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4G Home Broadband: Who offers it and why would you want it?

4G Home Broadband

You probably have conventional broadband at home. You know, the kind that requires a landline you probably never use. But there are alternatives, as you can also get 4G home broadband.

What is 4G home broadband?

4G home broadband is a home internet service that uses 4G rather than a fixed line (such as a phone line or fibre optic cable). Conventional broadband service is wired all the way to your router, 4G home broadband is wireless in the same way as getting mobile data on your phone is wireless. Except rather than the data coming to your phone, it’s coming to a router that then sends it to your devices.

And being 4G, this kind of broadband is typically offered by a mobile network such as EE or Three, rather than a conventional broadband supplier like BT or Virgin Media.

How is 4G home broadband different to 4G mobile broadband?

4G home broadband

4G mobile broadband / Mobile WiFi

+ Improved WiFi Range

- Less WiFi range

+ Can connect more devices at once (up to 64)

- Can connect less devices at once (up to 10)

+ Advanced network management features

- Less advanced network management features

- Requires mains power

+ Battery powered

In terms of how they’re meant to be used, the difference is that 4G home broadband is meant to be set up permanently in a home or office, while 4G mobile broadband is a mobile Wi-Fi connection that you can enable when out and about.

In practice, the difference is not always clear-cut, but a 4G home broadband service will typically involve a router that you plug in at your home, just like with conventional broadband.

4G mobile broadband meanwhile will use devices that have batteries, so they can be used anywhere without plugging them in. Alternatively, some 4G mobile broadband devices are ‘dongles’ which are essentially USB sticks that you can plug into a single device to get it online.

A dongle would be useless for home broadband as you’d only be able to get one device online at once and only one with a USB port. Having a battery meanwhile wouldn’t serve much purpose since you don’t need your home broadband to be portable.

Often – although not always – you’ll find that 4G home broadband routers support more simultaneous connections than mobile broadband devices too. The latter often top out at 5 or 10, while home broadband ones can typically reach over 30 – enough for a house full of web-connected gizmos.

Finally, data limits on 4G home broadband plans and devices are often higher, since there’s an expectation that you’ll need more data for your home internet connection than for a mobile one.

All that said, technically you can use a 4G mobile broadband service for your home broadband connection, it’s just rarely ideal, for the reasons outlined above. As such, this article will be focusing specifically on devices and services that are designed to offer home broadband.

How does 4G home broadband compare to fixed line broadband?

4G home broadband

Fixed line broadband

+ No landline required

- Landline required

+ Simple setup with no engineer visits

- Engineer visit required

+ Short-term, flexible contracts

- Longer term contracts

+ Portable can take anywhere with mains supply and coverage

- Not portable as wired to house

- Higher Latency ~ 50ms

+ Lower Latency ~ 20ms

- Lower maximum speeds ~ 20Mbps

+ Higher maximum speeds ~ 300Mbps

There are many potential benefits of using 4G for your home broadband rather than a fixed line connection.

For one thing, while you’re typically tied into a fixed line contract for twelve months or more, with 4G home broadband you can often get plans that are as short as 30 days.

So if you’re staying somewhere short term or even just want a temporary way to get online before your fixed line broadband is installed, 4G home broadband can be an ideal option. But there are longer term plans available too, which can save you money if you’re happy to commit.

4G home broadband is also typically plug and play, meaning it’s very quick and easy to get up and running, with no engineer visit required. As such, it’s also usually somewhat portable if you ever want to move it.

Being wireless, there’s also no need for a landline with 4G home broadband, which can make it cheaper than typical home broadband. And if you’re in an area where the broadband is slow then 4G home broadband has the potential to be faster – though that will depend on the strength and availability of 4G in the area.

However, while there are lots of upsides to 4G home broadband, there are also some downsides. Before you even consider it, you should check whether you have good 4G coverage from the relevant network in your area, because if you don’t then it might be slow or unreliable.

Even if you do have good coverage, the speeds you get won’t match or even come close to the fastest fibre broadband speeds. So if these services are available to you and super high speeds matter then 4G home broadband might not before you.

Plus, some 4G home broadband plans come with restrictive data limits (though there are also unlimited data options) and the 4G router you get may be more restrictive in terms of simultaneous connections than some conventional routers.

Who offers 4G home broadband and what devices can you get it on?

The following networks all offer a 4G home broadband service. We’ve also included information on the devices and plans that they offer.

Device:

4GEE Home

Huawei HomeFi

Huawei AI Cube

Relish Hub

Starting price:

£25 per month

£22 per month

£25 per month

£22 per month

Max data:

500GB

Unlimited

Unlimited

Unlimited

Download speed:

Averages 31Mbps, theoretical max 300Mbps

Theoretical max 150Mbps

Theoretical max 300Mbps

Average 20Mbps, theoretical max 150Mbps

Upload speed:

Theoretical max 100Mbps

Theoretical max 50Mbps

Theoretical max 50Mbps

Theoretical max 50Mbps

Max connections:

32

32

64

32

4GEE Home Router (EE)

EE is one of the few companies that offer a 4G home broadband service. It sells a ‘4GEE Home Router’ on plans which – at the time of writing – come with between 10GB and 500GB of monthly data, with the choice of 30-day or 18-month durations. Costs meanwhile start at £25 per month with no upfront cost.

The 4GEE Home Router itself can get up to 32 devices online at once and has a range of 30 metres. EE claims this offers average download speeds of 31Mbps in some places, which would make it faster than standard fibre broadband.

Potential speeds are far higher too, as this is a Cat 7 device with theoretical max download speeds of 300Mbps and upload speeds of 100Mbps. That makes it one of the fastest 4G home broadband devices available.

It’s also easy to set up, as all you really need to do is plug it in. But if you’re having signal issues then there’s also the potential to boost your signal with an external antenna, which an engineer would install.

Huawei HomeFi (Three)

Three also offers a 4G home broadband service, but it sells a couple of different devices for this, one of which is called the Huawei HomeFi (also known as the Huawei B311 Wireless Router).

The HomeFi currently comes on plans with either 40GB or unlimited monthly data, with plans lasting 1 month, 12 months or 24 months, and prices starting at £22 per month with no upfront cost, at the time of writing.

Alternatively, you can buy the device outright for £59.99 and pay as you go. This option also includes a lump of data to get you started – at that price you get 1GB.

The Huawei HomeFi has many of the same advantages as EE’s 4GEE Home Router, including support for up to 32 devices connected at once and the ability to plug and play. But it’s a Cat 4 device which supports download speeds of up to 150Mbps and upload speeds of up to 50Mbps, so it’s slower, and in reality you’re unlikely to see speeds that high.

Huawei AI Cube (Three)

Another option available on Three is the Huawei AI Cube. This supports up to 64 devices connected at once and is a Cat 6 device with download speeds of up to 300Mbps and upload speeds of up to 50Mbps – so it’s theoretically similar to the 4GEE Home Router for downloads, but slower for uploads, though it has the HomeFi well and truly beat.

But this isn’t just a 4G router, it’s also a smart speaker. It has Amazon’s Alexa AI assistant built in, so you can ask questions and control smart home devices with your voice. There are four far-field microphones to hear you even in loud rooms and the Huawei AI Cube has a powerful speaker that includes a 400ml sound cavity and an aluminium diaphragm, so it can pump out loud, high-quality music.

At the time of writing it’s available on just one plan from Three, which costs £25 per month with no upfront cost, ties you in to a 24-month contract, and comes with unlimited data.

Relish

Relish is the odd one out here as it’s specifically a 4G home broadband company rather than a mobile network that also offers such a service – though it has been bought by Three. It’s also currently only available in London and Swindon, making it more limited in coverage than the other options.

That aside it’s similar. You’ll be supplied with a Relish Hub, which is easy to get up and running without an engineer visit. Average speeds vary depending on where you are but are often around 20Mbps with real-world top speeds hitting around 40Mbps.

The Relish Hub itself is a Verve VH510B router which is a Cat 4 device with theoretical top download speeds of 150Mbps and upload speeds of 50Mbps. It can get up to 32 devices online at once and generally seems similar specs-wise to the Huawei HomeFi.

All plans come with unlimited data and you can choose between a 1-month and a 12-month contract, with prices at the time of writing starting at £22 per month with no upfront cost.

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