4G Broadband Explained: 4G Speeds and Best Deals

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There aren’t many households in the UK that can cope without Internet access. However, in some areas, it’s just not possible to receive a high-speed, fixed-line broadband connection. Thankfully, with 4G mobile networks being so widely available, it’s easier than ever to get online anywhere. And you can do this without relying on your phone’s mobile hotspot, as many network providers now offer dedicated 4G broadband devices for your home. These 4G broadband solutions can simply connect to a mobile network to act as a 4G router. This means you can connect your laptop, tablet, or games console to the Internet – just like you would with a standard broadband connection.
Last updated in: June 2022

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explain how 4G broadband works, what speeds it offers, and whether it’s a viable alternative to standard home Wi-Fi. We’ll also share the best 4G broadband deals from EE, Vodafone, Three, and O2.

What is 4G broadband?

4G broadband refers to an Internet connection which uses a 4G mobile network, rather than a fixed-line connection. As they work wirelessly, 4G broadband routers are portable, allowing you to connect to get online anywhere with a 4G signal.

How does 4G broadband work?

4G home broadband routers work by connecting to a 4G signal – just like a smartphone does. Your router receives a signal which is broadcast by nearby mobile masts, and this is how it connects to a 4G network.

Subsequently, your 4G home broadband router picks up this signal, allowing you to connect your devices to your 4G home network. This is the same way you’d connect to a fixed-line network (e.g. fibre broadband) but without any cables between the router and its connection source.

What is the difference between home broadband and mobile broadband?

The key difference between home broadband and mobile broadband is the means of connecting to the Internet.
With mobile broadband, your router connects to a mobile network wirelessly by using a SIM card. It picks up a signal that’s broadcast from a mast. This is unlike traditional home broadband, where copper or fibre cables connect directly into a home broadband router to provide Internet access.

How fast is 4G broadband?

The average 4G broadband speed in the UK is between 20 to 30 megabits per second (Mbps). This is fast enough to comfortably support more bandwidth-intensive online activities, such as attending video conferences or streaming films in HD.

It’s important to note that 4G broadband speeds can vary depending on your location. Living rurally, or at least far away from the nearest 4G mast, can result in slower speeds. Your choice of provider and even the building materials in your house (e.g. concrete or metal) can also negatively affect your speeds.

Compare 4G broadband deals

To ensure you secure the perfect deal for your usage and budget, we’ve compiled the best and cheapest 4G broadband deals available.

Which providers offer 4G broadband?

In the UK, you can choose from four major providers of 4G broadband deals. These are EE, Vodafone, Three, and O2.

EE 4G broadband

Here is EE’s range of 4G home broadband deals:


EE´s 4G home broadband deals
Deal Monthly cost of cheapest deal One-off cost Total cost Monthly data allowances and prices of other plans Contract length Equipment included Average download speed Monthly data limit for cheapest plan Power source
4GEE Wi-Fi Mini 2020 £13 £312 One-month plans (£40 upfront fee):

  • 4GB for £15
  • 10GB for £17
  • 40GB for £22
  • 100GB for £45
  • Unlimited data for £55

24-month plans:

  • 10GB for £15
  • 40GB for £20
  • 100GB for £40
  • Unlimited data for £50
24 months MiFi device 40Mbps 4GB Rechargeable battery
BT 4G Home Hub with EE SIM £25 £450 One-month plans (£100 upfront fee):

  • 100GB for £35
  • 300GB for £45
  • Unlimited data for £50

18-month plans:

  • 100GB for £25
  • 300GB for £40
  • Unlimited data for £50
18 months 4G hub 15-30Mbps (maximum speed) 100GB Mains
4GEE Home Router 3 £35 £630 One-month plans (£100 upfront fee):

  • 100GB for £35
  • 300GB for £45
  • Unlimited data for £50

18-month plans:

  • 100GB for £25
  • 300GB for £40
  • Unlimited data for £50
18 months 4G hub 30Mbps 100GB Mains


Vodafone 4G broadband

These are the 4G broadband deals currently available from Vodafone:


Vodafone 4G broadband deals
Deal Monthly cost of cheapest deal One-off cost Total cost Monthly data allowances and prices of other plans Contract length Equipment included Average download speed Monthly data limit for cheapest plan Power source
4G Mobile Hotspot £15 £360 One-month plans (£10 upfront fee or £20 for 4GB plan):

  • 4GB for £15
  • 30GB for £26
  • Unlimited data for £37

12-month plans:

  • 14GB for £1
  • 30GB for £22
  • Unlimited data for £33
    • 24-month plans:

      • 4GB for £10
    • 100GB for £30
    • 200GB for £40
    • Unlimited data for £60

    24-month plans (£50 upfront fee or £100 for £100GB plan):

  • 100GB for £30
  • 200GB for £40
  • Unlimited data for £60
    • 4GB for £10
24 months MiFi hotspot Up to 150Mbps Unlimited Rechargeable battery
GigaCube £30 £100 £820 24 months 4G hub Up to 300Mbps 100GB Mains One-month plans (£325 upfront fee):


Three 4G broadband

Here are Three’s 4G broadband plans:


Three´s 4G broadband plans
Deal Monthly cost of cheapest deal One-off cost Total cost Monthly data allowances and prices of other plans Contract length Equipment included Average download speed Monthly data limit for cheapest plan Power source
4G Home Broadband Hub £16 £384 One-month plan (£29 upfront fee):

  • Unlimited data for £30
    • 12-month plan:

      • Unlimited data for £20
24 months 4G hub 50-100Mbps Unlimited Mains
4G Plus Home Broadband Hub £19 £456 12-month plan:

  • Unlimited data for £22
24 months 4G hub 50-100Mbps Unlimited Mains


O2 4G broadband

O2 allows customers to choose from two portable MiFi devices:


O2´s Mifi devices
Deal Monthly cost of cheapest deal One-off cost Total cost Monthly data allowances and prices of other plans Contract length Equipment included Average download speed Monthly data limit for cheapest plan Power source
Alcatel Pocket Hotspot 4G £24 £576 24-month plans:

  • 150GB for £28
  • Unlimited data for £26
24 months MiFi device 8-10Mbps* 50GB Rechargeable battery
Huawei 4G Pocket Hotspot 2020 £15.38 £369.12 24-month plans:

  • 50GB for £24.38
  • 150GB for for £28.38
24 months MiFi device 8-10Mbps* 15GB Rechargeable battery


We compare the market to find you the best mobile broadband deal

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Best 4G broadband deals

Here are the 4G best mobile broadband deals available at the moment.


Best 4G broadband deals
Provider Deal Monthly cost of cheapest deal One-off cost Total cost Monthly data allowances and prices of other plans Contract length Equipment included Average download speed Monthly data limit for cheapest plan Power source
Vodafone 4G Mobile Hotspot £15 £360 One-month plans (£10 upfront fee or £20 for 4GB plan):

  • 4GB for £15
  • 30GB for £26
  • Unlimited data for £37

12-month plans:

  • 14GB for £11
  • 30GB for £22
  • Unlimited data for £33
    • 24-month plans:

      • 4GB for £10
24 months MiFi hotspot Up to 150Mbps Unlimited Rechargeable battery
Three Home Broadband Hub £16 £384 One-month plan (£29 upfront fee):

  • Unlimited data for £30

12-month plan:

  • Unlimited data for £20
24 months 4G hub 50-100Mbps Unlimited Mains
EE BT 4G Home Hub with EE SIM £25 £450 One-month plans (£100 upfront fee):

  • 100GB for £35
  • 300GB for £45
  • Unlimited data for £50

18-month plans:

  • 100GB for £25
  • 300GB for £40
  • Unlimited data for £50
18 months 4G hub 15-30Mbps (maximum speed) 100GB Mains


Cheapest 4G broadband deals

These are the cheapest 4G broadband deals currently available from the major network providers:


Cheapest 4G broadband deals
Provider Deal Monthly cost of cheapest deal One-off cost Total cost Monthly data allowances and prices of other plans Contract length Equipment included Average download speed Monthly data limit for cheapest plan Power source
EE 4GEE Wi-Fi Mini 2020 £13 £312 One-month plans (£40 upfront fee):

  • 4GB for £15
  • 10GB for £17
  • 40GB for £22
  • 100GB for £45
  • Unlimited data for £55

24-month plans:

  • 10GB for £15
  • 40GB for £20
  • 100GB for £40
  • Unlimited data for £50
24 months MiFi device 40Mbps 4GB Rechargeable battery
Vodafone 4G Mobile Hotspot £15 £360 One-month plans (£10 upfront fee or £20 for 4GB plan):

  • 4GB for £15
  • 30GB for £26
  • Unlimited data for £37

12-month plans:

  • 14GB for £11
  • 30GB for £22
  • Unlimited data for £33

24-month plans:

  • 4GB for £10
24 months MiFi hotspot Up to 150Mbps Unlimited Rechargeable battery
O2 Huawei 4G Pocket Hotspot 2020 £15.38 £369.12 24-month plans:

  • 50GB for £24.38
  • 150GB for £28.38
24 months MiFi device 8-10Mbps* 15GB Rechargeable battery


Unlimited 4G broadband deals


Unlimited 4G broadband deal
Provider Deal Monthly cost of cheapest deal One-off cost Total cost Monthly data allowances and prices of other plans Contract length Equipment included Average download speed Monthly data limit for cheapest plan Power source
Vodafone 4G Mobile Hotspot £15 £360 One-month plans (£10 upfront fee or £20 for 4GB plan):

  • 4GB for £15
  • 30GB for £26
  • Unlimited data for £37

12-month plans:

  • 14GB for £11
  • 30GB for £22
  • Unlimited data for £33

24-month plans:

  • 4GB for £10
24 months MiFi hotspot Up to 150Mbps Unlimited Rechargeable battery
Three Home Broadband Hub £16 £384 One-month plan (£29 upfront fee):

  • Unlimited data for £30
    • 12-month plan:

      • Unlimited data for £20
24 months 4G hub 50-100Mbps Unlimited Mains
Three 4G Plus Home Broadband Hub £19 £456 12-month plan:

  • Unlimited data for £22
24 months 4G hub 50-100Mbps Unlimited Mains


If you’re looking to enjoy 4G home broadband without any data limits, these are the best deals for you:

*Where exact download speeds have not been specified, 8-10Mbps is included to reflect the overall average download speeds expected of 4G broadband.

4g broadband tower

Is 4G broadband any good?

4G broadband involves a different approach to Internet access and home, as it doesn’t rely on cables. The use of 4G technology presents a range of benefits for customers – but it’s important to consider the downsides too.

Who is 4G broadband right for?

4G broadband may not offer the highest Internet speeds on the market, but it can be ideal for customers with certain needs.
If these factors apply to your household and circumstances, it’s worth considering a 4G home broadband deal:

  • You use the Internet lightly or occasionally.
  • Your household is small.
  • You live rurally and can’t access fibre broadband.
  • Due to moving or living between homes, you need portable Wi-Fi.
  • 30-day contracts would suit you best.

However, if you need fast speeds for online gaming or HD streaming, you’ll likely find that fibre broadband will offer a faster, more reliable connection. There also won’t be any download limits to consider when you’ve got a fixed-line connection (although unlimited 4G broadband deals are available).

Remember that fibre broadband can actually be cheaper than 4G broadband, too.

What is 4G broadband coverage like in the UK?

Overall, 4G mobile networks are widely accessible across the UK. This means that 4G broadband coverage is strong – but the extent of 4G availability can vary between providers.

The table shows the percentage of 4G coverage between the major broadband providers:


Provider Percentage of the UK population with 4G broadband coverage
EE 4G broadband 99%
Vodafone 4G broadband 99%
Three 4G broadband 99.8%
O2 4G broadband 99%
BT 4G broadband 99%


There isn’t much variety in the extent of coverage offered by 4G broadband providers. However, Three is believed to offer the widest coverage in the UK currently – although by a small margin. Unless you live very rurally, it’s likely that 4G broadband deals will be available to you from at least one of these providers.

You can check the availability of 4G broadband across networks using Ofcom’s checker.

What are the pros and cons of 4G broadband?

Before signing up to a 4G broadband deal, make sure you’ve considered all the benefits and downsides of having a 4G home broadband connection.

Here are the pros of a 4G home broadband plan:


Pros of 4G home broadband
Pros Explanation
Portability Unlike standard broadband routers, 4G hubs don’t need a fixed-line connection. This means they’re very portable – although home broadband hubs usually need to be plugged into the mains.
Internet access rurally If you’re unable to access a fixed-line home broadband connection in your area, 4G broadband offers a solution. It connects to a wireless 4G network to get your devices online.
Flexibility and less commitment 4G broadband deals often include shorter contracts, including 30-day plans. This is ideal if you’re put off by contracts lasting 12 months or longer, as you won’t face expensive early cancellation fees.
No line rental fees 4G broadband hubs don’t need to be connected to phone lines – so you can get Internet access without paying for a phone service.
Decent speeds Although you can get better speeds from a 5G router or full fibre broadband, 4G speeds should suffice for the average Internet user.


However, these 4G broadband plans also involve some cons to be aware of:


Cons of 4g broadband plans
Cons Explanation
Download limits 4G broadband deals often come with a limited amount of data each month. Staying within these limits is hard for those who use the Internet intensively – and exceeding these limits can involve extra charges.
Fixed-line Internet is often cheaper Most 4G broadband deals cost more than a fixed-line deal, including many fibre broadband plans. These fixed-line contracts often offer better speeds and unlimited downloads – and you’d pay less for them.
Less reliability than standard broadband 4G speeds can suffer as signal strength can vary due to obstacles, bad weather, or increased network traffic. This means your connection could be inconsistent at times.
No option to bundle with TV or phone services Unlike standard broadband deals, you can’t receive 4G broadband bundles including TV or phone services. A fixed-line broadband, TV, and phone package cost less than paying for each service separately.


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FAQ

🏠 Can 4G replace home broadband?

By design, 4G home broadband plans serve as a replacement for fixed-line broadband. Although 4G speeds can beat that of a basic asymmetric digital subscriber line and rival some fibre broadband speeds, 4G broadband plans aren’t ideal for every household. They can suffice for smaller households or light Internet users – but large households may struggle with 4G home broadband’s limitations.

📶 Can I get 4G broadband if I have bad signal?

Yes. 4G broadband routers can usually connect to a 4G network – even if your phone can’t access 4G mobile data in your area. It’s also worth noting that if your indoor signal is poor, your provider may offer an external antenna that connects to your 4G hub. This can enhance your signal considerably.

❓ Will 4G make home broadband obsolete?

4G broadband can be a viable option under some circumstances, but it can’t replace fixed-line broadband connections. Currently, 4G broadband can’t beat the speeds and reliability of many existing fibre broadband packages – especially with full fibre broadband becoming more widely available.

🌐 Where is 5G broadband available?

Although 5G technology isn’t currently available everywhere, network operators are expanding their 5G networks across the UK. Some of them already offer 5G broadband hubs, including EE and Three – but these devices can only offer 5G speeds if 5G is available locally. You can check the indoor and outdoor availability of 5G near you with Ofcom’s checker.

Updated on 22 Jun, 2022

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kathryn

Broadband Specialist & Copywriter