The American telecoms giant AT&T, which first began operating in Mexico during 2015, was the first to launch a home internet service delivered across its high-speed mobile data (4G/LTE) network – completely by-passing the landline incumbent Telmex, as well as cable companies who offer home internet here. Soon after, Telcel, the incumbent mobile telephony giant, followed suit and launched its own wireless home internet service—with service plans that mirror AT&T’s.
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 modem does.
What wireless home internet offers
Customers purchase a special modem from AT&T or Telcel, and then take-up a monthly plan which ranges from $230 pesos to $800 pesos a month (about US$12-$42) depending on the download speed and amount of data you require per month. With Telmex you choose a plan based on download speed and how much data you want per month and you need to commit to a year’s contract; with AT&T you get ‘unlimited data’ although a fair use policy comes into effect. AT&T offers a pay-as-you-go plan with no need for a yearly commitment in addition to a monthly plan on an annual contract. Check the companies’ websites for details and coverage areas.
Opportunities and limitations
Wireless home internet offers some opportunities to consumers, as well as limitations in comparison to landline-based internet services:
- 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 hot-spots on-the-fly in places served by a cellular data network. (The modem ‘detects’ where it is first activated and there is fee to change the location of the wireless modem, so if you intend to use it this way, or move house, note that additional costs will apply.)
- 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 the 5Mbps to 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. Note that 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 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 some 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 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.
How to obtain wireless home internet in Mexico
The service should be available anyplace where mobile data signals exist. Details of AT&T’s wireless home internet can be found here, and details of Telcel’s wireless home internet can be found here. Visit the websites to find out more about the services and coverage or call-in to a local sales and service center to ask for details.
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