More Australians are relying on home internet for work, school and entertainment – and broadband networks are feeling the strain. Both ADSL and NBN connections are undergoing extra pressure, across the network as a whole and within houses.
This congestion could be bad for you if you do lots of working from home, which is why it may be time to think about alternatives to the NBN, ADSL, or cable broadband. A key option that’s attracting frustrated NBN users is mobile broadband, a kind of internet connection that puts you on a separate network to your home broadband. Doing this could make your broadband service more reliable, but it’s important to think of it as an alternative to the NBN, especially as a backup.
But how does it work, and what technology does it use? In this article, we’ll be diving deep into the modems and devices you can use for mobile broadband to work.
The best mobile broadband modems
- HTC 5G Hub, ideal for 5G mobile broadband. Can be ordered from Telstra.
- Nighthawk M2 Mobile Router, great for using 5G mobile broadband. Can be ordered from Telstra.
- 4GX Modem, great for monitoring your data use on the go with an inbuilt screen. Can be ordered from Telstra.
- Telstra 4GX Modem, great for in the house wireless home broadband connections. Can be ordered from Telstra.
- 4GX USB, a 4G capable USB Wi-Fi dongle. Can be ordered from Telstra.
- AC800S 4G WiFi Modem, a great portable modem with an inbuilt screen. Can be ordered from Optus.
- B818 4G WiFi Modem, a great wireless modem for the home. Can be ordered from Optus.
- Vodafone Pocket WiFi 2 4G, a great no-nonsense pocket Wi-Fi, no bigger than a small phone. Can be ordered from Vodafone.
- Huawei B525s-65a Mobile Router, a super-capable wireless modem, ideal for use at the home. Can be ordered from OVO.
- Huawei E8372, a small Wi-Fi dongle great for casual on the go use. Can be ordered from Exetel.
We’ve got detailed analysis on each of these modems later in the article.
- What is mobile broadband?
- Mobile Broadband Plans
- Telstra Mobile Broadband Modems
- Optus Mobile Broadband Modems
- Vodafone Mobile Broadband Modems
- OVO Mobile Broadband Modems
- Exetel Mobile Broadband Modems
- How fast is mobile broadband?
What is mobile broadband?
Mobile broadband is internet which works through the 4G and (in some areas) 5G mobile networks across Australia that are owned by Telstra, Optus and Vodafone. These networks are completely separate from the NBN, and are typically intended for smartphones; however, telcos also offer these networks as an alternative to standard home internet, such as NBN or ADSL. The benefit of mobile broadband is that you can connect anywhere your provider offers mobile coverage, which means you can use your internet plan on-the-go and away from home.
There are plenty of different products that can be used for mobile broadband. Typically, mobile broadband is powered through a SIM card, given to you by the internet provider. After this is given to you, you can power it through a few different ways. It could be through a USB internet dongle, a mobile broadband modem, or it could simply be through your phone if you use your SIM card slot for the data-only SIM.
Should I get mobile broadband?
If there’s lots of strain on your internet at home because lots of people are using it, or if you need to move a lot or stay moving for work, mobile broadband could be a great fit for you. As a back-up plan or an immediate solution, there are plans on the market to fit all lifestyles.
What about 5G mobile broadband?
The 5G network is still being rolled out across Australia by the three major telcos, with Telstra and Optus providing coverage in spots in major cities and Vodafone now live in parts of western Sydney. Telstra is currently running an offer until June, where all mobile broadband plans include free access to 5G as well as 4G coverage, but you’ll need a device that can access the network. After the end of June, selected Telstra mobile broadband plans will continue to offer 5G coverage, while others can add 5G for an extra $15 per month.
Mobile Broadband Plans
Before we go any further on mobile broadband modems, check out the prices you can get mobile broadband for. Prices range between $15 for 7GB a month and $110 for 250GB a month, from a variety of different brands across all three phone networks. Some providers also allow you to sign up and get a device bundled in, like a modem or an internet dongle.
Mobile Broadband Plans Compared: Over 100GB
The following table shows a selection of published mobile broadband plans with over 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: 100GB
The following table shows a selection of published 100GB 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.
Telstra Mobile Broadband Modems
Telstra currently offers four modems with its plans: the Telstra 4GX USB, the Nighthawk M2, the Telstra 4GX Wi-Fi Pro, the Telstra 4GX Modem.
The Telstra 4GX USB, the Nighthawk M2 and the Telstra 4GX Wi-Fi Pro are great portable modems, supporting up to five, 20 and 10 devices on their devices respectively. The 4GX USB is a dongle can be plugged into a USB port, letting you hotspot, whereas the Nighthawk M2 and the 4GX Wi-Fi Pro have inbuilt screens, allowing you to monitor your usage on the go. The Nighthawk M2 is also capable of 5G connections.
The 4GX Modem however isn’t a portable modem, but allows for up to 20 devices to be connected. It’s more ideal for streaming and gaming, with the trade-off of not being portable.
The Telstra 4GX USB starts at $2.66 a month for 36 months, and the 4GX modem starts at $8 a month for 36 months.
Telstra also sells a 5G-capable HTC 5G Hub on plans, but demand means the device isn’t always in stock. The Hub can connect to both 5G and 4G networks, and supports an Ethernet connection of 1Gbps.
Optus Mobile Broadband Modems
Optus also offers a range of great devices to buy with your mobile broadband plan. In short, to get onto the internet, you’ll need a device that can either pick up a hotspot signal (such as a laptop) or a device that can have a SIM card inserted (such as a phone).
Optus has two mobile broadband modems up for grabs: the AC800S 4G WiFi Modem and the B818 4G WiFi Modem.
The AC800S 4G WiFi Modem is great if you’d like portable WiFi. It has a built-in battery, and it comes in a compact design. The B818 4G WiFi Modem on the other hand is a modem you must plug in. It has a strong antenna that provides strong home WiFi coverage, ideal for home usage, and can work well with numerous devices.
The B818 4G WiFI Modem has access to multiple 4G signal bands, meaning it’s better for multiple devices and users – whereas the AC800S 4G WiFi Modem being better at portable internet usage.
Both of these modems start at $65 per month (on 24 month plans), both requiring a 200GB or 500GB plan to be included with the purchase.
Vodafone Mobile Broadband Modems
Vodafone offers a Vodafone Pocket WiFi 2 4G modem when you sign up for mobile broadband. You’ll need to pay the modem off if you have it added to your plan, with the price starting at just $17.50 a month for the minimum data plan.
OVO Mobile Broadband Modems
OVO Mobile is a provider that sells 4G mobile broadband connections through the Optus network. OVO has two modems on offer for its mobile broadband customers – the Huawei E5577F-932 WiFi Modem and the Huawei B525s-65a Mobile Router.
The Huawei E5577F-932 WiFi Modem is a pocket sized portable WiFi modem, great for using on the go! It allows for up to 16 devices to be connected simultaneously, can connect to both 3G and 4G connections, and you can pick it up for $99 outright.
The Huawei B525s-65a Mobile Router is a beefy, less portable modem, ideal for setting up in your home. It can have up to 64 devices connected at any given time, and even includes three LAN ports and one WAN port, allowing for local connections by Ethernet cables. You can pick this up for $199 from OVO.
Exetel Mobile Broadband Modems
Exetel offers a mobile broadband dongle for using mobile broadband on the go, ideal for plugging into laptops and notebooks. The Huawei E8372 is fast and reliable, allowing up to 10 users at any given time through its hotspotting capability. You can get creative with it, too! As long as it has a USB charge coming into it, it can work! If you have a wall-socket for a smart phone, you can plug this in and use it as a normal modem! You can pick this up from Exetel for $69 upfront without a lock-in plan.
How fast is mobile broadband?
Typically, you should be able to reach download speeds of between 20Mbps and 100Mbps on a 4G connection, but faster download speeds of up to 1Gbps are now possible if you live in an area with 5G network coverage from your provider, and have a compatible device. Telstra currently offers 5G mobile broadband, which can be accessed through its HTC 5G Hub device.
That being said, speeds vary depending on which network you are on and what technology you are using. We’ve done a great deep-dive into this topic here.
Image: nd3000 / Shutterstock