T-Mobile has begun giving out miniature cell towers to customers in an attempt to create little hotspots of LTE where the carrier's network is weak or nonexistent. The devices, which cost little more than a $25 refundable deposit, are being promoted to homes and small businesses and can connect any T-Mobile customer's smartphone to mobile data, including 3G and 4G. The company says they can cover a range of 3,000 square feet.

So should you get one? In some individual circumstances, maybe, but for the vast majority of consumers, you might be better off using plain, old, boring WiFi. Here's why.

T-Mobile's CellSpot doesn't provide an Internet connection all by itself. It has to be plugged into an existing wired broadband connection, the kind of service you might buy from Comcast or Verizon. That requirement ultimately makes the CellSpot impractical for many consumers.

AD
AD

Think about your current home Internet provider. Chances are, the company included a WiFi router with your installation, and if it didn't, you likely went out and bought your own. Not only does the CellSpot effectively duplicate an Internet access technology already present in many people's homes — it comes with other drawbacks. The CellSpot's data speeds are only as fast as your fixed broadband connection, so it's not as though you can plug the device into a 10 Mbps service and suddenly be surfing at 60 Mbps.

"Imagine putting a race car in rush hour traffic in the scenario you describe," said Joel Rushing, a T-Mobile spokesperson.

What's more, using the CellSpot drains your T-Mobile data plan, whereas surfing on WiFi is completely free (except in places where wired Internet providers have implemented data caps themselves).

AD
AD

If any other T-Mobile customers happen to be nearby, their devices can link to the CellSpot, too. Giving out access to T-Mobile's network might be nice when you've invited guests over. But then again, why not just give them access to your home WiFi network?

If you're not interested in broadcasting LTE beyond your apartment or other small space, Rushing said, the T-Mobile Personal CellSpot Router might be a better choice. It's basically a regular WiFi router that happens to be optimized to handle T-Mobile's WiFi calling features.

But again, with that choice you'd be going back to WiFi.

Any households that might be thinking of getting an LTE CellSpot from T-Mobile will need to consider a few things: Does being on T-Mobile's network matter more to you than being on WiFi? Compared to the LTE CellSpot, WiFi costs nothing to surf, supports faster speeds, and you have more control over it (through your router's settings, whereas you can't set a password on the LTE CellSpot).

AD
AD