Mobile broadband is an awesome idea and a great alternative to home internet, but there’s a lot of confusion around it; in particular, about how useful it is, how fast it is, and how practical it is as an alternative to fixed-line internet.
If you’re working from home, travelling often, or need to use the internet a lot for your job, it’s great to have mobile broadband, even just as a backup in the bottom of a drawer or bag.
We’re here to answer your questions about mobile broadband’s speed and how effective it would be at getting work done, so you can make the right call on if you should make the switch.
How fast is mobile broadband?
Mobile broadband tends to stick around 12Mbps, similar to basic NBN speeds. In some areas it’s possible to reach download speeds of 20Mbps to 100Mbps, but this tends to be just in major cities where NBN is already rolled out.
What is mobile broadband?
Mobile broadband is a type of broadband that is generally more portable than home internet, which typically requires home wiring. You can get mobile broadband in different ways – some providers typically issue you with a USB dongle or a modem to access their mobile broadband plans, while others could send you a data-only SIM card.
But the differences don’t end there. Mobile broadband operates on a separate network to NBN or ADSL connections. Rather than taking advantage of home wiring, mobile broadband uses the mobile networks operated by Telstra, Optus and Vodafone – the same networks that allow your phone to connect to the internet when you’re away from WiFi. So, this could be 4G or 5G.
This makes mobile broadband a great solution to getting online, and also a great alternative or backup to home broadband. It makes a lot of sense if you’re big on travelling, and need to stay online for your work.
Mobile Broadband Speeds Explained
You should be able to reach download speeds of between 20Mbps and 100Mbps on a 4G mobile broadband connection. Some speeds max out at 12Mbps (similar to NBN Basic). Faster download speeds of up to 1Gbps are now possible if you live in an area with 5G network coverage and have a compatible device.
However, like the internet on your phone accessed through your normal SIM card, it depends on how reliable the network around you is. This comes back to Telstra, Optus and Vodafone. Depending on their network coverage in your area, the quality of your mobile broadband connection can change.
Mobile broadband plans should reach similar speeds to the NBN, and also out perform ADSL connections. This means it’s something worth thinking about if you’re in an area without NBN.
The speeds across the networks will also be different, and vary depending on the type of device you use to connect, as well as your location.
- Telstra’s 4GX network can reach speeds up to 300Mbps with premium modems and hotspots, such as its Netgear Nighthawk M2. Slower 4GX-capable devices reach downloads speeds of between 2-75Mbps, and standard 4G devices offer up to 50Mbps.
- Optus customers using Optus’ 4G Plus network can expect speeds up to 100Mbps, although real-world results may vary.
- Vodafone is less forthcoming with exact speeds, but 4G customers can theoretically expect downloads up to 100Mbps, with the average under 50Mbps.
There’s also a range of 5G capable devices available, mostly phones, but as the 5G network is just in the initial phases of rolling out, it might be some time before 5G mobile broadband becomes a valid option for most of us.
Remember: these speeds are fine for casual use, such as browsing, social media use or video streaming. For anything really heavy duty, consider a high-end NBN plan, such as those at the Standard Plus NBN 50 tier or the Premium NBN 100 tier.
Mobile Broadband Plans
We’ve put together a selection of mobile broadband plans on the market right now. You’ll need one with enough data that can keep you going. Stuff like video calling, online gaming and streaming will chew through your data plan in no time, so if you do any of that you’ll need a plan with enough data to keep you busy. If you need mobile broadband as a simple emergency backup, any of these should work!
Mobile Broadband Plans Compared: 100GB+
The following table shows a selection of published 100GB and over mobile broadband plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost, from the lowest to highest and then by data allowance, largest to smallest. This is a selection of products with links to referral partners.
Mobile Broadband Plans Compared: Over 50GB
The following table shows a selection of published mobile broadband plans with 50GB – 100GB of data on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost, from the lowest to highest and then by data allowance, largest to smallest. This is a selection of products with links to referral partners.
Mobile Broadband Plans Compared: Under 50GB
The following table shows a selection of published mobile broadband plans with less than 50GB of data on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost, from the lowest to highest and then by data allowance, largest to smallest. This is a selection of products with links to referral partners.
Image: Sharomka / Shutterstock