If you’re frustrated at getting work done on your home internet connection, it may be time to talk to your boss. T-Mobile today launched the first dedicated internet plan for remote workers, letting companies set up secure 5G modems in workers’ homes to get around their overburdened home broadband plans.
The new “Home Office Internet” is part of a three-pronged “work from anywhere” strategy that includes a new $37/month unlimited mobile plan for businesses and a suite of virtual PBX and collaboration tools from Dialpad. It’s the latest effort by T-Mobile to dig into the extensive lead among large enterprise customers and government agencies held by Verizon and AT&T.
“Serving businesses and government organizations is a massive growth opportunity for T-Mobile,” T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert said in a presentation.
Two prongs of T-Mobile’s strategy are pretty well-trodden ground. The new enterprise plan aims to replace businesses’ limited, pooled plans with a large-volume unlimited plan, albeit with deprioritization after 50GB of usage. T-Mobile is also offering Collaborate, a virtual PBX and conferencing system from software firm Dialpad, which decentralizes the corporate PBX system and lets employees use it from a range of devices.
The radical move, though, is offering dedicated, secondary internet connections for home workers who have insufficient internet at home.
“The world is not going back. Eighty-seven percent of US business leaders expect to see some of their employees working from home three or more days a week,” Sievert said.
Better Work Zooms, But at What Cost?
The US internet struggle is real. Mike Katz, executive VP of T-Mobile for Business, cited a study that said 60% of workers have “had issues with simple voice and video streaming while working from home.”
The Home Office Internet plan lets employers subscribe to a dedicated T-Mobile 5G connection for workers who need it. The workers get shipped a modem they can self-install, which provides a secure, corporate, IT-monitored line with unlimited data. It’s not clear whether companies will prevent workers from using that as their primary home internet, but Katz said explicitly that it “does not replace or compete with your personal home broadband Wi-Fi.”
It’ll initially be operational in areas covering about 60 million households, Katz said. He didn’t mention a price.
Two surveys from last summer both said that only 10% of companies are willing to cover parts of workers’ home internet bills, even if they’re using those connections for work. Other employers are even guilt-tripping workers who ask for reimbursements. There’s a huge gap between what workers need and the infrastructure employers are willing to pay for.
Personally, T-Mobile’s move here strikes me as a great idea that won’t succeed because businesses are cheap. Americans have struggled through this work-from-home year and, largely, succeeded at working from home, if it was an option. Maybe their calls have stuttered, or their kids have been unable to do online class, or they’ve had to go without a few meals to pay for additional internet fees, but that doesn’t seem to be something companies consider worth spending money to fix. Companies have treated working from home as a chance to cut costs, whether it’s real-estate costs, corporate broadband costs, or equipment and furniture costs.
All of this leaves us still hunting high and low for T-Mobile’s promised generally available 5G home internet solution, which has reportedly been held up because the company can’t get enough home modems from Nokia. Hopefully that option will launch soon.