What is Mobile Broadband?

Mobile broadband is a popular connection type for those who need internet on the go.

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, updated on June 17th, 2024       

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Mobile broadband is the main choice for Australians looking to access internet while out and about. If you need a connection while you’re on the go or simply want a plan as a backup for your home internet, it’s important to find out exactly how mobile broadband works to help you determine whether it’s right for you. You can do just that with Savvy’s comprehensive guide, so learn all you need to know about mobile broadband with us today!

What is mobile broadband and how does it work?

Mobile broadband is a wireless internet service that allows users to access the internet using mobile networks, such as 4G or 5G, rather than fixed line connections like the NBN. It works by transmitting data over the airwaves using radio signals. Here's how it works:

  1. Data transmission: when you request a webpage, stream a video or perform any online activity on your device, it sends a request to the nearest mobile tower.
  2. Mobile tower communication: the mobile tower receives your request and, if you're within its range, it forwards your request to the mobile carrier's network infrastructure.
  3. Network routing: the carrier's network routes your request to the appropriate destination on the internet, such as a website's server.
  4. Data retrieval: the requested data is retrieved from the internet and sent back through the same process, reaching your device via the cell tower.
  5. Connection to your device: your device receives the data, allowing you to access websites, videos and other online content.

Mobile broadband relies on a network of towers which cover specific geographic areas. As you move, your device automatically connects to the nearest tower with the strongest signal, helping ensure a continuous internet connection.

How fast is mobile broadband?

The speed of mobile broadband can vary significantly depending on several factors, including your network technology (4G or 5G), location, network congestion and your device's capabilities. In optimal conditions, 4G mobile broadband may be able to provide download speeds ranging from 20Mbps to 100Mbps, although this may sometimes cap out at 12Mbps. In contrast, 5G has the potential to theoretically deliver up to 1Gbps in downloads, but you’re unlikely to experience speeds close to this.

Real-world speeds are typically much lower than these maximums, especially during peak usage times when network congestion may occur. To get a better idea of the speeds you can expect, it's advisable to check with your mobile carrier for coverage maps and speed estimates in your area.

What types of mobile broadband can I choose from?

There are three main types of mobile broadband to choose from:

Data-only SIM cards

Data-only SIM cards

Data-only SIM cards are SIM cards that are specifically designed for mobile broadband use. They don't have a voice component, so you can't make traditional calls with them. However, they provide access to cellular data networks for internet connectivity.

To use a data-only SIM card, you insert it into a compatible device, such as a tablet, USB modem, or mobile hotspot. Once inserted, the device connects to the mobile network and allows you to access the internet.

USB modem/dongle

USB modem/dongle

USB modems, also known as dongles, are compact devices which you can plug into a computer's USB port. They function as cellular modems, providing internet access to the connected computer.

To use a USB modem, insert a data-only SIM card (if required) and plug it into your computer or another compatible device. The modem connects to the mobile network and establishes an internet connection for the computer.

Pocket Wi-Fi

Pocket Wi-Fi

Pocket Wi-Fi, also known as a mobile hotspot, is a portable device which can create a Wi-Fi network. It uses a data-only SIM card to connect to the network and broadcasts a Wi-Fi signal which multiple devices can connect to simultaneously.

By turning on the pocket Wi-Fi device, you can connect smartphones, tablets, laptops and any other Wi-Fi-enabled devices to its network and access the internet through the mobile data connection.

Each of these mobile broadband options has its own set of advantages and use cases, allowing you to choose one which best fits your specific needs, whether it's individual connectivity, device portability or sharing internet with multiple devices.

What are the differences between prepaid and postpaid mobile broadband?

Prepaid and postpaid mobile broadband refer to the payment schedule employed by each plan. However, there are several other key differences to be aware of:

  • Payment: prepaid plans require you to pay at the start of the month or recharge period, while postpaid plans have you pay at the end of the month.
  • Contracts: prepaid plans generally come without lock-in contracts, and while this is the case for some postpaid plans, others do require a contract to be charged.
  • Excess data: you may be charged if you exceed your data limit on a postpaid plan over a given period, but there aren’t any excess data charges with prepaid plans.
  • Cost: postpaid plans are generally cheaper than prepaid plans overall.

How is mobile broadband different from home wireless broadband?

Mobile broadband and home wireless broadband are both wireless internet solutions utilising 4G and 5G mobile networks to establish connections, but they differ in several key ways:

Speed and data limits

  • Mobile broadband: while mobile broadband offers convenience and mobility, its speeds can vary more widely depending on network congestion and signal strength. Additionally, mobile broadband plans often come with data caps or limits.
  • Home wireless broadband: home wireless broadband plans typically offer more consistent and higher speeds than mobile broadband thanks to their stationary connection. They’re often suitable for households with heavier internet usage and come with higher data allowances in most cases.

Usage location

  • Mobile broadband: mobile broadband is ideal for on-the-go internet access. It's commonly used with smartphones, tablets, laptops and portable hotspots.
  • Home wireless broadband: home wireless broadband is designed for fixed locations, such as residences or small businesses. It provides internet connectivity to multiple devices within a specific location.

Installation and equipment

  • Mobile broadband: mobile broadband requires a SIM card and can be used with compatible devices like smartphones, USB modems or pocket Wi-Fi devices.
  • Home wireless broadband: home wireless broadband requires the installation of a wireless modem or router at the premises. This equipment connects to the fixed wireless network and broadcasts Wi-Fi for multiple devices. This is usually a simple process of plugging it in at the required point.

Who is mobile broadband suitable for?

Mobile broadband is suitable for a range of users and scenarios, including:

  • Travellers: mobile broadband is ideal for travellers who need internet access on the go. It allows them to stay connected while on vacation or business trips.
  • Students: students can use mobile broadband for online classes, research and study, especially when they need to access the internet from various locations.
  • Remote workers: remote workers who need flexibility in their work location can use mobile broadband to stay productive while away from home or the office.
  • Light internet users: individuals or households with light internet usage may find mobile broadband cost-effective and convenient, especially if they don't require high-speed or unlimited data plans.
  • Backup internet: mobile broadband can serve as a backup internet connection in case of outages with a primary home broadband service. However, many NBN plans now come with a built-in mobile internet backup in the event of an outage.
  • Mobile businesses: small businesses operating in various locations without access to traditional fixed line broadband may use mobile broadband as a reliable internet solution.

Ultimately, mobile broadband offers flexibility and convenience, making it suitable for users who value mobility and on-the-go connectivity. However, heavy internet users or those requiring consistently high speeds for a fixed location, such as a home or office, may prefer home wireless broadband or other fixed line internet plans.

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Savvy is partnered with Econnex Comparison (CIMET Sales Pty Ltd, ABN 72 620 395 726) to provide readers with a variety of internet plans to compare. We do not compare all retailers in the market, or all plans offered by all retailers. Savvy earns a commission from Econnex each time a customer buys an internet plan via our website. We don’t arrange for products to be purchased directly, as all purchases are conducted via Econnex.

Any advice presented above is general in nature and doesn’t consider your personal or business objectives, needs or finances. It’s always important to consider whether advice is suitable for you before purchasing an internet plan. For further information on the variety of internet plans compared by Econnex, or how their business works, you can visit their website.

$50 Woolworths eGift card terms and conditions
  • The Promoter is CIMET Sales Pty Ltd ABN 72 620 395 726. Level 18/570 George Street Sydney, NSW 2000. Econnex Comparison is powered by CIMET.
  • Promotion available on qualifying Broadband Plan purchases between 1st February 2024 to 31st July 2024 (“Promotional Period”) and may be withdrawn at any time by Econnex Econnex Comparison retains the right to change or alter the terms of this offer.
  • You (“Customer”) will receive $50 worth of Woolworths Bonus Store eGift Cards when you purchase a Broadband Plan via Econnex Comparison, subject to these Terms and Conditions.
  • Information on how to qualify to receive the Woolworths Bonus Store eGift Card forms part of these Terms and Conditions. Participation in this promotion is considered acceptance of these Terms and Conditions.
Eligibility requirements
  • To be eligible to receive the Woolworths Bonus Store eGift Cards, you must purchase the Broadband Plan via the following link: https://app.econnex.com.au/broadband?rcCode=90709
  • You must switch to a new Broadband retailer. Customers who change plans via Econnex but remain with the same retailer will not be eligible.
  • Your Broadband Plan must be connected within 30 days from the date of purchase.
  • Eligible Recipients will receive the applicable Woolworths Bonus Store eGift Cards by email up to 120 days after purchasing the Broadband Plan.
  • Econnex Comparison is not liable if any Customer details supplied are incorrect.
  • Econnex Comparison is providing this offer in conjunction with the retail services offered on its platform.
  • Details of Econnex Comparison retailers can be found at the following link: https://www.econnex.com.au/approved-providers-list
  • You must be an Australian resident aged 18 or over. Econnex Comparison may request you to provide a copy of your valid ID for identification purposes.
  • The Promoter reserves the right, at any time, to verify the validity to receive the Woolworths Bonus Store eGift Cards and Customer’s information (including the Customer’s identity, age and place of residence) and reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to disqualify any individual who the Promoter has reason to believe has breached any of these Terms and Conditions, tampered with the claim process, or engaged in any unlawful or other improper misconduct calculated to jeopardise fair and proper conduct of the promotion.
  • Errors and omissions may be accepted at the Promoter's discretion. Failure by the Promoter to enforce any of its rights at any stage does not constitute a waiver of those rights.
  • When the request for a connection cannot be completed, is unsuccessful, or a request is made for the cancellation of your Broadband Plan within the first 30 days from the date of connection, you will not be eligible to receive any gift card.
  • Woolworths Bonus Store eGift Card is subject to any issuer Terms and Conditions.
  • Any ancillary costs with redeeming the gift cards are not included.
  • No responsibility is taken for any lost or stolen Woolworths Store Bonus eGift Cards.
  • If the Woolworths Bonus Store eGift Cards are unavailable, the Promoter reserves the right to substitute the Woolworths Bonus Store eGift Cards to a card with equivalent value, subject to directions from a regulatory authority.
  • If the offer is not able to be conducted as reasonably anticipated, due to any reason beyond the reasonable control of the Promoter, including but not limited to: technical difficulties, unauthorised intervention or fraud, the Promoter reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to the extent permitted by law: a. to disqualify any individual; or b. to modify, suspend, terminate or cancel the promotion, as appropriate.
  • This promotion cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer from Econnex
Econnex Comparison Terms and Conditions.
  • Econnex Comparison will transfer your Broadband Plan request and details to the selected retailer.
  • Econnex Comparison may contact you to clarify any details or discrepancies in the information you provided for your Broadband Plan purchase.
  • To cancel your request, you will need to contact the Broadband Plan retailer and inform them of your decision.
  • Please note that we do not compare all brands in the market, or all products offered by all brands.
  • If you have any inquiries regarding your Broadband Plan purchase, you can contact us directly at 1800 013 000 or email us at [email protected]
  • Econnex Comparison Terms and Conditions: https://www.econnex.com.au/terms-and-conditions/
  • By participating in this promotion, the individual authorises the Promoter to collect, hold, use and disclose their personal information in accordance with Econnex’s privacy policy, including providing such information to third parties such as contractors, service providers, suppliers and where required or authorised by law. Econnex’s Privacy policy can be found at https://www.econnex.com.au/privacy-policy
  • Econnex may, unless the individual tells us not to, use the information to communicate with them by mail or electronically by, for example, email, phone, SMS to issue direct marketing and commercial communications telemarketing calls.
  • To opt out of direct marketing access, update, or correct personal information you may contact us at [email protected]
Other Information
  • Woolworths Group Ltd ABN 88 000 014 675 is the issuer of the Woolworths Bonus Store eGift Card but is not the Promoter of the offer nor responsible for fulfillment of the offer terms.
  • Woolworths Bonus Store eGift Cards have a fixed term expiry as displayed on the front of the gift card and are redeemable in-store and online at Woolworths Supermarket stores only.
  • Woolworths Bonus Store eGift Cards are valid for 3 months from the issue date and Woolworths Bonus Store eGift Cards are not reloadable or redeemable for cash.
  • Econnex Comparison and Woolworths will not replace, expired, lost, stolen, or deleted Woolworths Bonus Store eGift Cards.
  • Check your Spam/junk email if you have not received a Woolworths Bonus Store eGift Card in your inbox within 120 days after activation of your Energy, Electricity or Gas Plan.
  • Woolworths Store Bonus eGift Card is sent via email from [email protected] or [email protected]
  • For enquiries related to the application, gift cards, or adding or removing any details on the application, please contact the Econnex Comparison at 1800 013 000 or e-mail us at [email protected]
  • For the balance and transactions history on this Woolworths Bonus Store eGift Card and Woolworths Terms and Conditions visit https://woolworths.com.au/giftcards or call 1300 101 234.
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