The reason for this limitation is not immediately apparent, but complaints in customer forums show that the problem affects Hulu's live TV service. T-Mobile tested its home internet plan in up to 50,000 households last year, and some of the early adopters were unable to use Hulu + Live TV.
The problem appears to be that the Hulu system for checking a user's home location interprets the T-Mobile router as a mobile hotspot instead of a home Internet device. This is not an inappropriate assumption as the device connects to T-Mobile's LTE network to provide WiFi at home. Basically, it is a mobile hotspot. But other live TV streaming services appear to work well with the T-Mobile home internet plan.
Hulu + Live TV users must set up a home broadband network within 30 days of signing up. However, a frequently asked question about Hulu + Live TV says that this is not possible with certain types of Internet services:
You must use a non-mobile home internet connection when setting up your home network. Please note that mobile hotspots and shared Wi-Fi networks (such as dormitories, office buildings, etc.) do not meet these criteria and therefore cannot be used as a home network.
The issue doesn't affect the cheaper Hulu streaming plans that don't include live channels.
It's complicated on mobile devices
With Hulu, customers can watch live TV on mobile devices, but only if they have activated their service on a broadband home network. Setting up the home network once is not enough to ensure continuous streaming outside the home because Hulu requires a new check-in every 30 days:
Living room devices must be connected to your home network to access Hulu. However, you can stream elsewhere on your mobile devices – provided you have checked in at home in the last 30 days. If you haven't checked in recently, you'll see an error message when you try to use Hulu on mobile devices outside of your home network.
To clear the error message, your mobile device must be connected to your home network. If you are not at home or cannot solve the problem yourself in any other way, contact us and we will see what we can do to help you.
All of this is controversial for T-Mobile Home Internet customers, as Hulu + Live TV does not see it as a potential "home" network.
Other online live TV services, such as YouTube TV, did not appear to have had the same problem on the T-Mobile Home Internet, suggesting that Hulu could make a change internally to enable live TV streaming on the T-Mobile Home Internet . We don't know if T-Mobile could fix the problem without Hulu's collaboration.
We contacted the Hulu PR team twice last week and heard nothing about it. Hulu's majority shareholder is Disney, and Comcast's NBCUniversal division has a one-third stake in the streaming service.
T-Mobile did not mention any specific video services in its statement, but told us that most live TV plans should work just as well as traditional home Internet services. "Most live TV services work with T-Mobile Home Internet, but it is best if customers inquire with their selected live TV streaming provider to make sure of this," T-Mobile told Ars.
T-Mobile Home is not yet widely used
T-Mobile has been offering wireless home internet since March 2019 and is promoting the goal of "serving up to 50,000 households in rural and underserved areas of the country this year". T-Mobile did not specify how many customers the service now has.
Availability depends on capacity, as T-Mobile only offers the service in locations where "speeds of around 50 Mbit / s can be provided via a fixed, unlimited wireless service via LTE". T-Mobile plans to expand to other areas following the completion of the upcoming Sprint merger, which could take place in April. However, T-Mobile has not indicated to what extent the service will be expanded this year.
T-Mobile has announced that it will take a few years for the service to be upgraded to 5G and expanded across much of the United States. T-Mobile aims to "provide more than half of US households with 5G broadband services – over 100 Mbit / s – by 2024".
The T-Mobile service was originally only available by invitation. However, you can check availability at your address on this page. When we tried, the website asked us to enter the contact details and said, "If you are eligible, we will call you to complete your purchase."
The Hulu problem has hit a number of customers who are using the T-Mobile service despite its limited availability. Customers have discussed the issue in Hulu's support forums, T-Mobile's support forums, and Reddit. A Reddit user complained that "every other LiveTV competitor (on the T-Mobile home internet) is working properly". A user in a T-Mobile forum complained that "Hulu is very persistent when it comes to how they limit their service."
The T-Mobile / Hulu problem seems to be something that companies should fix, especially if they coordinate. Hopefully this won't be a major problem. However, with wireless carriers like T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T introducing home internet services based on cellular technology, especially in rural areas without good wired broadband, customers still have to worry about choosing broadband and streaming plans.