Mobile broadband works just like the internet you get on your smartphone. All of the data is sent over mobile phone networks and no fixed lines are needed to get a connection. So, you can get instant internet access wherever there’s mobile coverage.

Reasons to go with mobile broadband

No fixed address

If you change addresses frequently, mobile broadband gives you the option to take your internet service with you.

Relocating

With mobile broadband, there’s also no need to wait for a fixed line to be set up. So, if you’re moving house, the whole family can get online as soon as you walk in the door. You can even use it on your way there. So, it’s a great way to keep the kids occupied during the move.

Travelling

Using your mobile phone as a hotspot can burn through your mobile data and battery. So, if you travel a lot mobile broadband can be a good alternative.

Working from home

Mobile broadband gives you the option to have a dedicated internet connection to use for your work. So, it can be a handy way to keep your bills separate.

Larger households

Running out of data with your fixed connection? Mobile broadband can be an easy way to increase your internet capacity without changing your fixed internet plan.

Backup internet service

Don’t want to be left without a connection if the nbn goes down? Mobile broadband can provide a backup solution. And as most mobile broadband options are battery operated, most will work during a power blackout as well.

An alternative to using a fixed line connection

If you don’t like the idea of locking yourself into a fixed line connection, mobile broadband could be a good solution.

The nbn is not available in your area yet

Mobile broadband can also be a good option if you’re still waiting for the nbn to be rolled out in your area.

If you decide mobile broadband is the way to go, you’ll need to decide which type you need.

Types of mobile broadband

There are four types of mobile broadband:

  • Data SIM card
  • Pocket WiFi
  • USB Modem
  • Home Wireless

 

Data SIM card

With a data-only SIM card, all you need to do is pop the SIM card into your device and you can get instant access to the internet. There’s no need to buy additional equipment, such as a modem.

Data SIMs often give you the choice of contract and non-contract plans. Plus, these days you can find plans with generous data inclusions.

 Key points

  • Connects to an iPad or laptop
  • Portable
  • Contract and non-contract options
 Pocket WiFi

With Pocket WiFi, instead of using a SIM card to get access to the internet, you use a mobile modem or Pocket WiFi device. The device accesses the internet via a mobile network, then shares it with the devices near it. So, Pocket WiFi can be a good option if you want to connect more than one device at the same time.

Pocket WiFi modems work in a similar way to home broadband modems, but the device is usually battery powered. So, you don’t generally have to worry about any leads and cables.

Key points

  • Connects multiple devices
  • Portable
  • Battery powered
 USB Modem

Also known as a dongle, a USB modem is super easy to use. All you need to do is plug it into your device’s USB port. Most commonly, they are used with laptops and are especially handy for doing work on the go.

Historically, they only connected the device they were plugged into. However, these days USB modems that act as portable hotspots are also available. These are sometimes called ‘WiFi hotspots’. With a these ‘WiFi hotspots’, multiple devices can connect to the internet connection at the same time.

Key points

  • Portable
  • Plugs directly into a device
Home Wireless

As the name suggests, Home Wireless is designed to use at home. It features a larger modem, but it can still be moved from place to place. However, it will need to be plugged into a power source to work. Home Wireless can be useful for people who don’t want a fixed connection at home. It’s also a good option to consider if you’re going to be moving house in the near future.

Key points

  • Similar to a household modem
  • Plugs into a power point

How fast is mobile broadband?

In Australia’s major cities, you should be able to achieve download speeds of 20Mbps to 100Mbps on a 4G mobile broadband connection. But this will depend on the mobile coverage in your area, your hardware and the provider you use.

Here’s a quick comparison of the speeds possible on the 3G, 4G and 5G networks:

NetworkAverage download speedMaximum download speedAverage time to down a 1GB video
3G8Mbps42 Mbps17 minutes
4G90Mbps980Mbps1.5 minutes
5G200Mbps1,000 to 10,000Mbps40 seconds

Advantages and disadvantages of mobile broadband

Advantages

  • Quick to set up
  • You can get connected anywhere there’s mobile coverage
  • Plenty of non-contract options
  • Offers fully portable options

Disadvantages

  • Smaller data allowances
  • Home wireless speeds can be slower than a fixed connection
  • The cost per megabit can be higher than fixed connections
  • Need mobile coverage

 

Comparing mobile broadband plans

When comparing mobile broadband plans you’ll want to consider:

  • Speed
  • Data limits
  • Equipment
  • Your budget
Speed

As with any internet plan, you’ll not only want to consider the fastest advertised speed, but when you are going to using it. For example, if you’re going to mainly using at night the speeds you’ll get will be less.

The mobile network your plan runs on will also affect the speed you can get. As we mentioned earlier, 3G networks only achieve an average speed of 8Mbps. While 4G offers average speeds of 90Mbps. Then 5G is set to eclipse both of these networks by offering an average speed of 200Mbps. However, the rollout of 5G networks is still in the early stages. And it will be a while before the majority of people will be able to use a 5G network. But if you can get 5G it could present a viable alternative to getting an nbn connection.

Data limits

Using a mobile broadband connection will usually cost you more than using a fixed internet connection. So, make sure you work out how much data you generally use before committing to a new plan. For example, look at of your previous internet bills to check your usage. This is important, as a lot of providers charge extra for going over the plan’s data limit.

Additional hardware

Data SIMs won’t require any additional equipment. But if you choose an option like Home Wireless, don’t forget to factor in the cost of the modem.

Your budget

Mobile broadband can cost more than fixed broadband, so you’ll want to weigh up how much data you need with the speed you can afford. And always check all the details so you don’t get stumped with any unexpected costs.

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