The Actual Difference Between Wireless Broadband And Mobile Broadband

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Sick of waiting for the NBN? Is unreliable FTTN letting you down? Struggling to keep your download up? You don't need to settle for a crap connection. You've got other options.

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There are two main NBN alternatives worth considering: home wireless broadband and mobile broadband. Both are powered by 4G mobile networks, but there are major differences between the two. However, in both cases, you can now get a plan with over 200GB.

This might not be enough data to replace a fixed line connection for every kind of user, but these kinds of allowances mean mobile connections are starting to look like genuine fixed line alternatives.

Here's what you need to know about home wireless broadband and mobile broadband, and some of the best plans for both.


Home Wireless Broadband

Home wireless broadband is 4G-powered internet designed to replace a traditional fixed line connection, whether it's ADSL, Cable, or NBN. Home wireless broadband plans tend to come with allowances of 200GB or more and start at around $40 per month. When compared to mobile broadband, the trade-off with home wireless is capped download speeds (in most cases) and a bit less flexibility.

Home wireless broadband plans are designed for home use, which means the modems require a constant power source. (However, if you do want to get mobile with them, you can just plug one in at a new location and get back online instantly.) On the plus side, this means the modems are a bit more robust, and have extras like multiple gigabit Ethernet ports.

Most home wireless broadband plans have their speeds capped at 12Mbps. That's equivalent to a basic NBN connection, but still faster than the average Australian ADSL connection. Exetel, SpinTel, Yomojo, and Moose Mobile all offer home wireless broadband plans. These plans are all quite similar: you’ll pay between $40 to $45 per month for a 250GB allowance.

These plans are all available on a no-contract basis - the main difference is upfront fees. SpinTel and Exetel are the cheapest, at $39.95 and $39.99 per month respectively, with a $99 modem payment.

All these home wireless broadband providers are powered by the Optus network and are bundled with the same modem, so performance should be comparable no matter who you sign up with.

If you want faster home wireless broadband, Optus has you covered. $65 per month gets you a 200GB allowance, or $85 per month gets you 500GB. Excess data is charged at $10 per extra 10GB.

Optus home wireless broadband plans are the only plans on the market that operate at "full Optus 4G" speeds. However, exact performance can depend on factors such as coverage and network congestion. We've previously experienced download speeds between 20Mbps and 100Mbps when testing out Optus' Home Wireless kit. It may also be possible to increase these using an external antenna.

These plans are available on a 24-month contract, or on a month-to-month basis. If you go for the no-contract option, you'll pay $192 upfront for the modem.

Looking further forward, Optus is starting to roll out 5G Home Wireless Broadband. This is only available in a few suburbs across Australia right now (on an invite-only basis), but this will expand as Optus builds its network. Optus is pitching its 5G broadband plans as a genuine NBN alternative: these plans will have unlimited data for $70 per month. Better yet, if you get speeds of under 50Mbps, Optus says you can leave without penalty.


Mobile Broadband

As the name might suggest, mobile broadband is an internet connection similar to the kind you get on your smartphone. Mobile broadband plans are powered by 4G networks, with pricing and data allowances similar to what you'd get on a standard mobile plan. When compared to home wireless broadband, the trade-off is smaller data allowances and a higher price tag.

Mobile broadband connections do however run at faster speeds than most home wireless broadband plans and offer more flexibility. The dongles and portable hotspots you use with a mobile broadband plan tend to be battery-powered, so they're great for hitting the road. Alternatively, you can just get a SIM-only mobile broadband plan and use it with your own hotspot, a tablet, or even a spare phone.

Here are some SIM-only mobile broadband plans with at least 100GB:

And here are some SIM-only mobile broadband plans with at least 50GB:

If you’re looking for faster mobile broadband, Telstra has a 5G-ready portable modem: the HTC 5G Hub. On top of being Australia’s first 5G hotpot, the HTC 5G Hub is almost an entertainment device. It runs Android Pie (and as such, supports apps like Netflix), has a 5-inch 720p touchscreen, and a USB Type-C port for connecting external displays.

While 5G coverage is still extremely limited, the HTC 5G Hub is also the fastest 4G hotspot you can get from Telstra. Plans do max out at 100GB per month, however, so it won’t replace a fixed line connection for most.


Alex Choros is Managing Editor at WhistleOut, Australia's phone and internet comparison website.


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