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5G home broadband: what is it and how much do deals cost?

5 broadband
Image credit: Shutterstock (Image credit: Shutterstock)

5G broadband - EE, Vodafone, Three and O2 have all now switched on their 5G networks meaning the big four are ready to allow you to step up your internet with new speeds and latency.

5G broadband promises incredible speeds that are even better than wired connections. It means networks that can stream 8K video to your phone or just download an HD movie in a few seconds. It means smoother streaming, a goodbye to buffering and latency so low that players of mobile multiplayer will be even more murderous. It means connected cars, the internet of things and incredibly fast pings.

But what is 5G broadband? Will 5G broadband come to your street any time soon? What speeds can you expect from your no doubt pricey 5G broadband connection? And what 5G broadband deals are available? Let’s find out.

What is 5G home broadband?

5G is the fifth generation of mobile phone technology. The first generation was analogue mobiles, followed by digital; 3G and 4G made mobile data better and faster.

5G really amps up the speed, but it’s also about boosting capacity and reliability to handle the many millions of different devices that want to get online, including the devices we don’t have yet – augmented reality glasses, super-smart self-driving cars, killer robots from the future and so on.

Will 5G replace home broadband?

For most of us in the short term, no. It’s a companion to fixed line broadband: chances are you’ll have fibre broadband at home and 5G when you’re out and about. That’s partly about convenience and reliability, but also about price.

At the start, it’s probably going to work out much like the current split between wired broadband and 4G. Chances are you have unlimited data at home but have a monthly data limit on your mobile.

But we wouldn't be surprised if 5G will eventually become the de facto connection for both your mobile phone and home broadband. We're some way off that eventuality, but it makes sense as 5G speeds are likely to be even faster than what fibre can offer.

What companies will have 5G first?

We're now at the point where most networks have set up their 5G networks. This means not just the four main ones - EE, Three, Vodafone and O2 - but also most of the smaller networks.

Sky, BT, Virgin, Voxi, Tesco and more have all switched on their 5G. In fact, there is now just a few left which haven't gone live. The next step is for these networks to expand their networks.

Right now, 5G is still pretty limited, no matter where you live. As we see coverage increase, 5G home broadband's validity will grow rapidly. If you want to be an early adopter of 5G, then be sure to check out TechRadar's guide to the best 5G phone deals.

Who has the best 5G home broadband deals?

Three 5G Hub | 24-month contract | £42 upfront | Unlimited data | £29 a month
Three's 5G Hub is going to be the best option out there if you're after 5G home broadband. Not only is it the most affordable one but it also has no caps on your data usage. That unlimited plan will be perfect as it takes away the stresses of watching your data as you go.
View Deal

EE Mobile Broadband with 5GEE Home Router | 24-month contract | 100GB data | £35 a month | £100 upfront
EE will be the choice many gravitate to first. After being the UK's fastest 4G network, it is the network we would expect to perform best in the world of 5G. However, it is by no means the cheapest option. Prices start at £50 and only get higher if you want more data.View Deal

Vodafone GigaCube | 18 month contract | £50 upfront | Unlimited data | £50 a month
With a dramatic name like 'GigaCube' you would expect a lot from Vodafone's home broadband and luckily, it delivers. Firstly, with 5G capabilities at no extra cost, if you live in a 5G area, this package is perfect. But with 5G not widely available, 4G is also available with Vodafone. For £50 a month you're getting unlimited data on this package. Or, if 18 months is too long, you can pay a larger upfront fee to drop to a 30-day rolling contract instead.
View Deal

Where is 5G home broadband available?

While most networks have now launched their 5G connections, it still isn't widely available across the UK. While 4G coverage can be found in around 00% of the UK, 5G falls far below that.

Where you can get 5G home broadband will depend completely on which network you go for:

EE:
EE has made the most progress with 5G coverage, officially rolling out in 160 cities and large towns. While that is a lot, that coverage could be quite sparse in those areas, covering small blips. See the full list of cities and towns on the EE website.

Vodafone:
Vodafone is slightly behind EE in terms of 5G coverage right now. You can get it in 44 UK locations. Interestingly with Vodafone, you can also get it in a number of EU locations including Germany, Spain, Italy and Ireland. See if you can get Vodafone 5G.

Three:
Three has managed to have quite an impressive 5G rollout, hitting over 170 locations. While most of these are cities, there are also some smaller towns in there too.

Three has managed to also develop some of the faster 5G speeds and luckily, has the best 5G home broadband deals of the bunch. See where it is available here.

O2:
O2 5G is currently available in well over 100 UK towns and cities including Bristol, London, Milton Keynes, Ipswich and more. While O2 has plenty of coverage, it does have one of the weaker 5G home broadband offers.

broadband speed test

Image credit: Shutterstock (Image credit: Shutterstock)

What is 5G speed? Is it faster than regular broadband?

It’s quite a lot faster than many broadband connections, although as ever you should take headline figures with a pinch of salt.

Quoted speeds are theoretical, as you’ll know if you’ve ever struggled to do anything on a one-bar 4G connection. 4G is technically capable of up to 150Mb (twice that with LTE-Advanced), but in reality you’re more likely achieve around 20Mb – for example we’ve just ran a speed test on our big-city 4G connection and we’re getting 25.8Mb.

For 5G, predicted speeds are somewhere in the gigabit range. Vodafone currently promises peak speeds of 1Gbps; like most operators Deutsche Telekom, EE’s parent company, predicts eventual real-world speeds of up to 10Gb – “under ideal conditions”. That qualifier is important, because mobile data speeds are affected by signal strength, interference and congestion. Even in lab conditions the speeds are lower, so for example in late 2017 EE achieved a consistent 2.8Gb - still impressive, but a clear indication that 10Gb isn’t going to be happening for anyone in the UK anytime soon.

But it’s not just about straight line speed. Latency matters too. Latency is the gap between asking for something and getting it: a song, perhaps, or throwing a grenade at someone in a game. The longer the lag the worse the performance. On 4G latency hovers somewhere between 50ish milliseconds and 100ish; on 5G that could drop into single figures.

Can I get 5G mobile broadband?

Want something more portable? Something to take out into the big wide world? Well there's always the option of mobile broadband. Of all of the networks that do these portable internet plans, Three will be the best option to go for, closely followed by the EE network.

What are the best home broadband deals currently available?

This is probably the easiest question of all to answer, thanks to our dedicated guide to the best broadband deals - you can also see our favoruites in the potted broadband comparison below. If you're dead set on the fastest speeds, then be sure to get over to our fibre broadband deals page instead.

Carrie Marshall

Contributor

Former lion tamer, Girls Aloud backing dancer and habitual liar Carrie Marshall (Twitter, Google+) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to .net, MacFormat, Tap! and Official Windows Magazine as well as co-writing stacks of how-to tech books. "My job is to cut through the crap," she says. "And there's a lot of crap."