The news keeps coming for fans of T-Mobile’s Home Internet service, with rumors of new modem hardware and new firmware updates for the Nokia gateway. Unfortunately, this bit of news isn’t quite so great.
Netgear has announced the expansion of their “Orbi” line with an “industry first 5G Tri-Band WiFi 6 Mesh System”.
The new Orbi model, which carries a model number of “NBK752”, seems to have first appeared on the FCC website back in June under the model number “NBR750”, which seems to be the “modem” unit’s model number. It features Tri-Band WiFi 6 with “whole-home” coverage, claiming about a 5,000ft range using the 2 included nodes (1 main and 1 satellite). It supports all of T-Mobile’s Sub-6 5G bands as well as LTE.
Interestingly, it seems “NBR750” shows up on the T-Mobile website as a simple PDF [mirror]. The document doesn’t appear to be linked from any support pages, but the URL includes “tfb” which typically refers to “T-Mobile For Business”.
According to PCMag, the unit features a Quectel IOT 5G module based on the Qualcomm X55 modem. It also features external antenna connectors which are a huge selling point for many customers.
There’s just one big problem for T-Mobile customers: it only works with bring-your-own hotspot plans.
T-Mobile does not currently allow the Home Internet plan to be used in anything other than their own hardware. This limitation turns what might be an awesome 24/7 home internet device into simply an “emergency backup” device for when your main connection goes down.
Max Wu, Senior Product Line Manager for Netgear, told PCMag that they are in talks with T-Mobile, and that “they are open, they’re listening, but they aren’t moving fast enough.”
There’s another huge issue with the device too, and that’s its price. The 2-pack starter kit costs an eye-watering $1,099.99 with additional satellites adding $299.99 each. That’s well outside most people’s budgets, especially with no possibility of an unlimited data option.
T-Mobile’s only current 5G gateway is the Nokia, and it’s fraught with issues like hardware failure and software deficiencies. Adding a bring-your-own option to the mix would be a welcome option for many users, even at the high price.
Hopefully T-Mobile will allow the Orbi, and other third-party options, to use the T-Mobile Home Internet plan at some point in the near future. If you’re interested in the new device despite the limitations and price, you can pre-order it on Netgear’s website.