Mobile Broadband vs Fixed Line (NBN) — Which Is Better?


The NBN rollout is finally getting close to completion, bringing fast broadband to homes around the country (some, admittedly, faster than others!) Now more than ever before, broadband is a huge part of our lives – everything from Netflix to Facebook has made sure of that. But even when the NBN rollout is finished, there are going to be people left out – people with no NBN connected to their home at all, and no ADSL to fall back on.

It’s actually not as uncommon a situation as you might think. The NBN rollout involved the owners of properties giving permission for the NBN to be installed there – and especially in the case of some rental properties, landlords have either not known or not bothered. Then, down the track when the area’s ADSL is turned off, anyone moving into that residence is stuck without broadband access at all.

But there’s long been a solution for them which is rapidly growing in popularity – and not just among that key market. Home wireless broadband has been the solution many people have needed to get access to broadband at all – but it’s increasingly becoming popular with people living in homes that do have access to wired broadband.

Why? Well, let’s look at the pros and cons of each.

What’s the Difference Between Wired and Wireless Home Broadband?

The key difference between these two very different methods of connecting your home to broadband internet is right there in the name – wired versus wireless. But it’s not as simple as the usual “wired versus wi-fi” decision you might make when setting up your home network. The wires in this case connect your home to the street, and from the street, they run to a central point of access where they can tap into the internet. That’s a lot of expensive wires and cables and a lot of work, and that means it needs to have been installed professionally for each and every home. Whether it’s the increasingly obsolete ADSL (using copper phone lines) or variations of the NBN (using a mix of copper and fibre optic cable) you’ll be effectively plugging into a direct line to the internet. Wireless broadband, on the other hand, makes use of the biggest wireless networks in the country – the 3G and 4G mobile networks. That means you can set up wireless broadband just about anywhere, and take it with you if you move.

Each has its own very clear advantages – and disadvantages.

Wired Broadband

While for many, wired broadband has been the default for years – thanks to the fact that a phone line is in almost every home, apartment and other dwelling – that’s not a guarantee even now. There are many people who simply live too far from the nearest phone exchange to get a reliable ADSL broadband connection via their phone line, as well as people whose phone line is in too poor a condition to carry internet data reliably.

For those people, the NBN is intended to be the solution – it’s not just about giving everyone faster speeds! But ultimately not every property can or will get the NBN – older multi-unit buildings like flats and apartments are particularly problematic and some simply won’t get coverage. Similarly, some people live in houses where the owners has declined an NBN installation. ADSL will suffice for now, but as the NBN rolls out in an area its ADSL gets switched off, leaving some people without any wired connection option at all.

If you can connect via the NBN or even ADSL, though, you’re likely to be getting solid, reliable internet (though its sped will depend on which NBN technology you’re using, amongst other factors).

The down side, even when you have the connection ready to go, is that it can take some time to get the internet service up and running. ADSL can take a couple of weeks, as a cable needs to be physically plugged in at the local phone exchange, but even new NBN connections can take time to set up. And for renters, many new broadband connections come with setup fees or lock-in contracts, neither of which are welcome when you’re not sure how long you’ll be living there.

NBN Broadband Plans

NBN UNLIMITED Plan - BASIC SPEED
  • Up to 9Mbps Basic Evening
  • Unlimited Data
  • NBN 12™ Fixed Line
$49.90/mth
Min Cost - $49.90 for 6 months, then $59.90 ongoing

Essential Plan
  • Up to 20Mbps Standard Evening
  • 100GB Data
  • NBN 25™ Fixed Line
$70/mth
Min Cost - $286 (inc. $216 modem)

nbn™ Broadband Basic (Small)
  • Up to 9Mbps Basic Evening
  • 100GB Data
  • NBN 12™ Fixed Line
$50/mth
Min Cost - $50 over 1 mth

NBN Starter No Contract
  • Up to 20Mbps Standard Evening
  • Unlimited Data
  • NBN 25™ Fixed Line
$60/mth
Min Cost - $120

Wireless Mobile Broadband

The 3G and 4G mobile phone networks were both built very much with data in mind as well as phone calls; 4G in particular can be really, really fast at transferring data – in many cases with the right device, completely out-pacing even the fastest NBN connection.

That makes the mobile networks a great solution for broadband, you’d think. And you’d be mostly right, too – far from being a broadband service running on top of a phone network, wireless home broadband leverages the fact that our mobile networks were designed from the ground up for data as well.

In the “ease of use” stakes, wireless home broadband effortlessly wins – because all you need to do to set it up is obtain a wireless modem from your mobile provider of choice, insert your SIM card, and connect to the modem with all of your home’s devices. And just like that, you’re on the internet.

The down side? Well, it’s largely going to be speed. While the 4G network is capable of incredibly high data speeds, that depends on you being within close range of several cells at the same time, all those cells being relatively free of other traffic, and there being no other congestion on the airwaves in that area. That’s why home wireless broadband will never be a permanent solution for everyone – there’s simply not enough available broadcast space for a huge number of people, and while 5G (a few years away from the mainstream yet) will go some way towards fixing that, it won’t replace wired broadband for everyone.

Wireless Broadband Plans

Home Wireless Broadband
  • 4G Speeds Vary
  • 250GB Data
  • Mobile
$44.90/mth
Cost per MB $0.0052
Min Cost - $213.90 over 1 month (incl. $169 upfront cost)

Mobile Broadband - 70GB
  • 70GB Data
  • Sim Only Plan
$85.90/mth
Min Cost - $85.90 over 1 month

Orange 30 Mobile Broadband
  • 30GB Data
  • Sim Only Plan
$85/mth
Min Cost - $85, 1MB Data 0.0028

What Sort of Speed Can You Expect from Home Wireless?

While it’ll depend on the provider and network, in most cases you’ll find that wireless home broadband is fairly limited in terms of actual download and upload speed. That’s deliberate – it’s to ensure that one user can’t completely saturate a mobile cell tower with their downloads, stopping everyone else from using it!

So you’ll most commonly see speeds restricted to something like those on Yomojo’s popular home wireless plans, with the majority of customers able to access 12 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload. That’s the same as the NBN 12 speed tier on wired and is still faster than a great many people’s old ADSL connections. It’s also plenty fast enough for smooth internet usage, including HD Netflix streaming (as long as you keep an eye on that data limit!)

Yomojo’s plan gives you 250GB per month for $44.90, with no lock-in contract – the only other expense is the one-off cost of the modem, which is $169 (and it’s yours to keep and take with you if you move). Moose Mobile has also just launched its wireless home broadband service, meaning that competition is heating up in this increasingly popular field. Both of these providers use the massive Optus 4G Plus network for their wireless connections, so you can be sure of reliable service.

Is Home Wireless the Solution for You?

There was a time when attempting to leverage the mobile network for home broadband was possible but way too restrictive – data limits were low, quality 4G modems were few and far between, and providers didn’t really price those services with day-to-day usage as a main home broadband connection in mind (if they offered them at all).

Times have changed, though, and with affordable, hassle-free wireless home broadband solutions like those from Yomojo and Moose Mobile combining generous data limits with reliable service and a monthly access price that’s actually cheaper than the NBN, it’s no surprise that home wireless broadband has come out of its niche and into the mainstream.

We expect to see competition grow ever fiercer in the wireless home broadband sector, too, as demand grows (largely thanks to pricing) and especially when 5G gets out of the trial phase and into its large-scale rollout.

That’s great news for you, the consumer – because thanks to all the advances that have been made in recent years, now nobody has to go without a home broadband connection.

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