Mobile Broadband vs NBN Internet

The NBN has become the standard for Australian home broadband, but that doesn’t mean you have to get an NBN plan to have access to the internet. Lots of people go without the fixed-line connection, and access the world wide web through alternatives instead. These include mobile broadband.

While the NBN relies on existing fixed lines between internet nodes across the country and your home, mobile broadband instead uses wireless mobile signals to get you online. In practice, it’s very similar to using the internet on your mobile phone — except with mobile broadband, you’d be using a dedicated SIM, without the ability to call or text.

Just like your phone when you’re away from WiFi, mobile broadband uses 3G, 4G and in some places 5G signals to connect you to the internet. The most common signal is 4G, and most mobile broadband plans are offered on 4G networks.

If you’re considering ditching the NBN in favour of a simple mobile broadband alternative, read on as we compare the two internet types to find the best solution for you.

Mobile Broadband vs NBN: The key points

  • Mobile broadband uses 3G, 4G and for some plans, 5G mobile networks
  • Mobile broadband should work instantly, provided you have the SIM card and device
  • You don’t need technical support for setting up mobile broadband — it’s a plug and play option
  • You may need a technician to visit your home when you first connect to the NBN
  • Mobile broadband can be used on the go with a dongle or other portable device
  • NBN speeds are generally much faster than mobile broadband

What’s the difference between NBN and mobile broadband?

While both broadband types achieve functionally the same result of getting you online, they are different in almost every respect. Plans are priced differently, the speeds are very different, data allowances are different, and mobile broadband is intended to be a portable solution, whereas NBN is for fixed connections.

Another key difference is that mobile broadband uses a SIM card to connect you to a mobile network, which can be slotted into a wireless modem, dongle, phone or tablet. In comparison, NBN modems are wired, and must be connected to a port in the home.

Fibre to the premises NBN
The NBN is delivered through various fixed-line internet connection types, including Fibre to the Premises.
Laptop with mobile broadband
Mobile broadband uses mobile networks to get you on online via a SIM card or internet dongle inserted into a laptop or other device.

Is mobile broadband cheaper than the NBN?

Your average mobile broadband plan might cost around $15 to $75 month-to-month, depending on data inclusions, whereas NBN plans range from $30 all the way up to $180. You can make the argument that mobile broadband is cheaper than NBN, but it’s only because of speed and data allowances.

Mobile broadband plans have slower speeds than most NBN plans, and are also limited by data capacity, whereas most NBN plans are unlimited.

In the below table, we’ve compared mobile broadband plans to give you an idea of how much they cost, and what that cost gets you.

Telstra Mobile Broadband Plans

The following table shows a selection of published Telstra 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.

Brand Features Max Data**/billing period Advertised Cost^^/billing period
Telstra Logo

Extra Small

  • SIM only plan – pay upfront via AutoPay
  • No excess data charges in Australia
  • No 5G access
  • Share your data with up to 10 plans across your account

min. cost $15 over one month

5GBMax Data**/billing period $15Advertised Cost^^/billing period Go To Site
Telstra Logo

Small

  • SIM only plan – pay upfront via AutoPay
  • No excess data charges in Australia
  • No 5G access
  • Share your data with up to 10 plans across your account

min. cost $25 over one month

30GBMax Data**/billing period $25Advertised Cost^^/billing period Go To Site
Telstra Logo

Medium

  • SIM only plan – pay upfront via AutoPay
  • No excess data charges in Australia
  • 5G access included
  • Share your data with up to 10 plans across your account

min. cost $55 over one month

75GBMax Data**/billing period $55Advertised Cost^^/billing period Go To Site
Telstra Logo

Large

  • SIM only plan – pay upfront via AutoPay
  • No excess data charges in Australia
  • 5G access included
  • Share your data with up to 10 plans across your account

min. cost $85 over one month

400GBMax Data**/billing period $85Advertised Cost^^/billing period Go To Site
View all NBN plans listed on Canstar Blue

Vodafone Mobile Broadband Plans

The following table shows a selection of published Vodafone 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.

Brand Features Max Data**/billing period Advertised Cost^^/billing period
Vodafone Logo

10GB Mobile Broadband Plan

  • SIM Only plan

min. cost $20 over first month

10GBMax Data**/billing period $20Advertised Cost^^/billing period
Vodafone Logo

40GB Mobile Broadband Plan

  • SIM Only plan

min. cost $40 over first month

40GBMax Data**/billing period $40Advertised Cost^^/billing period
Vodafone Logo

100GB Mobile Broadband Plan

  • SIM Only plan

min. cost $60 over first month

100GBMax Data**/billing period $60Advertised Cost^^/billing period
View all NBN plans listed on Canstar Blue

Amaysim Mobile Broadband Plans

The following table shows a selection of  published Amaysim 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.

Brand Features Max Data**/billing period Advertised Cost^^/billing period
Amaysim Logo

SIM Only 7GB

  • SIM Only

min. cost $15 over 28 day billing period

7GBMax Data**/billing period $15Advertised Cost^^/billing period
Amaysim Logo

SIM Only 50GB

  • SIM Only

min. cost $40 over 28 day billing period

50GBMax Data**/billing period $40Advertised Cost^^/billing period
Amaysim Logo

SIM Only 90GB

  • SIM Only

min. cost $60 over 28 day billing period

90GBMax Data**/billing period $60Advertised Cost^^/billing period
View all NBN plans listed on Canstar Blue

Southern Phone Mobile Broadband Plans

The following table shows a selection of published Southern Phone 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.

Brand Features Max Data**/billing period Advertised Cost^^/billing period
Southern Phones Logo

Extra Small

  • SIM Only

min. cost $180 over 12 month plan period

7GBMax Data**/billing period $15Advertised Cost^^/billing period Go To Site
Southern Phones Logo

Small

  • SIM Only

min. cost $300 over 12 month plan period

15GBMax Data**/billing period $25Advertised Cost^^/billing period Go To Site
Southern Phones Logo

Medium

  • SIM Only

min. cost $480 over 12 month plan period

50GBMax Data**/billing period $40Advertised Cost^^/billing period Go To Site
Southern Phones Logo

Large

  • SIM Only

min. cost $780 over 12 month plan period

100GBMax Data**/billing period $65Advertised Cost^^/billing period Go To Site
View all NBN plans listed on Canstar Blue

Is NBN more expensive than mobile broadband?

As already mentioned, NBN is generally more expensive than mobile broadband. In the table below, we’ve selected plans from across the NBN market, to give you an idea of how much these plans cost, along with the sharp difference with data inclusions.

Unlimited Premium Evening Speed (NBN 100) Plans

The following table shows a selection of published unlimited Premium Evening Speed (NBN 100) plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of standard monthly cost, from the lowest to highest, and then by alphabetical order of provider. Use our comparison tool above to see plans from a range of other providers. This is a selection of products with links to a referral partner.

Unlimited Standard Plus Evening Speed (NBN 50) Plans

The following table shows a selection of published unlimited Standard Plus Evening Speed (NBN 50) plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of standard monthly cost, from the lowest to highest, and then by alphabetical order of provider. Use our comparison tool above to see plans from a range of other providers. This is a selection of products with links to a referral partner.

Unlimited Standard Evening Speed (NBN 25) Plans

The following table shows a selection of published unlimited Standard Evening Speed (NBN 25) plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of standard monthly cost, from the lowest to highest, and then by alphabetical order of provider. Use our comparison tool above to see plans from a range of other providers. This is a selection of products with links to a referral partner.

Unlimited Basic Evening Speed (NBN 12) Plans

The following table shows a selection of published unlimited Basic Evening Speed (NBN 12) plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of standard monthly cost, from the lowest to highest, and then by alphabetical order of provider. Use our comparison tool above to see plans from a range of other providers. This is a selection of products with links to a referral partner.

Is the NBN faster than mobile broadband?

You’ll find that the NBN is consistently faster than 4G and 3G mobile broadband, especially on high-speed plans. NBN plans are sold by speed tier ( such as NBN 25, NBN 50, NBN 100, NBN 250 and so on), with the number  indicating the download speed they can technically reach in megabits per second (Mbps).

Mobile broadband on the other hand can reach speeds typically between 20Mbps and 100Mbps, although everyday performance is more comparable to slowest NBN speed, NBN 12, which can reach download speeds up to 12Mbps under normal circumstances.

What about 5G mobile broadband?

If you’re one of the lucky few to have access to 5G mobile broadband, you’ll find speeds likely on par with NBN. Unfortunately, the network hasn’t been rolled out Australia-wide as of yet, and is still in early stages.

Currently Telstra is the only major provider to offer 5G mobile broadband. Alternatively, if you don’t need 5G broadband on the go, Optus offers 5G home broadband, as does Spintel. These can only be used at home.

5G Home Wireless Plans

The following table shows selected published 5G home internet plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of cost, from the lowest to highest and then by data allowance, largest to smallest.

Brand Features Max Data**/billing period Advertised Cost^^/billing period
Spintel Logo

Spintel 5G Home Wireless Contract

  • Average speed of 147Mbps
  • 50Mbps satisfaction guarantee
  • Nokia 5G modem included

min. cost $1,460 over 24 months

UnlimitedMax Data**/billing period $70Advertised Cost^^/billing period
Optus Logo

Optus 5G Internet Everyday

  • Speed capped at 100Mbps
  • 50Mbps satisfaction guarantee
  • Includes the Optus supplied Nokia modem
  • Special offer: one month free

min. cost $75 over first month

UnlimitedMax Data**/billing period $75Advertised Cost^^/billing period
Optus Logo

Optus 5G Internet Entertainer

  • No speed cap
  • 50Mbps satisfaction guarantee
  • Includes the Optus supplied Nokia modem
  • Special offer: one month free

min. cost $90 over first month

UnlimitedMax Data**/billing period $90Advertised Cost^^/billing period
Spintel Logo

Spintel 5G Home Wireless No Contract

  • Average speed of 147Mbps
  • 50Mbps satisfaction guarantee
  • Nokia 5G modem included

min. cost $110 over first month

UnlimitedMax Data**/billing period $90Advertised Cost^^/billing period
View all NBN plans listed on Canstar Blue

5G Mobile Broadband Plans

The following table shows a selection of published 5G mobile broadband plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of their 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.

Brand Features Max Data**/billing period Advertised Cost^^/billing period
Telstra Logo

Medium

  • SIM only plan – pay upfront via AutoPay
  • No excess data charges in Australia
  • 5G access included
  • Share your data with up to 10 plans across your account

min. cost $55 over one month

75GBMax Data**/billing period $55Advertised Cost^^/billing period Go To Site
Telstra Logo

Large

  • SIM only plan – pay upfront via AutoPay
  • No excess data charges in Australia
  • 5G access included
  • Share your data with up to 10 plans across your account

min. cost $85 over one month

400GBMax Data**/billing period $85Advertised Cost^^/billing period Go To Site
View all NBN plans listed on Canstar Blue

Is mobile broadband the same as WiFi?

WiFi is the wireless signal that is transmitted from a modem to your device, which allows you to access the internet, whereas mobile broadband is a type of internet connection that is portable. Mobile broadband can transmit a WiFi signal, but the terms are not interchangeable.

Is 4G better than the NBN?

Theoretically, 4G can reach speeds between 20Mbps and 100Mbps, but this does not make it better than the NBN, as the NBN can deliver a more consistent service across each speed tier. You will find that with 4G connections — the most common wireless signal for internet browsing in Australia — speeds in peak usage times are more comparable to that of NBN 12, and tend to stay under 50Mbps at best. Theoretical speeds also don’t make up for peak hours, where speeds can take a major hit.

Is mobile broadband better than the NBN?

It comes down to your own personal preference as to what you want to do with your internet connection. If you want a stable connection at home with limitless downloads, the NBN should be a better choice. If you’d prefer internet on the go and don’t need ultra-fast speeds or huge data allowances, then mobile broadband might be for you.

Alternatively, you can consider home wireless broadband, which also uses 3G, 4G or 5G mobile networks but may be better suited as an NBN alternative in the home.

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