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Broadband vs 4G broadband: what do they mean?

Broadband vs 4G broadband
(Image credit: Artem Khyzhynskiy)

You may have already checked out the best broadband deals and found that either some aren't available in your area or you could get a better deal by going for 4G broadband instead. But what's the difference?

This guide aims to clarify the difference between the cable based broadband provision and the over-the-air 4G broadband. They can both appear the same, when connecting to a Wi-Fi router, but what's feeding that little box of lights is quite different. And for that reason you need to know how they vary.

What's the difference between 4G and broadband?

While broadband comes in varied forms the two here are cable broadband and 4G broadband. A cable connection generally uses a fibre optic cable which runs to provide data, in light form, meaning there are very few limits to speeds as the tech at either end of those cables improves.

The problem is that not everyone has those cables available near them. This is where 4G broadband comes into use. Technically this is a 4G network connection, like on a phone, but the difference it that it feeds a router box which then pumps that data out as Wi-Fi to other devices.

Generally speaking a wired broadband connection isn't faster or more reliable than an over-the-air 4G broadband connection. There are also 5G broadband options but that's limited to fewer areas at the time of writing. But wired can be faster if you pay more. It's also likely to be more stable, depending on your area. But 4G offers more flexibility for use in other locations, although there can be data caps and higher prices. 

Is wired broadband faster than 4G?

Speeds depend on a few factors. Generally 4G is going to get your about between 100Mb and up to 300Mb. But in real world use, you're more likely to get less. Of course the same can be said for wired broadband. But in this case you can opt to pay more and go for a super fast connection which will be quicker, guaranteed.

Of course if you're in an area that can only receive ADSL broadband wired in, and your 4G connection is strong, then you could get a lot faster bandwidth using the over-the-air option. But you may not have as much data for the cost.

Is 4G more limited than wired broadband?

The short answer is yes. Generally you're going to pay a bit more for 4G, since it offers you that flexibility to use it anywhere you can plug in the router, which works with a SIM, like a phone. 

You are also going to pay a premium on data as you will find that there is a data cap each month and if you go over that then you'll need to pay more. 

In the case of fibre broadband you'll likely have no cap on data month to month in most cases.

What broadband is fast?

For the wired options some of the top speeds come from BT broadband or Virgin Media broadband with over 300Mb available. Find the cheapest but fastest in your area using our fibre broadband deals feature.

For 4G broadband check out our complete 4G home broadband guide which also includes some of the latest deals from different providers. That means you can not only find the best price but also the network that offers the fastest connection where you need it.

Read more:

Today's best broadband deals

Luke is a freelance writer and editor with over two decades of experience covering tech, science and health. Among many others he writes across Future titles covering health tech, software and apps, VPNs, TV, audio, smart home, antivirus, broadband, smartphones, cars and plenty more. He also likes to climb mountains, swim outside and contort his body into silly positions while breathing as calmly as possible.