Communications, Mexico Essentials

Wireless Home Internet Services in Mexico

Communications Mast in the countryside

The American telecoms giant AT&T, which first began operating in Mexico during 2015, has launched a home internet service delivered across its high-speed mobile data (4G/LTE) network – completely by-passing the incumbent Telmex, as well as cable companies who offer home internet here.

What is wireless home internet?

Wireless home internet is not a new technology: it combines cellular data signals with a special modem that creates a WiFi signal in your home or office.  You need to purchase a special modem, and sign-up for a plan to access internet in this way.  The modem comes with a SIM card (like the type used in your mobile phone) but you won’t have a cellular telephone number people can dial.  When you power-up your modem, it automatically picks-up the cellular data mobile signal and then creates a local WiFi network for you to access in your home in the same way that a landline-based service does.

What AT&T’s wireless home internet offers

With AT&T’s wireless home internet, customers purchase a special modem which costs $1,200 pesos (about US$70) from a local AT&T store, and then take-up a monthly plan for $200 pesos (about US$12) a month, which offers download speeds of up to 5Mbps; or $350 pesos (about US$20) a month which offers download speeds of up to 10Mbps.  Unlike data on your mobile phone plan, this service offers “unlimited” data—although there is a fair use clause in the terms which stipulates that when your monthly data consumption passes 150 Gigabytes, your download speeds will reduce to a maximum of 2Mbps until the next monthly billing cycle.  The monthly plan can be cancelled anytime, so customers are only committed to the service on a month-by-month basis.

Opportunities & Limitations

Wireless home internet offers some opportunities to consumers, as well as limitations in comparison to landline-based internet services:

Opportunities

  • If the area where your home or work place is situated does not have a telephone line or cable service installed, you can use wireless home internet to provision a high-speed internet service there, in a similar way that you can enjoy high speed internet with a landline-based service like Telmex’s Infinitum/Macronet or Izzi’s internet cable service
  • Some areas in Mexico –especially rural areas– may lack physical telephone line infrastructure and/or have waiting lists for physical phone lines to be provisioned, preventing you from getting a landline and thus high-speed internet.  If cellular data coverage is available in that area, this situation need not be a limitation anymore as you can enjoy high speed internet without the physical landline
  • If you rely on internet for work, then a wireless home internet service could provide a useful fallback in the event that your landline-based internet provider suffers a service fault.  Note that wireless home internet modems, like all others, rely on a steady electricity supply, so you may need to couple it with a back-up battery to continue having internet during power cuts
  • If you work in a team that travels frequently, you might use wireless home internet to set-up WiFi hotspots on-the-fly in places served by a cellular data network.

Limitations

  • This is not a telephone service in the traditional sense, so you’re not given a phone number people can dial, nor a physical landline supporting the service.
  • While AT&T’s 10Mbps is a decent-enough download speed for most people, it’s limited in comparison to landlines which can now deliver download speeds of 50Mbps or higher in some places. NB: In Mexico’s rural areas, where this service could be particularly useful, download speeds don’t tend to be higher than 10Mbps
  • Wireless cellular data signals are subject to atmospheric conditions, so service levels could fluctuate significantly during Mexico’s rain season and other natural phenomena like wind storms and hurricanes
  • Telephone lines are generally more stable than cellular data signals, and when you purchase a landline telephony package you get a telephone number as well as free telephone calls to most countries around the world included in the price of your monthly plan.  Cable services also offer TV options, and Telmex bundles a video steaming service as well as free access to thousands of its public WiFi hot-spots situated around the country as part of its home internet package.  If you used only a wireless home service for internet, you would give-up these additional benefits landline services offer
  • Landline services offer unlimited data downloads; and while wireless home internet services are marketed with ‘unlimited data usage’ they need to add fair use limitation clauses to their terms to protect the integrity of their cellular networks.  The fair use data limit of 150 Gigabytes per month offered by AT&T will probably suffice for most domestic users; however, if you use the internet a lot for data-heavy applications, for example, if you stream a lot of movies or your work involves data-heavy applications or graphics work, you might reach your data limit before the end of each monthly billing cycle
  • While cellular data is widespread (and improving) across Mexico, it’s not available everywhere and where it is, service levels will be subject to local demand. During periods of peak local demand in your area (for example, if you live near a soccer stadium or concert hall, or in a rural town that receives hordes of visitors at weekends) your internet speed is likely to be affected when the number of active users situated inside your local ‘cell’ increases.

Wireless home internet services are beginning to expand across the world, and it’s theoretically feasible that in future landlines might become redundant and replaced by these types of alternative wireless technologies.

It’s likely that AT&T’s new service will become one of various mainstream wireless home internet service options offered in Mexico, as other cellular networks respond its offer and launch their own variations using this technology.  Thus, service offerings will improve over time, and prices will reflect the level of demand and competition in the market.

For now, AT&T’s offer provides an immediate solution to people within range of its wireless network who cannot get (or do not want) a landline telephone but want home-style internet service, as well as providing a useful fallback option for people who rely on internet for the work they do and need an alternative internet supplier in the event that their landline-based operator suffers a service outage.

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2 Comments

  1. Wee says

    Is this in the Lake Chapala area yet. Sounds great!

  2. Tina Ernspiker says

    I didn’t know this was an option. We use Megacable. I wonder how good the service really is? We have At&t here in Uruapan. I wonder if this is available here?

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