4G home broadband allows you to connect to the internet via a mobile network. Through 4G home broadband, you can achieve fast and superfast speeds without the need for a copper or fibre cable connection. But how does 4G home broadband work? And how do you know if 4G home broadband is the best option for your household?
Last update: August 2022
Households in the 2020s have more options than ever when it comes to getting connected. Here, we’ll look at how 4G home broadband can help you to work, watch and play at home, as well as on the go.
What is 4G home broadband? How does it work?
4G is the fourth generation of mobile internet, combining fast speeds with great national availability at home and on the go. If you’re struggling to get online via a cabled connection, the Broadband Plans team can help you find the perfect 4G home broadband deal for your needs.
4G home broadband works in exactly the same way that it works on your mobile phone when you’re out and about. It connects you to the internet via radio waves broadcast from the mobile base stations of cellular networks around the UK. These networks cover most of the UK and are managed by Mobile Network Operators (MNOs). There are 4 MNOs in the UK. These are Three, EE, O2, and Vodafone. Other Mobile Virtual Network Operators like BT Mobile, Sky Mobile, Giff Gaff and Tesco Mobile pay for access to these networks and provide alternative mobile phone and broadband services to customers.
Customers connect to these networks via a SIM card in their smartphone, tablet, dongle, or 4G router.
How do you access 4G broadband at home?
Many of us in the UK use 4G broadband while we’re on the go. There are a number of ways in which you can access 4G broadband at home. Some of these will be more workable than others for your household, but they include:
The simplest way to get online using 4G is by using your smartphone as a Wi Fi hotspot and ‘tethering’ devices to it. This allows a handful of connected devices to connect to the internet quickly, piggybacking on your phone’s access to the mobile network.
While this is a useful quick fix when your home broadband is down or slower than usual, it’s not really viable for the long term. Tethering is usually subject to a separate data limit, even if your mobile contract offers unlimited data. Even Three, who are usually very generous with their unlimited data plans have a maximum tethering allowance of 30GB per month.
Another option to get online using 4G is via a mobile broadband dongle. This is a small 4G-enabled device containing a data-only SIM card. It can connect your devices to the internet either via USB plugin. which connects to your devices via USB or wi-fi to get you connected. This usually has a greater traffic allowance than tethering.
Finally, a dedicated 4G router can provide performance similar to most cabled broadband connections, with dedicated routers that connect to the mobile network. These routers are capable of handling many more connections and devices than can be allowed using tethering or a mobile dongle. So the whole family can get online at the same time.
Is 4G home broadband unlimited?
That really depends on the network and plan that you have in place. Many of the most affordable 4G home broadband deals, especially those that connect you via a mobile dongle, will impose data limits. 4G home broadband deals usually come with a data allowance of at least 100 GB per month. This should be more than enough for many households, allowing for around 50 hours of high-quality video streaming per month.
Some networks, however, will provide unlimited data but tiered speeds. Which brings us to…
How much data do I need?
That depends on how many people there are in your household and what your online activities are. In the table below you can see some common online activities and how much data they require.
|Online Activity||Typical data usage|
|Browsing 60 web pages||140-240 Mb|
|Streaming 1 hour of music||35-135 Mb|
|1 hour of video streaming in SD||300-700 Mb|
|1 hour of video streaming in HD||3 Gb|
|1 hour of video streaming in 4K UHD||7 Gb|
|1 hour online gaming||40 Mb-300 Mb|
|1 hour of video chat||350 Mb|
|Download 100 emails||10 Mb|
|Download 100 documents||200-500 Mb|
How fast is 4G home broadband?
4G home broadband speeds are generally comparable to fibre broadband connections via an exchange. This is also known as Fibre To The Cabinet or FTTC. Like FTTC, 4G home broadband can achieve superfast speeds of 20-30 Mbps with a theoretical speed limit of 100 Mbps. While this isn’t quite as fast as a full-fibre connection (which can reach speeds of over 1 Gbps), it’s certainly much faster than an ADSL connection which can only manage speeds of around 10-12 Mbps. So, it is important to figure out what speed you require for your daily internet usage in order to properly determine what broadband connection you should go with.
In the table below, you can see how fast the 4 major MNOs are when it comes to completing common online tasks.
|Downloading a 50 MB album||Downloading a 500 MB TV show episode||Downloading a 2.5Gb HD TV show episode||Downloading an 800 Mb SD film||Downloading a 4Gb HD film|
|EE||14 secs||2m 24s||12m 2s||3m 51s||19m 45s|
|Three||18 secs||3m 8s||16m 2s||5m||25m 40s|
|O2||27 secs||4m 38s||23m 45s||7m 25s||30m 14s|
|Vodafone||22 secs||3m 41s||18m 53s||5m 54s||30m 14s|
|UK Average||18 secs||4m 38s||15m 45s||4m 56s||25m 16s|
Is 4G home broadband any good?
4G home broadband can provide you with a reliable and affordable broadband connection without the limitations that come with a cabled connection. For instance, if you live in an area where only an ADSL line is available, you may find that you struggle to achieve even the meagre speeds afforded by this connection. The further away you are from the nearest exchange, the slower your connection will be.
Likewise, you may baulk at the high installation costs or restrictive contracts that come with many ADSL and fibre broadband deals. Not to mention the high cost of satellite broadband in rural areas.
Consumers who want some flexibility in their contract such as a no-contract plan or live in a rural area with no fibre cabling infrastructure may find that 4G home broadband is a viable and affordable option.
Is 4G fast enough for Netflix?
Yes, with average speeds of over 20 Mbps, 4G home broadband is more than fast enough to stream Netflix content in SD and HD. To stream in HD, you need speeds of around 5Mbps. However, you may struggle to stream in 4K UHD which usually requires speeds of over 25 Mbps.
Is 4G faster than cabled broadband?
4G home broadband is almost certainly faster than ADSL broadband which connects you to the internet via your copper phone lines. You are likely to experience speeds similar to entry-level fibre broadband packages. However, you are unlikely to achieve the fastest fibre broadband speeds with 4G.
Which is the best 4G home broadband router?
If you’re wondering which networks provide the best router, we find that Three’s 4G Hub (or Huawei B535 to use its Sunday name) is one of the best on the market. It’s as fast as they get with 300Mbps and upload speeds of up to 100Mbps, making it great for gaming. There are also 4 ethernet ports to facilitate a more stable connection. And because it can support up to 64 devices at once, it’s a good fit even for large families.
Close behind this is EE’s 4GEE Home Router 2 which has similar spec and offers similar speeds and connections.
Is 5G home broadband available?
Yes, 5G home broadband is available in the UK. However, while the “big 4” networks (Three, EE, Vodafone, O2) are rolling out 5G in earnest across the country, it is not as broadly available as 4G. At the time of writing, 5G is only available in major UK towns and cities, and may not be available to rural consumers.
5G is capable of speeds of up to 1Gbps making it comparable to Fibre To The Premises (FTTP) broadband.
How much does 4G broadband cost?
That depends entirely on the network and plan you choose. Monthly plans can range from £10 per month to over £50 per month. Let’s take a look at some of the best 4G broadband deals from the major networks below.
Who supplies 4G home broadband?
All of the major networks provide some sort of 4G home broadband package, either via a mobile dongle or router. To find out the best coverage for your home, we recommend using telecoms watchdog Ofcom’s mobile coverage checker. This can help you determine which network has the best presence in your area, and will therefore give you the fastest and most reliable connection.
Below you can see some of the best home broadband deals using a modem from the major networks.
4G home broadband from EE
Owned by BT, EE is the biggest NMO in the UK. Its 4G cellular network covers 85% of the UK’s geography and 99% of its population.
|Router Type||Data allowance||Contract Length||Router Cost||Monthly Cost|
|EE 4GEE Home Router 2||100 Mb||18 month||£50||£35|
|EE 4GEE Home Router 2||200 Mb||18 month||£50||£40|
|EE 4GEE Home Router 2||300 Mb||18 month||Free||£45|
|EE 4GEE Home Router 2||500 Mb||18 month||£50||£50|
|EE 4GEE Home Router 2||Unlimited||18 month||£50||£55|
|EE 4GEE Home Router 2||500 Mb||1 month||£150||£55|
4G home broadband from Three
Three also has excellent network coverage, available to 91% of UK households. You can see their 4G home broadband deals below.
|Router Type||Data allowance||Contract Length||Router Cost||Monthly Cost|
|Three 4G Hub||Unlimited||24 month||Free||£17|
|Three 4G Hub||Unlimited||12 month||Free||£20|
|Three 4G Hub||Unlimited||1 month||Free||£28|
4G home broadband from Vodafone
|Router Type||Data allowance||Contract Length||Router Cost||Monthly Cost|
|Vodafone GigaCube||100 Gb||24 month||Free||£30|
|Vodafone GigaCube||100 Gb||1 month||£100||£30|
|Vodafone GigaCube||200 Gb||24 month||Free||£40|
|Vodafone GigaCube||200 Gb||1 month||£100||£40|
|Vodafone GigaCube||300 Gb||24 month||Free||£50|
|Vodafone GigaCube||300 Gb||1 month||£100||£50|
What other networks offer 4G home broadband?
O2 offers 4G home broadband via wireless router. There 4G Wi-Fi dongle is charged at £35 per month with unlimited data on a Pay As You Go basis. 4G National Broadband also offers 4G broadband router deals that are tailored to the needs of rural areas. This is charged at £39.99 for a 12 month contract, with £99 upfront cost to cover the router.
What is the best 4G broadband?
That depends what you’re looking for from a 4G home broadband provider. If you’re looking for unlimited data, Three is likely your best bet. If, however, you’re looking for the best coverage, you may find that EE is the choice for you. However, if you live in a rural area where other networks have little or no presence, you may find that 4G National Broadband is the provider for you.
Comparing 4G home broadband plans
The SwitchBox team are always on hand to help you explore your options and find the best 4G home broadband deal for your needs. However, nobody can make the choice for you. Here we’ll walk you through some of the things that you should keep in mind when you compare 4G home broadband plans.
How much data does your plan afford you every month? Most 4G home broadband deals will provide you with at least 100 Gb per month. However, while this should be fine for smaller and low to medium use households, you may find that you need more. Especially if you rely heavily on video chat when working from home or numerous members of the household stream video on separate devices.
You’ll need to ensure that the monthly cost of your 4G home broadband plan fits with your household budget. Which is why it’s important to be realistic about how much data your household really uses and the speeds you really need before committing to a monthly contract. So, it is recommended that you compare prices from different broadband plans before making the jump to 4G.
As we’ve seen above, different networks are capable of achieving different speeds. EE is still the fastest network, and the one to choose if you need a fast 4G home broadband connection above all.
Do you want to lock your 4G home broadband prices in for a longer period? Or would you prefer a contract that gives you the freedom to switch whenever you like if you see a better deal later. Make sure you think hard on this before committing yourself to a contract. Mobile broadband contracts can be very expensive to get out of. You’ll usually have to pay off any remaining months on your contract.
Finally, it’s a good idea to see what customers are saying about your chosen network on Trustpilot before you commit to a deal with them. You can see aggregate Trustpilot scores for the 4 major networks in the table below.
|Network Name||Trustpilot Score /5||Number of Reviews|
What are the pros and cons of 4G home broadband?
Like every method of getting online, 4G home broadband has its benefits and caveats. Here, we’ll look at the advantages and potential downsides of getting online via 4G.
What are the advantages of 4G home broadband
There are a lot of very good reasons to consider a 4G home broadband connection for your home. Especially if you’ve been met with frustration when trying to get online in other ways. Advantages include:
- More flexible contracts, with short-term plans 30 day plans widely available
- 4G broadband is highly portable, so you can get a fast and stable connection for your devices when you’re on the go
- Households in rural areas where there is no cabling infrastructure may find 4G home broadband a much more affordable alternative to satellite broadband.
What are the downsides to 4G Home Broadband?
Here are some potential pain points that you’ll need to consider to make an informed decision about whether 4G home broadband is for you.
- 4G broadband deals may be more expensive than fixed-line equivalents that achieve similar speeds, even with line rental factored in
- Data limitations may be frustrating for heavy-use households
- You may not be able to achieve the same speed as similarly priced fixed-line connections
- Your broadband service will depend on the network quality in your area, which is why it’s a good idea to use Ofcom’s checker before committing to a deal
Are you ready to switch to a 4G home broadband deal?
If you think a 4G home broadband deal might be the right way to get online for your household, the Broadband Plans team can help you find the perfect plan for your needs and budget. We can help you explore all your options and take care of your switch to bring you better broadband faster. Call us today on 0330 818 6395 to find out more!
What is a typical 4G home broadband speed?
While 4G networks are capable of speeds of up to 100Mbps, most real-world speeds are around 20-30Mbps. This is perfectly adequate for most household uses.
How much are installation fees for 4G home broadband?
Because there is no need for installation of a fixed line, there are no installation costs for 4G home broadband deals. However, customers may have to pay an upfront fee to cover the cost of the router.
Is 4G hotspot faster than Wi-Fi?
Tethering your devices to a 4G hotspot may be faster than most household Wi-Fi. However, the number of devices you can connect at the same time is much more limited. You can only connect one or two devices to a 4G hotspot while a Wi-Fi router will support over 60 connections.
Does 4G home broadband have any data caps?
While there are some 4G home broadband deals that offer unlimited data, there are many that have data caps. It’s a good idea to ensure that your home broadband deal has a data allowance of at least 100 Mb per month to allow you to get online without worrying about using too much data.
Updated on 8 Aug, 2022