. Exception: Sometimes gateway can get better signal in an attic, which varies based on attic & home materials, outdoor environment, and tower location
      1. Be careful of cold or hot temperatures in an attic that could cause wear or active issues with your gateway
  2. Near a window
    1. Direct sunlight or its heat may affect some devices negatively
  3. Higher off the floor
  4. Having a less obstructed path toward the cell tower it connects to
    1. If a tower is south of your home, but the 5G gateway is on the north end, you will likely have a weaker signal than putting the gateway on the south end of your home.


If you have one router in front of the 5G Gateway:

Example network: 5G Gateway -> Router -> Wifi network -> Devices

  1. This will create a Double NAT if you do not check/update router configuration
    1. Ensure that your router has NAT translation or masquerading enabled
    2. Even with this enabled, it may cause connectivity issues in uncommon situations, such as:
      1. Running a server from home that is accessible from the internet
      2. Specific games with unique networking needs
    3. This is generally unavoidable because the NAT happens on the ISP side, and not the hardware
      1. Otherwise, getting a 3rd party gateway that supports DMZ would 


If you have two or more routers in front of the 5G gateway:

Example network: 5G Gateway -> Wired Home Internet Modem/Router/Wifi all in one device -> Your own Wifi Router -> Devices

  1. You will have a triple NAT if you do not update router configuration to allow DMZ/passthrough traffic
    1. A triple NAT is even more sensitive to connectivity issues
      1. I personally experienced this with the following network configuration until I replaced the basic all-in-one device that I could not disable the router part of, with a configurable wifi router that I disable router mode for and put in Access Point (non-router) mode:
        1. 5G Gateway -> EdgeRouter -> All in one basic wifi router/access point/mesh
    2. Ensure that DMZ is configured on your all in one device to allow DMZ for the IP address of your own wifi router


Testing the 5G Gateway:

Note that some devices may have speed tests built into them or the provider's mobile app, and that the provider's technical support may be able to run speed test remotely using your hardware from their end.

  1. Basic test:
    1. Connect a wireless device with Wifi 5 or better support to the gateway's wifi network
      1. Make sure in the device's advanced properties of the wifi network that the link/max speed is double the max speed you might get from the 5G Gateway
        1. Otherwise, your wifi signal will bottleneck your speed test.
    2. Go to speedtest.net, use its mobile app, or a mobile app that uses the service
      1. Review ping/response time to see how bad latency or buffer bloat might be
  2. Advanced test:
    1. Find a website or app that tests buffer bloat
      1. This can result in increased latency and/or decreased connection reliability


Optimizing connectivity reliability:

If you have one router in front of the 5G Gateway:

  1. Enable Auto/Smart QoS for no more than 90% of the expected upload speed
    1. Latency and bufferbloat gets worse if your network attempts to send data faster than what your ISP can handle (whether its a mobile provider or not)
  2. Optionally, enable Auto/Smart QoS for no more than 90% expected download speed
    1. I personally do not recommend this because download speeds can vary so wildly, the benefits may not be as obvious as upload speed, and...
    2. Some routers have a soft limit anyways on how fast of Auto QoS they can handle due to their own CPU/hardware
      1. Varies widely by router, but soft limit of moderate consumer hardware can be 100-250mbps, depending on packet sizes
  3. Find the MTU for your mobile network, and set it at the router level
    1. I do not recommend changing this value while your network is using the internet.
    2. Sample guide: https://www.comparitech.com/net-admin/determine-mtu-size-using-ping/
    3. Basically, mobile providers may have a lower MTU configured for their network than what typical home networks are configured for (1500 MTU)
      1. When home network MTU is lower than the ISP, then there is a risk of more dropped packets, failed pings to internet, etc.
Edited by NobleGamer
Elaborated on differences between hardware types, provided sample pictures
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42 minutes ago, NobleGamer said:

In general, 5G HI requires:

  1. A 5G Gateway device
    1. If you get one from a 3rd party: Do at your own risk, as the carrier may have to authorize/approve the device and its SIM card
  2. An active SIM card to put into it
  3. A plug-in power source (if it doesn't, then it is likely a 5G hot spot)
  4. Wireless device that can download the mobile provider's 5G HI app, for setup and configuration


There needs to be a visual distinction between a hotspot and a gateway.


A hotspot usually just does only WiFi and has the same line-of-sight requirements as a cellphone with a small antenna. A gateway typically requires power and proper antenna positioning to be able to see multiple cell sites, since it won't be moving around.


They look like this:

Cellular 5G SIM Card Router LTE Modem CAT16 EZR24-A500

Where as a hotspot looks like this:


or like this 51A5kIl8OTL._AC_SL1500_.jpg

The hotspot is designed to fit in your pocket, and contains a battery. It may or may not have an ethernet port.


Honestly the second device, shows up on at&t's site as a hotspot. Switch to their business page and you'll see the E300, which has the connections for 5G NR antennas.


Configuring a consumer device and a business device is very different. But for the sake of your guide, dealing with DNN/APN is a specific-to-the-ISP thing and the settings will always be different, even with different data plans. Many 3G-era devices had APN's for "on device internet (eg facebook)" and "off-device internet (eg tethering)" and selecting the wrong APN will lead to data charges.


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22 minutes ago, Kisai said:

There needs to be a visual distinction between a hotspot and a gateway.

Agreed, I can try to add that to my guide, though I think its hardware features are just as important as visual ones because...

  • That taller hotspot from AT&T does not seem to be the norm for hotspots I have seen from US carriers (excluding 3rd party ones). That one is practically the size of the two Tmobile 5G gateways I've had. Hotspots generally more like the smaller one you first pictured.
  • 5G gateways do tend to require a plug-in power source and do not have a built in battery like various hot spots.
  • 5G gateways tend to be larger vertically and sometimes horizontally.

Thanks for the feedback, I'll reply when I can update the guide.

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 1/22/2024 at 8:05 AM, Kisai said:

There needs to be a visual distinction between a hotspot and a gateway.

I have updated the article with clear functional and physical distinctions, an up front note that the device types could look very different by carrier & region, and then I inserted a few sample pictures.  Thanks for the feedback.

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