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4G home internet in Australia: how it's different from mobile and the best plans

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(Image credit: Ollyy / Shutterstock)

If you've landed on this page, you're probably aware that there are a few alternatives to the NBN and other wired connections when getting hooked up to the internet, but what advantage does 4G home internet and mobile broadband offer?

For those in more rural and remote locations, or those who otherwise aren't able to get a fixed line connection, making use of the nation's 4G data network is a great alternative.

What's more, because Australia's 4G network is so expansive (it's the same one that provides your mobile phones with data), your 4G internet connection is considerably more portable, and can be used wherever you can take (and power) your router.

With 4G plans, you won't be paying for setup fees, as it's usually as simple as powering up the modem router once you've received it, but you'll likely have to lay out an upfront cost for this device unless you sign up for a 24 month contract.

If you think you're one of the many Aussies that would benefit from a 4G home internet or mobile broadband connection, we've checked out all the options and brought you the best on offer, while giving you some more info on what this type of connection actually entails.

4G home broadband: what is it and how does it work?

Unlike regular broadband, 4G home broadband operates through air waves instead of cables. In this sense, it's more similar to the way your phone operates when using mobile data.

Also unlike regular broadband, there is no set-up process needed. All you need to do is plug in the router and your internet is ready to go.

4G home wireless plans

The best 4G home wireless plans

Optus Home Internet Lite | 200GB data | AU$59 p/m

Optus Home Internet Lite | 200GB data | AU$59 p/m

After discounting its Home Internet Lite plan, Optus has solidified the price, netting you 200GB of data to use for just AU$59 per month. You can opt for the month-to-month plan and pay AU$216 upfront for the modem, or sign up for a 24-month contract and get it for free. The 500GB plan costs an extra AU$10 per month if you need more data, but all other details are the same.

Minimum total cost: AU$275

Vodafone 4G Home Internet | Unlimited data | AU$60p/m

Vodafone 4G Home Internet | Unlimited data | AU$60p/m

If the 200GB data cap on the above Optus plan isn't to your liking, this unlimited plan from Vodafone is a solid alternative. The catch is that the speed is capped at 20Mbps, whereas Optus' plan has no cap. All new signups get their first month free, the modem's free if you stay for two years, and if you already have a mobile plan with Vodafone, the monthly rate gets reduced to just AU$50 a month.

Minimum total cost: AU$60

More 4G home wireless plans

4G mobile broadband

Mobile broadband is very similar in essence to home wireless, with the main distinction being that the 4G modem router is designed to be taken on the road with you in the mobile broadband plans, while home wireless devices need to be powered from a wall outlet.

Mobile broadband plans tend to offer significantly less data for equivalent costs compared with home wireless plans, so it's worth considering how important that mobility is for your situation.

The best 4G mobile broadband plans

Telstra Upfront Data Plan Small | 30GB data | Month-to-month | AU$25 p/m

Telstra Upfront Data Plan Small | 30GB data | Month-to-month | AU$25 p/m

Telstra's Small mobile broadband offering is great value for those seeking a 4G connection – you get 30GB of data to use for just AU$25 per month and there's no lock-in contract. You're able to bring your own device or bundle it with one of Telstra's if you don't have an existing modem.

Minimum total cost is AU$30

More 4G home wireless plans

What are the pros and cons of Home Broadband?

Pros:

  • Portable – can be taken anywhere as long as there is a plug
  • Can be a much faster option over broadband (depending on the package)
  • More flexible plans available - 1 month through to 24 months
  • Ideal if you struggle to get fixed line broadband

Cons: 

  • 4G can end up costing more overall than regular broadband
  • Most plans carry download limits
  • 4G broadband can be patchy in areas making it less reliable

Below you'll find some more detailed exploration of these positives and issues:

What are the downsides to 4G Home Broadband?

More than anything, the major issue is 4G broadband's reliance on mobile data. While you can plug it in anywhere, it will need to work off 4G signals. That means if you live in the middle of nowhere or in a 4G blackspot, you will find yourself running into slow or non-existent internet.

To counter this, make sure you test the mobile speeds where you live first. If you find that you're getting next to no internet there, a regular broadband deal could be a safer bet.

If you want an even faster connection, you can also get 5G home broadband plans. However, you will then need to be in an area where 5G is available. Most home broadband plans are both 4G and 5G compatible and will simply work on what is in your area.

How much are installation fees?

Because there is no need to have anything installed or have any engineers come around, 4G home broadband is completely free to have set up. Wherever you get your 4G broadband from, the company will send you your router and you set it up yourself.

Does 4G home broadband have any data caps?

Depending on who you go with and which package you use, there is likely to be data caps. However, unlimited plans are also available. As you can guess, the more data you choose the more expensive your package becomes.

Does 4G broadband work as well as regular home broadband?

Neither package is necessarily better, but there are a few pros and cons that 4G broadband faces compared to regular broadband.

Firstly, the pros. 4G broadband offers more flexibility, there are more options for contract lengths and pricing and most importantly, you can take it on the go. That means you can use it anywhere there is a plug – trains, hotels and so on.

However, there are negatives too. While almost all regular broadband packages have unlimited downloads and uploads, many 4G broadband packages will see you capped. And, while 4G broadband can be faster, it can be less reliable on the whole. Speeds aren't necessarily always going to be the same.

Still want more options? Then head to our main broadband deals guide for all the best tariffs out there right now.

Harry Domanski
Harry is an Australian Journalist for TechRadar with an ear to the ground for future tech, and the other in front of a vintage amplifier. He likes stories told in charming ways, and content consumed through massive screens. He also likes to get his hands dirty with the ethics of the tech.