Can mobile broadband replace your fixed broadband?

Mobile network technology continues to evolve at an astonishing rate in both Australia and overseas. 4G is now the accepted standard across our nation rather than being an advanced technology like it was a few years ago, and the major telcos will be rolling out the next generation, 5G, over the next few years.

This next generation is expected to allow speeds of up to 50Mbps in high-density areas, and a minimum of 100Mbps in most other areas – far beyond our current 4G limits. With increasing data speeds, coverage and download quotas, is mobile data finally beginning to supersede the need for a fixed broadband connection?

Given the now-widespread rollout of 4G coverage across all of Australia’s major mobile networks, the availability of internet is no longer a deal-breaker. The networks of Optus and Telstra both cover over 98% of the Australian population, with the vast majority of Aussies living in relatively dense population areas such as our capital cities.

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For most Aussies in metro areas, their home already has a broadband connection. If not, installing one is fairly cheap and straightforward, making a fixed connection a no-brainer. For those living in remote areas, however, a wireless connection is usually the superior option. The cost of laying data cables over hundreds of kilometres, plus the tiny populations of outback towns, means that cable internet often just isn’t viable.

Furthermore, there’s the biggest advantage of wireless internet to consider – the mobility. The ability to access the internet from almost any place in the country has huge advantages for people who travel frequently, who have multiple devices or family members, or who rent their home and move premises often.

All you need to access the internet wirelessly is a device, a SIM card and a broadband plan – far easier than fixed-line installation. In a decade when the Internet of Things is rapidly becoming a reality, mobile connectivity may soon trump multiple fixed broadband locations as the world’s preferred technology.

With that said, there are still some disadvantages, chief among which are the cost and bandwidth of mobile broadband. The fact is, fixed cable broadband allows for much greater download rates for larger numbers of people, and it’s much, much cheaper to do so. Broadband plans these days offer data allowances in the hundreds of gigabytes (GB) with some even offering unlimited data. Prices tend to range from around $40 per month to $100 per month for naked broadband plans.

By contrast, even home-oriented wireless broadband plans typically offer less than 50GB per month, and for similar prices to fixed broadband. If you’re looking to watch TV and video or download large files over wireless, you’ll run out of data pretty quickly!

Whilst the coverage and speed of 4G wireless broadband can now compete with the typical download rates achieved by fixed connections, the technology and economies of scale simply aren’t yet there to make it a full-fledged replacement.

Wireless connectivity is an incredibly technology. It allows us to connect to our friends, family and colleagues in places we never thought possible otherwise. But to cater for our increasing data needs, especially in urban areas, we’ll still need wires, cables and fibre for some years to come.

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