4G LTE CellSpot: Questions About Data Usage and Neighbors

  • 16 January 2016
  • 9 replies

Had a few questions about the new 4G LTE CellSpot and how data usage is calculated by T-Mobile.


1. If I'm connected to my own CellSpot, and I make a phone call, is that phone call considered "data"?  I have unlimited calling, so I'm hoping the call would be processed as a normal phone call, and not as data usage.  I read somewhere that a 1 hour phone call on the CellSpot used up 1GB of "data", but it was in a youtube comment, so hopefully it was just someone talking nonesense.  Link to the youtube video (scroll down to the comment by "Naresh Guragai", which says "4G LTE Cellspot consume around 1GB of data every one hour on active calls from your/our internet service provider(ISP). This was said by a T-mobile representative when i asked them to tell me the approximate data consume by new cellspot and they also informed me that the data speed of cellspot is not going to be more than ISP data speed."): Testing the new 4GLTE CellSpot from T-Mobile - YouTube


2. If my neighbors connect to my CellSpot (unbeknownst to me) and stream Netflix, will MY data plan be affected or will theirs?




Best answer by tmo_mike_c 17 January 2016, 18:21

Hey @ceglia I'd like to help shine some light on the questions you have. Any usage you have using the 4G LTE Cellspot will count towards your plan like when you're connected to T-Mobile's network. So, your calls on the Cellspot would count as minute usage. You can check out the Overview and features section of our 4G LTE CellSpot overview page. If your neighbors are connected to it and stream like what you mentioned, they would not be using the data from your cellphone plan.

Hope this helps!

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Hey @ceglia I'd like to help shine some light on the questions you have. Any usage you have using the 4G LTE Cellspot will count towards your plan like when you're connected to T-Mobile's network. So, your calls on the Cellspot would count as minute usage. You can check out the Overview and features section of our 4G LTE CellSpot overview page. If your neighbors are connected to it and stream like what you mentioned, they would not be using the data from your cellphone plan.

Hope this helps!

The CellSpot is a device that creates a low-power micro tower in your home.  It does this by using your internet connection to make a secure connection to T-Mobile's back-end.  Your phone connects using a cellular frequency to the CellSpot and then the CellSpot uses your internet connection to move the digital data.

This is the the same way a full-fledged tower operates except that the tower uses a high-speed dedicated fiber connection or possibly a microwave RF connection.

Voice calls, SMS messages, and internet data are all data after it hits the cell tower (or the CellSpot.)  It is billed based on what the content is.

The point is that the CellSpot uses your internet connection to move the data.  The YouTube video is referring to the amount of data traveling over your internet connection when your CellSpot is handling a voice call.  You are billed by T-Mobile just as though you were connected to a regular tower.  Depending on how the CellSpot is connected to the internet you may have additional charges for that data from your ISP.

Unless you are very remote or have an unusual internet connection you are not paying per byte of data, rather you might have a data cap to pay attention to or possibly limited bandwidth.

The CellSpot and router work the same way.  The boosters on the other hand take a weak signal that can be received from somewhere inconvenient in your home like an upstairs window and repeat it (more or less) into the rest of your house.  This way you get a stronger signal through more of your home.


Thanks the_oman for the detailed reply, very helpful to understand the details of how the device works.  I have a "booster"... it used to help a little, but now i'm suffering from the "E7" error code (see my separate post about that here: Re: 4G LTE booster showing Error Code E7), so I can no longer use the device (unless T-Mobile figures out how to re-enable the device).

I was curious about the CellSpot, as that would most likely fix my indoor reception issues, but I live in Los Angeles in a very densely populated neighborhood, and I don't like the idea of sharing my internet bandwith with strangers.

You mentioned the "router" and said it works in the same manner as the CellSpot.  Presumably the router has filters to limit who can connect to it, correct?  If so, would the router be a better solution for me?  My understanding was that the router was only for people who had wi-fi calling enabled cell phones, and my phone doesn't support wi-fi calling.


You are welcome. 

The router (specifically the "WiFi CellSpot Router") is both a WiFi router and a CellSpot device.  You can set who can access your WiFi but, unless it has changed recently, you cannot control what devices connect to the cellular portion of the unit.

* If anyone from T-Mo knows that this isn't the case, please correct me. *

There are some advantages to the router over the plain CellSpot because the router will set the CellSpot traffic as a higher priority when having to manage congestion on your internet connection.

If it makes you feel any better the CellSpot portion of the device creates an encrypted tunnel (or VPN) to T-Mo's servers.  That's what the voice, SMS, and data travel through.  It is still bits but it isn't quite the same as if they were using your WiFi.  What they do on their phone isn't in any way connected to you.

You can also tell if you are connected to the CellSpot.  You could move the CellSpot to an area of your house where the signal doesn't go anywhere far outside your walls.

You are supplying the internet connection but T-Mo is providing the $500 device and the back-end that makes it work.  By not locking it down any T-Mo customers in your home get to benefit.  And if you go to a neighbors house and they have one you get reception in their house.

I had an AT&T microcell for a while and it was locked down.  If a person came to visit I would have to go through all sorts of hassle to "authorize" them to be able to use their phone.  There was only a set number of authorized devices.  I would have much preferred an open system.


I didn't know AT&T had a locked down microcell. That sounds wonderful to me! Right now my neighbors are constantly maxing out our 4G and 3G connections and ends up knocking at least one of our phones off of our own Cellspot. So then our phones start overheating and draining battery life in search for a distant tower, thus having to boost reception, etc. It's so frustrating. Please T-Mobile, give us the option to lock down our Cellspots!

I found this article that explains the security issues with Tmobile cellspot. ATT cellspot allows configuration of authorized users.

Think Twice About Getting a Microcell (or T-Mobile CellSpot) if You Live in an Urban Area

So, the article you shared is from 2015. Is this information outdated? Reason I ask is because when I got my cellspot I asked both the T-Mobile store manager I picked it up from and T-Mobile support via the iOS T-Mobile app if this would affect data usage on my Comcast account. Both of them assured me that it wouldn’t. They said that when the device is hooked to your home router, it takes a couple hours to setup because T-Mobile and the ISP do a “handshake” and create a VPN which doesn’t affect your ISP data plan. Is this true or not? Getting mixed signals here.

You and your neighbour's cellphones will use your Comcast ISP bandwidth for any voice and data calls. However, based on monitoring usage, I find that ISP bandwidth usage is low and hence that is not my concern. Typically the cellphones are configured to send/recv data using your home wifi network. Fortunately, I don't have the a neighbour who streams huge videos over cellphone network ( and does not use wifi at his home) e.g. Tmobile customer with Binge ON.

Though, I am investigating another issue  - the cellspot is assigned to one of the cell phones (an android phone), and usage records show that the specific android phone is periodically using some (not a lot) data even if it is connected to wifi network. I don't know if this problem (of using mobile data even when Wifi network is available) has previously existed with this Android phone, or, that problem is caused due to the cellspot.  I am hoping this issue is related to the Android phone rather than the cellspot.

To reduce chances of neighbours or people on the street connecting through the cellspot (and using your ISP bandwidth), I'd suggest NOT installing the LTE cellspot on the window - specifically, Install the GPS sensor (comes with LTE cellspot) such that it can see the open sky, but keep the LTE cellspot on the floor. With this setup, the wall comes in-between the LTE cellspot and the outdoors, and significantly reduces the range of the signal outside of the house.

I just received one of these devices and while it does give me a usable signal, I'm very concerned with a few issues. 

1. What impact does it have on my internet data limit?

2. How is that magnified by outsiders who can use and download data such as video etc from this device?

3. How is my network protected from potential hacking?

It just seems like by keeping this Cellspot open, TMobile is using it to increase local coverage for their own purposes and creating potential problems for customers who host it.  I live in an area where Tmobile coverage is so bad, having this one location that has a signal could result in people gathering outside my house to use their phone.  crazier things have happened.  And although I'm not a programmer, I worry about opportunities for hacking and it seems like since this system connects directly into my network then sends an unencrypted signal out for the world to use, it's a security risk.

Maybe I'm wrong about all of these concerns but none of this is mentioned in any of the documentation and I find that very odd.