Mobile broadband, or wireless internet, is great because of how easy it is to setup. Like a mobile phone, you need a SIM card installed in a compatible device to use mobile broadband, but once this is setup the connection should be instantaneous.
Before you jump into a mobile broadband contract, here are a few things to consider:
This is the most important question we ask about internet plans, regardless of whether we’re talking about mobile internet, or fixed-line internet in the home.
You’ll want to be cautious with mobile broadband, and data is more expensive than it is with ADSL or the NBN. Mobile broadband plans tend to be similar to mobile phone plans, but if you’re using your mobile broadband connection with a laptop, you will be using data a lot faster.
Here is a table to help you gauge how much data you may need.
Our suggested plans are based on using your service of choice for about one hour a day everyday for an entire month. If you're using more than one of these services regularly, consider opting for a larger allowance. Please note, these figures can vary depending on your own personal usage habits, as well as the phone you use.
|Data Per Hour||Risk||Suggested Plan|
|Online gaming||From 3MB||At least 1GB|
|Podcasts||Approx. 60MB||At least 2GB|
|Web Browsing||Approx. 60MB||At least 2GB|
|FaceTime||Approx. 85MB||At least 3GB|
|Approx. 80MB||At least 3GB|
|Music Streaming||Up to 150MB||At least 5GB|
|Snapchat||Approx. 160MB||At least 5GB|
|Facebook Video||Approx. 160MB||At least 5GB|
|YouTube||Approx. 300MB||At least 10GB|
|Netflix||From 250MB||At least 10GB|
|Foxtel Now||From 320MB||At least 12GB|
|Stan||From 570MB||At least 15GB|
|Lossless Music Streaming (Tidal)||Approx. 640MB||At least 20GB|
|Approx. 720MB||At least 20GB|
If you want more information, read our guide to mobile data.
There are three main reasons why you'd consider signing up for a mobile broadband connection.
Mobile broadband options often have smaller data allowances compared with fixed-line internet.
In most cases, you'll end up spending more for less when it comes to mobile broadband. While the starting price of an unlimited fixed line connection is a little as $60, you're looking at around $70 per month for 100GB a no contract mobile broadband connection. 200GB tends to be largest widely available download allowance, and that's only on home wireless plans, where your download speeds are restricted to a maximum of 12Mbps.
Vividwireless is one of the few exceptions to this; it offers an unlimited home wireless plan, but this is only available in select areas, and once again, restricted to speeds of 12Mbps.
If you have trouble getting a mobile signal at home, mobile broadband isn't a great option either. Its speed and reliability depend on the strength of your mobile signal.
In some cases, it's also just a better option to take out a plan with more data for your smartphone, and use your smartphone as a hotspot. However, this isn't ideal if more than one person is relying on your mobile broadband connection, and it can burn through your phone's battery pretty quickly.
Mobile broadband and fixed wireless NBN both use 4G technology, but the NBN has its own cellular towers exclusively used to deliver internet to premises where deploying a fixed connection would not be practical. NBN fixed wireless connections are also tied to a home or business, whereas mobile broadband solutions are portable and can be taken from residence to residence freely.
The most popular type of mobile broadband modem is what we call a 4G WiFi hotspot. These are small battery-powered devices that connect establish a WiFi network that let’s you share the internet with several devices at once, like a laptop, tablet or smartphone.
If you already own a SIM-enabled tablet, like an iPad, you can forgo buying a 4G WiFi hotspot, and put the SIM card directly into the tablet. Or, if you have an old smartphone in a drawer at home, you might be able to set it up as a WiFi hotspot, just like a modem.
If you want a new hotspot modem, consider a contract plan for mobile broadband. The major telcos like Telstra, Optus, Vodafone and Virgin Mobile tend to offer the modems for free in return for signing up for a period of time.
If you've got a SIM-enabled iPad or Android tablet, you can simply put in a data-SIM and then use it as a Wi-Fi hotspot to share its connection with another device. An old phone would also work.
A USB modem is a great portable mobile broadband solution, provided you only need to take one computer online at a time. While it doesn't need to be recharged, it needs to be plugged in directly to the device you want to get connected.
|Portable Wireless Hotspot|
A portable wireless hotspot lets you share a mobile broadband connection with a number of devices simultaneously. These are typically battery powered, and will need recharging.
|Fixed Home Wireless Modem|
A fixed home wireless modem is much more like a traditional modem, in that it needs to be plugged into a power outlet to work. As such, these are more appropriate for those who don't need their mobile broadband on the go.
Mobile broadband services use exactly the same networks as smartphones, so you will find that where you get a signal on your phone, you should get a signal with a mobile broadband modem.
If you are looking to use a new service provider and have no experience with that network, use our coverage map tool to see whether there is service in your area.
There has been a huge increase in the popularity of iPads and tablet PCs across Australia. If you want to be able to use your iPad whilst on the move to browse websites, access social networking, or watch online videos, then you'll need a mobile broadband data plan.
Once you connect to a mobile broadband plan your iPad will be able to access mobile data networks in the same way as your smart phone. This means wherever you go you will have the ability to use your iPad for accessing online content.
Mobile broadband allows high speed mobile internet access via a portable modem that can be used in different locations around Australia. Most internet service providers supply a USB or WiFi modem with the mobile broadband plan which you can use to connect to the internet. Some laptops also now have built-in support for mobile broadband.
Phone and iPad image via Shutterstock